Last, but certainly not least on Favourite Hong Kong Movies is Jack, who managed to make the cut at the last possible moment. I'm really pleased he did, it wouldn't have been the same without him. Probably best known for his excellent blog En Lejemorder Ser Tilbage, which translated means "Memoirs of a hitman". Aside from that blog, Jack also finds time to run When The Vietnam War Raged In The Philippines, a crusade to champion trashy Philippine war movies, and Backyard Asia, to quote Jack "The weird, unknown, forgotten, never discovered, trashy, wild, gory, absurd, insane, dark, nasty wonders from the Asian backyard!!!" In addition Jack put out a couple of fanzines years ago "Banned In Britain" and "Stay Sick", and you can see a couple of issues via his blog. As if all that wasn't enough, he's a facebook regular and can often be found all over various movie message boards. A serious movie collector, few have the knowledge of worldwide releases Jack does, fewer still have the tenacity to track down those rarities the way he does!
Only relatively recently did my path cross with Jack's, surprising really as the history of how we discovered Hong Kong cinema is very similar. Much of what Jack writes in the intro to his list is almost identical to my own story (minus the Nordic Ice Hell part!). Anyway enough rambling, enjoy Jack's writing!
In 1988 I discovered the splatter film via a ”Dead all night” zombie film screening at the old Scala Cinema Club in London. I started to buy gore and horror movie fanzines and in one of them, “In The Flesh” (from Manchester if memory serves me well), the editor Steve C. raved about these new wild films from Hong Kong that he had found. BOOM!! That was it! I read those reviews. I re-read those reviews. I assaulted shop assistants at Tower Records, at Forbidden Planet, at everywhere that had a tiny video section, in order to find those films. Needless to say, it was an almost impossible journey as those underground fanzine guys didn’t get their films from normal video stores but through tape-trading with friends. Friends who lived close to Chinatown video rentals – or knew someone who did.
Later, I relocated to the Nordic Ice-hell and decided to venture down the same less than legit road myself. Yes, I became a VHS tape-trader. And what a wonderful world that suddenly lay open! I remember receiving video lists from collectors in Finland; video lists the size of a phone book (almost). And half of the films were from this new, unexplored territory Hong Kong (well, unexplored to us white Gwilo horror fans anyway). There were films became instant classics in the blood drenched genre overnight. John Woo became a god. We were his soldiers and Chow Yun Fat was our cool cult leader. Those guys could do no wrong. Nobody wanted the old “karate films”. All that mattered was “the new wave of Hong Kong films” (later I discovered that to the Hongkongese this term actually applies to a different kind of films but let’s forget about that for now and stay at gwilo level for now shall we). I lived and breathed this massive new Hong Kong film barrage; the “heroic bloodshed” films, the “girls with guns” films (aka “girls kick ass and look cute” films), the horror films, the hopping vampire films, the over-the-top dark horror films, and even the silly comedies. Like my peers from the horror scene who discovered these films in the early 90s I wasn’t particularly interested in old-skool kung fu films and you’ll notice their absence from my fave Top 10. Maybe I’ll get there some day.
In a way my list is actually rather boring. There’s no funny films to make you go, “Wauw, he’s got THAT one on his list!” and you won’t go “Gee, I’ve never heard of that one, let’s check it out”. My films are basically all the classics from twenty years back. To me they are still valid. It was hard work cutting down to only 10 and as you can see I did a bad job of it (as there’s still 14 left).
No particular order:
This was the very first HK film I bought on VHS. I think a lot of UK and Euro fans began with this tape, the old UK English dubbed, fullscreen video tape. Fully uncut which was a bid deal to us back then (as UK tapes were often censored in those days as I’m sure you’ve heard). The ol’e VHS still has a special place on my shelf and in my heart.
A CHINESE GHOST STORY.
I remember Jonathan Ross presenting this on an episode of his legendary cult TV show THE INCREDIBLE STRANGE FILM SHOW in the UK (late 80s/early 90s). I can no longer count how many times throughout the years I’ve watched this film. The mix (as mentioned in Ross’ show) between Eastern mythology and THE EVIL DEAD is just great. There were two sequels and countless imitators (one is PICTURE OF A NYMPH) and although none of them are as good I would highly recommend them all for the pure and sheer wild horror fix.
PEKING OPERA BLUES.
Another classic from way back. Tsui Hark’s brilliant film. Words fail me and you should just seek it out (Jonathan Ross covered it in his programme too, and you should seek that old show out too. Unless they’ve been deleted recently they’re all on YouTube).
I could have made a complete Top 10 list of “girls with guns” films all of its own. Actually, I could have made TWO lists. Haha. I love the genre, purely and simply. These films are all too often criticized for being all action, no story, and no real character development. I fail the see the problem. These films star cute 1980s Hong Kong babes like Moon Lee, Cynthia Khan, Michelle Khan (yes, I’m so old I still use the old name), and Yukari Oshima (and many more) who shoot guns and kick ass. And they are so entertaining I don’t really give a fudge about their lack of complex story line or anything but a paper thin plot to transport us to the next shoot ‘em up and/or kick their arse scene. My favourite entry to the genre is ANGEL 2 but all three films are great and films like KILLER ANGELS and ANGEL TERMINATORS 2 are better than sex (okay, bad sex but still!).
THE RAPE AFTER.
I had quite a few films from this genre on my notepad; this genre that I have Christened “The Dark and Nasty Hong Kong Horror Moves from the ‘70s and ‘80s”!! But I had to narrow it down to just one film and I think it HAS to be THE RAPE AFTER. It’s one of the films I first viewed on a first or second generation VHS dupe from Finland circa early 1990s, and it’s one that I still return to (I own the film on various legit video tapes now but unfortunately the film has never been granted a DVD release). The plot is too wild and odd to explain but watch it if you get a chance. The trailer is on YouTube. Other favourites in the genre; BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA, BLACK MAGIC 1 & 2.
IN THE LINE OF DUTY 2 aka YES, MADAM!
It’s out of pure nostalgic reasons I’m using the old “In the Line of Duty” moniker here. The original HK English title is YES, MADAM! but I first found the film on an English dubbed, fullscreen VHS from Denmark (with a front cover title that read “Ultra Force 2”!). To me, this is as good as it gets. Michelle Khan teams up with Cynthia Rothrock and Tsui Hark is in there too as a two bit crook! It’s one of the fun’est and entertaining’est of the bunch if you ask me. Is it big filmmaking? Probably not. Entertaining? Hell yes.
PS: Do watch the old dubbed version if you find it; it has a different beginning that differs from the original version in that, uh, it’s actually from a completely different movie! (which I’m informed is WHERE IS OFFICER TUBA but I can’t confirm that as I’ve never watched that).
This is the HK remake of NIKITA (aka La Femme Nikita) and although I love the original film I love this one even more. Jade Leung is just that one tad more wild than her French counterpart. And in contradiction to the original film (as well as the American remake) BLACK CAT is the only film that has sequels!
It was a tough choice between this one and UNTOLD STORY! They’re both directed by Herman Yau, they both star crazy, wild, and no-holds-barred Anthony Wong, and both films are among the best nasty, yukky, and insane horror films from any country. You should watch them both. And catch Yau’s TAXI HUNTER too in which he makes Wong take on taxi drivers. Don’t let the film’s Category IIb status think less of the film!
Another film I have to thank Jonathan Ross (and early VHS tape-traders) for! I watched this on a tape off UK TV and never looked back. Hopping vampires! Lam Ching Ying!! Ricky Hui!!! Do I need to keep repeating myself!? These films are so wild, over-the-top, no-holds-barred, and wild (again) that they put most other stuff to shame, in my book anyway. They’re so much fun to watch. There are bucket loads of sequels, some are great, some are less good, but I’d recommend checking them all out if you can find them.
Much like PEKING OPERA BLUES this is a favourite not least because it’s such a beautiful film. A beautiful film and at the same time a sad story – both on-screen and in real life. Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung play characters that meet and fall in love but they can’t have each other. So they decide to take the step into the next world but something doesn’t go as planned and Anita Mui’s character must search through the centuries for her lost love. The film is extremely well acted and directed. Mui and Cheung are fantastic in their roles. Unfortunately, real life kind of reimagined the plot line. A few years after Anita Mui died of (I believe) lung Cancer and Leslie Cheung committed suicide.
HAUNTED COP SHOP 2.
I’ve already mentioned Ricky Hui once in this Top 10 (MR VAMPIRE) and here he is again in probably one of my most watched and re-watched HK films! HAUNTED COP SHOP 2 is a wild-wild-wild horror/vampire comedy. I can’t even describe the plot because… I’m not even sure whether I just never noticed the plot or if there simply ISN’T a plot to notice. But the film is so wild and silly it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. The scene of Ricky Hui part having sex with and part tickling a female vampire in order to keep her from killing him has me in tears every single time. And the finishing line of “I’ll remember him every time I urinate” is what classics are made of. Well, in my house anyway.
Here’s one of the original Hong Kong new wave films from around 1980. Unfortunately, it gained (bad) splatter film notoriety when a certain bootlegger in the US decided to cut out a huge chunk of dialogue and add hardcore porn inserts instead (never released officially but on bootleg tape as “The Flesh and Bloody Terror”). It’s a great pity if anybody were to only watch this braindead version and not the original film. Did said bootlegger think horror fans only want gore and nasty rape porn? Forget about the recut edit and watch the original film, it’s very good! Yes, it’s still a gory horror film but with the original dialogue the characters are not just mere cardboard characters that get killed, chopped to bits, and raped. It’s a very well made nasty new wave horror film that’ll stay with you for quite a while.
ON THE RUN.
Here’s a sadly overlooked Hong Kong film noir masterpiece! ON THE RUN is the story of a policeman (Yuen Biao, completely out of character) who teams up with a female hitman (Pat Ha in her best role and with the wildest hairdo) who killed his wife on a contract. The film is Hong Kong cinema when it’s most wonderful and they should show this to the students at film schools around the world. Unfortunately, the only subtitled and uncut version is the old video tape from the “Made in Hong Kong” label in the UK.
STORY OF RICKY.
As an old-skool splatter film fan how could I not have this on the list! Based on a Japanese Manga that was later made into a Japanese animé, and later the good people of Hong Kong made this film version. I have a hard time describing the film as, again, the plot is thin but the (splattery) outcome is awesome! It’s one of the very best splatter films ever made and at the same time probably also one of my fave comicbook film adaptations. Look out for Yukari Oshima (female and from Japan) playing a guy. See if you can find the subtitled animé as it’s also TOTALLY brilliant. There’s even an animé sequel! There are bootlegs and I saw both animé films (subbed!) on YouTube at one point. I think part one has only been officially released English friend on a German DVD release of STORY OF RICKY.