Celluloid Diaries: 18 INSANE HONG KONG MOVIES TO ADD TO YOUR WATCH LIST

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

18 INSANE HONG KONG MOVIES TO ADD TO YOUR WATCH LIST

crazy Hong Kong movies


Together with the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium, I'll be hosting a retrospective on the craziest Hong Kong movies ever made.

There was a time when Hong Kong was the Hollywood of the East. At its peak in the early 1990s, the local film industry was second only to that of the United States as the world's biggest in terms of output per capita and as the largest exporter of product. Hong Kong played a key role in the spread of Asian cinema to the West, first in the 1970s with the martial arts productions of famous studios such as Shaw Brothers, followed in the 1980s and 1990s by the action, fantasy and horror films of John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam.

But alongside the box-office successes, Hong Kong cinema maintained a remarkable level of creativity. Although it had its roots in traditional genres aimed at mass audiences, it also found room for experimentation, innovation and boundary-pushing, as much in terms of form and technique as in themes and genre tropes.

The Offscreen Film Festival will be focusing on Hong Kong cinema outside the mainstream, with a selection of 1unconventional, extraordinary, pioneering, and even demented genre offerings attesting to a vibrant, audacious and visceral film culture.

We pay special attention to exploitation films that were awarded the Category III classification. Although Category III, introduced in 1988, is not a genre in itself, these shocking and sensational films had one characteristic in common: they defied good taste and conventional morality with their depictions of explicit sex and graphic violence. Far from scaring people off, the Category III rating came to be regarded as a guarantee of transgressive elements in the Hong Kong films that flooded cinemas across Asia, while remaining below the radar of most Western audiences.

Here is an overview of the crazy Hong Kong movies that will be showing at Offscreen, most of them in 35 mm. The festival will take place between March 9 and March 27, 2022. You can peruse the entire program here.


EBOLA SYNDROME aka YI BOH LAI BENG DUK

Anthony Wong, fearless as ever, plays a horny sleazebag who catches ebola from a woman he rapes in Africa. Pausing only to murder his boss and turn the corpse into burgers, he carries the virus back to Hong Kong and runs amok. Yau’s gory yuckfest is tasteless, hilarious and guaranteed to offend just about everyone.


THE CAT aka LO MAU

An intrepid writer suspects an odd couple and their cat are extra-terrestrials, though he's slow to realise what we already know: these aliens are the good guys. The real threat comes from a psionic blob-monster in this sci-fi fantasy packed with demented special effects, including a crazy cat vs dog kung fu fight.


THE HEROIC TRIO aka DUNG FONG SAM HAP

Screen goddesses Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui play rival superheroines who join forces to foil an evil being who has been kidnapping newborn babies in this action fantasy with wuxia-inspired effects, unexpected infant mortality and gratuitous urination. Watch out for Anthony Wong's flying guillotine!


SEX AND ZEN aka YUK PO TUEN: TAU CHING BO GAM

A scholar is obsessed with seducing women, leading to slapstick comedy, tragic irony and plenty of softcore lubriciousness in this sensuous adaptation of a 17th century Chinese erotic novel. Highlights include a horse penis transplant, letter-writing by vagina, and a flute co-opted as a lesbian sex-aid.


VIVA EROTICA aka SIK CHING NAM LUI

Leslie Cheung plays a struggling film director who has to compromise his ideals by making softcore porn. This sex-comedy meta-masterpiece pokes fun at Category III and features unusually nuanced female characters, notably Karen Mok as the director’s girlfriend and The Assassin's Shu Qi as his starlet, “Miss Mango”.


FULL CONTACT aka XIA DAO GAO FEI

Hong Kong superstars Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong play scumbags who double-cross each other and shoot, stab or blow up anything that moves, including innocent bystanders. Early use of "Bullet Time" seals the deal in the sort of raunchy, ultra-violent shindig that makes Hollywood action pics look anaemic.


TAXI HUNTER aka DI SHI PAN GUAN

When his pregnant wife gets her dress caught in a cab door and is accidentally dragged to her death, a mild-mannered insurance salesman (Anthony Wong) flips out and wreaks revenge on bad taxi drivers. Vigilante madness, peppered with dark humour and references to Taxi Driver.


NAKED KILLER aka CHIK LOH GOH YEUNG

Kitty, an air hostess who shoots men in the balls, is mentored by a female assassin who keeps rapists chained up in her basement for killing practice, but starts to lose her edge when she falls for a traumatised cop (Simon Yam). A sexy, action-packed work of Cat III genius, featuring death by poisoned lipstick!


MAN BEHIND THE SUN aka HEI TAI YANG 731

The film for which the Category III rating was first created is a gruelling account of horrific experiments conducted by Japanese scientists on Chinese prisoners during WW2. Mutilation of real cadavers, child vivisection and animal cruelty are just some of the atrocities on show. Warning: not for the squeamish.


THE WICKED CITY aka YIU SAU DOU SI

Humans and demons coexist uneasily in this live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime. Two cops investigate a deadly new drug which turns its users into vapor, while demons jostle for power in an orgy of mad special effects, turning themselves into a spider-woman, drinking water, and a fuckable pinball machine.


ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND aka GUI DA GUI

Supernatural action comedy directed and choreographed by the legendary Hung, who plays a village pedicab driver. His wife's lover plots to murder him with black magic, leading to slapstick encounters with ghosts, zombies and hopping vampires, a duel between rival sorcerers and some sensational fight sequences.


ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN aka SHU SHAN – XIN SHU SHAN JIAN KE

Hark's epic masterpiece is a breathless parade of dazzling beauty and groundbreaking special effects. In fifth century China, a young army deserter tags along on a wuxia quest for twin magic swords to defeat an evil sect. Sammo Hung plays a wizard who keeps a Blood Demon at bay with nothing more than his eyebrows!


A CHINESE GHOST STORY aka SIEN LUI YAU WAN

Leslie Cheung plays a poor debt collector who spends the night in a haunted temple and falls in love with a beautiful ghost. Alas, a long-tongued tree demon is forcing her to lure men to their doom. Can our hero escape a grisly fate? Delightful period rom-com with freaky special effects and wuxia wire-fu action.


BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS aka NU JI ZHONG YING

Sadistic Japanese soldiers abuse sexy nurses in Hong Kong's contribution to the women-in-prison genre, set in a WW2 concentration camp. Obligatory ingredients include an evil lesbian guard, whipping, and a rape montage before the film switches genres for an action-adventure finale involving a quest for stolen gold.


ZEN KWAN DO STRIKES PARIS aka REN QUAN WEI ZHEN BA LI

John Liu wrote, directed and stars in this bonkers vanity vehicle in which high-kicking John Liu (playing himself) flies to Paris to rescue his kidnapped dad, but literally loses the plot amid tragic romantic flashbacks of scantily-clad girlfriends, duels against random karate champions, and a visit to the dentist.


KARATE ON THE BOSPHORUS aka KARATECILER ISTANBUL'DA

Turksploitation star Cüneyt Arkin plays a cop who teams up with a Hong Kong agent to smash a smuggling ring led by a martial artist so evil he murders his own henchmen as well as a belly dancer. Many minions with moustaches get karate-chopped against picturesque Istanbul backdrops en route to a rooftop showdown.


THE UNTOLD STORY aka BAT SIN FAN DIM: YAN YUK CHA SIU BAU

Anthony Wong won Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his performance as a restaurant owner who becomes chief murder suspect after severed limbs are washed up on a Macau beach. This creepy cult classic, inspired by a real news item, ends with one of the most shocking scenes in film history.


THE CLONES OF BRUCE LEE aka SHEN WEI SAN MENG LONG

After Bruce Lee's untimely death, a mad doctor uses his DNA to produce three lookalikes (who actually don't look anything like him) in this prime slice of "Bruceploitation." Bolo Yeung plays the kung-fu trainer who prepares them for combat against podgy bronze men in underpants. Also featured: naked beach frolics.


Apart from the retrospective, the Offscreen Film Festival will also be hosting an international conference on the subject.

French critic Julien Sévéon will explore the taboo breaking quality of Category III films that has made them such a cultish draw for so many. Examining films before and after the handover of Hong Kong to China, Dr Calum Waddell (University of Lincoln) will interrogate the ways in which these films seem to foreshadow the current political crisis in Hong Kong. We will also be joined by Dr Victor Fan (King’s College, London) who will turn his wide-ranging expertise on Chinese cinema and politics on to the crazy, bizarre and confrontational world of Category III.

The conference will conclude with the documentary Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema by Calum Waddell, and conclude with a panel discussion.

18 comments:

  1. I've only seen a couple. Always up for a Chow Yun-Fat flick. My wife would probably want to see The Cat.

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