HONG KONG CATEGORY III | Offscreen
Ever since the 70s, Hong Kong cinema has attracted an enthusiastic following in the west; think of the martial arts productions of Shaw Brothers, or the action, fantasy and horror films of John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam. But from 1988 onwards, another, less reputable type of film created a stir in the then-British colony: exploitation films awash with outrageous quantities of sex, violence and amorality. Sensational, explicit, politically incorrect and raising a middle finger to the very idea of good taste, these films were slapped with a Category III rating. Rather than deterring the public, however, this label quickly became the guarantee of a certain type of taboo-busting spectacle that thrilled audiences across Asia while remaining largely unknown in the west. Now, with an unfiltered selection of eight titles, Offscreen takes you back to the glory days of Category III, with a documentary and conference to provide social, historical and cultural context.
Ricky is a superhumanly skilled martial artist whose revenge on the thug who caused his girlfriend’s death condemns him to jail, where he defends himself from psychotic inmates by punching people’s heads off amid insane levels of splatter and bad acting. "Braindead"-era Peter Jackson would have been proud.
A cop (Simon Yam) with an AK-47 phobia gets caught in the middle when a Chinese fisherman repatriates his gang to avenge the rape and murder of his wife – and the AK-47s come out! This metaphor for the relationship between Hong Kong and China is packed with action, humour, gore and amorality.
A mortally wounded lady cop is revived as one third of a crimefighting cyborg trio with cleavage in the first Cat III film to feature martial arts. They try to stop a rapey killer robot in this delirious hybrid of "Robocop" and "Terminator" with sex scenes. Also includes decapitation by wicker suitcase.
An evil sorcerer wreaks grisly vengeance on the men he deems responsible for the death of his sister, but before he can finish the job he gets distracted by his last target’s lovely fiancée. This horror comedy has it all: duelling wizards, ghost kids, sex magic, spectral rape - and a literal dickhead.
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.
French critic Julien Sévéon will explore the taboo breaking aspects 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 in Chinese cinema and politics on to the crazy, bizarre and confrontational world of Category III. The conference, which will be held in English, will start with the documentary "Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema" by Calum Waddell, and will conclude with a panel discussion.
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".
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.
Still traumatised after being hit in the face by a foetus blasted out of a pregnant hostage’s womb, a cop (Cat III favourite Elvis Tsui) hunts for a sexy female assassin. The poor guy also has to struggle against a spell that makes him want to rape his therapist. Campy but action-packed sex-horror romp.