HONG KONG HORS CATEGORIE + CATEGORY III | Offscreen
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.
Under the heading "Hors Catégorie", we focus on Hong Kong cinema outside the mainstream, with a selection of 18unconventional, 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.
We augment and enhance our selection of nine Category III films such as Naked Killer, Taxi Hunter and Sex and Zen with nine "Hors Catégorie" curios such as Encounter of the Spooky Kind, Zen Kwan Do Strikes in Paris and The Wicked City, adding up to an unforgettable feast of cinema at its most extreme, inventive and and intoxicating.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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