A family connected. Several knife wounds that rip her intestines kill the mother. Next, her husband suffers a neck wound with a sword. The killer then concentrates on the four small daughters of the parents. One visibly beheaded, with a curtain of blood falling as her head falls off the table, two have their throats cut, and the final victim thankfully killed offscreen. How the bodies concealed? They diced up and given to hungry workers in delicious char siu bao, that’s why. Reader, welcome to The Untold Story, a part of the amazing world of Cat 3 Hong Kong films, which houses the worst excesses of our city’s cinematic offerings.
A Category III film is one that strictly prohibited to anyone under the age of 18 viewers. When the Hong Kong film censorship law adopted in 1988, the categorization established. Prior to 1988, there was a government censorship board, but it lacked the legal authority to control movies. Before the creation of official film classifications, there were just a few arbitrary rules that, for example, prohibited showing criminals getting away with their crimes.
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Sex and Zen 3D
While several movies contributed to the demand for tight classification—John Woo’s groundbreaking A Better Tomorrow, from 1984, criticized for transforming gangsters into heroes—the infamous Men Behind the Sun ultimately served as the real impetus. The 1988 movie, which depicted the acts of legendary Imperial Japanese Army secret research unit Unit 731, which conducted deadly human experiments during the Second Sino-Japanese War, in graphic detail. A actual cat fed to a swarm of hungry rats, flesh and muscle from a woman’s arms torn off to the bone, and the movie features a cavalcade of offensive scenes. (Director Mou Tun-fei would subsequently assert that the cat covered in honey and that the rats were simply licking the honey off of the feline, which, in his opinion, survived.)
Despite the fact that Category III productions sometimes grouped together as though they were a distinct extreme genre, this misunderstanding is deceptive. diverse movies include the sexually explicit Sex and Zen 3D and the pro-tobacco romcom Love in a Puff, a bloody party The Gay Romance of Ricky and Wong Kar-wai All versions of Happy Together have the same adult rating. As a result, it is difficult to categorize Category III movies based on their subject matter.
Have been an Essential Element
Nevertheless, Cat 3 films have been an essential element of Hong Kong cinema for the past 30 years, despite frequently pushing the edge. It estimated that about 25% of all locally produced movies fell into this category during their peak in the 1990s. Furthermore, a sizable number of these obscene movies weren’t just produced; they were also widely watched. Pretty Woman, a movie about a doppelganger who replaces a raped and killed office girl, not the Julia Roberts vehicle, a major blockbuster in 1991, grossing $30 million at the box office, matching the same year’s John Woo/Chow Yun-fat collaboration Once a Thief.
The degree of acceptance that Hongkongers have for these frightening movies may be what is most stunning about them. Scholars Darrell W. Davis and Yeh Yueh-yu wrote of the most obscene and violent Cat 3 films when they said, “The cruelty and raw misogyny of these films is really alarming; they would cause an uproar in the west were they accessible ‘above ground’.” Similar to this, Paul Fonoroff, a film critic, said in his review of the 1993 film Love to Kill, “These are not fringe exploitation pictures, but mainstream Cantonese movies with mainstream casts.”
In the contentious Ebola Syndrome, Anthony Wong
‘Video nasties’ like The Driller Killer and Last Orgy of the Third Reich were stigmatized in the UK in the 1980s, but Category III movies were rarely treated with the same scorn. A star like Simon Yam could seamlessly transition from the set of the cannibalistic Dr. Lamb to a mainstream action movie like Full Contact. A director like Derek Yee could just as readily work on Viva Erotica as C’est la Vie, mon Cheri. Actress Shu Qi, who serves as the inspiration for Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and has served on the juries for the Cannes and Berlin film festivals, even won Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards for her role in Viva Erotica, which would have been unthinkable for a Hollywood production of the same genre.
If exploitative Category III movies aren’t produced as much as they were 30 years ago, Beijing to blame. There is less interest in producing works that would offend local censors, let alone Chinese ones, as the local film industry develops closer relations to the Mainland. Ironically, Men Behind the Sun’s portrayal of the Japanese as barbaric torturers allowed it to play in theaters uncut when it released in China. However, if you publish a dystopian anthology with subdued political undertones like 10 Years, you will undoubtedly face censorship. What then is extreme?