Suggestions please…

Over the last year or so I have been having conversations, intermittently, with my friend Romaine about the depiction of the human body in certain films. We keep finding ourselves in a discussion about films that depict or use the body in a way that is not quite, um, normal. This covers a wide range of instances – some films exploit performers who have physical deformities while others may be centred around acts of virtuosity (such as martial arts films). The range of physical states / issues covered can include sex, physical disability, violence, and acts of virtuosity in a range of situations that may be bizarre, dangerous, heartrending, funny, disgusting, healthy…

We are going to start watching some of these films and try to unpack what fascinates us so and what they can tell us about. We are starting to compile a list of films to look at.

Some of the films that I think are worth a look at include:

  • Swordsman 2 – a Hong Kong wuxia (swordplay) film starring Jet Li and Brigitte Lin. This movie features a eunuch who morphs into a transsexual, self mutilation and self amputation, mutilation as the result of torture, the life force being drained out of people’s bodies, and ladies with snakes up their sleeves.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril – a Japanese samurai film from the 70s which features a female assassin who fights topless in order to distract her opponents with the demons tattooed on her breasts.
  • Zatoichi (a character featured in a series of films from the 1970s and beyond) and Ichi (recent) – Japanese samurai films about a blind swordsman and woman respectively.
  • Love and Honour – another recent Japanese samurai film about a bind swordsman.
  • The One Armed Swordsman – Hong Kong kung fu film. The title is self explanatory. In fact there are any number of chopsockies with eunuchs, cripples, people with deformities, freaks galore. There are also lots of Japanese and Hong Kong films where weird, disgusting, titillating, grotesque things are being done to and with women’s bodies (and some men). Notable among these is The Bride with White Hair, which features some freaky arsed Siamese twins in one of the weirdest sex scenes I have ever seen. Human Lanterns is a kung fu horror movie with quite a good plot. As a Jet Li fan I will also mention Black Mask, which features characters who have had their nerves removed so that they can’t feel pain.
  • Another 1970s Japanese samurai film hero was Hanzo the Razor. These films are pretty hard core in terms of weird and nasty misogynistic sex.
  • And while we are on the subject of Japanese films I must mention the Pinky Violence genre, which features a mixture of eroticism and violence and female protagonists. Apparently pinky violence films such as Sex and Fury and Female Yakuza are among the films that influenced Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Romaine has suggested the following:

The Descent

This is a horror movie about a group of ladies who go potholing and discover Ghastly Things. I have seen little bits of it on YouTube and am about to watch the whole DVD and I strongly suspect it will scare the pants off me. Romaine LOVES horror movies and is fascinated by the recurring themes found in the genre and by the way horror filmmakers skillfully use certain triggers and devices to maneuver their audience’s mindset into a scary place. She recommends The Descent as an exemplary film, but also has mentioned horror films made in Spain and Italy in the 60s and 70s which I think could be interesting to watch.

Romaine has also unearthed films featuring:

  • Chesty Morgan, who had a bizarrely huge bust. Apparently she uses it as a lethal weapon in her 2 films – she smothers men to death with her boobs. I am not making this up.
  • Weng Weng, who was a martial arts savvy Filipino midget who made James Bond style actioners in the 70s. He was the hero and romantic lead.
  • ‘Female Ninjas: The Magic Chronicles’ features the vaginal bubbles from hell. I kid you not. Look at this:

 Where does she find these things?

Has anyone seen any of these movies? Can anyone suggest any other movies that feature the human body, or the use of the human body, in ways that are shocking, tantalizing, moving or thought provoking? Please leave a comment with your suggestions.


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39 Responses to Suggestions please…

  1. Uncle Jasper says:

    Wow. Interesting line of thought you seem to have latched onto here. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. Another film you may want to check out is the venoms classic, Crippled Avengers, which actually had an entire plot based around the idea of handicapped heroes either overcoming or taking advantage of thier physical disabilities.


  2. Thanks Jasper – that sounds like a great suggestion. It goes on the list. If you or Will can think of any more films that fit in this theme then please leave a comment.


  3. GottaRun says:

    I’m not quite sure this fits exactly into your specifications, but “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which was out this past year, is based on the book and true story of a Chinese ballet dancer who is briefly sent to Houston on an exchange and gets embroiled in a nasty diplomatic battle over asylum. The film offers a first-hand look at the PRC’s policy for recruiting/drafting (very young) state dancers along with the grueling, torturous training methods that were employed. The dancing is at times jaw-dropping and inspiring. If you love dance, this one’s for you.


    • Thanks for the suggestion, GottaRun. In regards to this theme my specifications are loose – it can be what anyone wants to make of it. But dance films do deal with an intense level of physicality so they are certainly relevant to the theme. I am an Aussie so this film is familiar to me as the guy whose autobiography it was ended up being one of the principal dancers for the Australian Ballet Company for a while (are you an Aussie?). I trained initially as a ballet dancer but then ended up working in the independent dance scene as a contemporary choreographer and performer during the 90s, so I have to approach dance movies when I am in the right mood. I bring a lot of personal baggage to these films, especially in regards to that torturous training.

      Thanks for stopping by and feel free to return if you have any other comments or suggestions to make.


      • GottaRun says:

        Yes, the dancer moved to Australia after becoming involved with an Australian dancer (and divorcing the American dancer). (I’m from the US.) I also studied ballet, but switched to jazz – less arduous for the body parts.

        I’ll continue to think about your theme and let you know should I come up with anything appropriate to add/suggest.


  4. I’ve been trying to recall some films that I can recommend for this (by which I mean the literal definition of recommend), but am drawing a blank for the time being. Troma films are a good source for very trashy horror, some of which do focus on killer body parts. There’s also One-Eyed Monster, which is about an alien-posessed killer penis attacking the cast and crew of a porn film. Then there’s Teeth, more killer genitalia stuff, of the female variety. I did think Idle Hands had some clever moments, which is another horror film about a possessed body part with a mind of its own.

    Hopefully, I’ll be able remember a few others that aren’t so…schlock.


    • I love the way these excellent suggestions are such a contrast to the classy film recommended by GottaRun in the comment below. These definitely go on the list, along with Mao’s Last Dancer and Crippled Avengers. Loving the variety here folks! Schlock or top quality – they’re all grist for my mill.


      • Unfortunately, I haven’t fared too much better on further reflection – I remembered a film I *tried* to watch called The Story of Ricki (AKA Rick-O), but I had to switch that off – most certainly not for the squeamish (I wouldn’t generally consider myself so, either). That has fight scenes (set in a prison) with things like a guy having his muscles severed, tying them back together and continuing the fight, and another scene where a fighter uses his own intestines to strangle someone. I believe I made it about ten minutes into the film before it was enough :/

        On a different note, how about the Australian film Noise? That’s quite good, and focuses on a policeman who suffers from tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears), which while not an outwardly noticable physical handicap, could certainly be considered so by the sufferer >?

        You may also wish to consider posting this question on a forum I sometimes visit called FilmSmash (formerly Hong Kong Cult Cinema), the guys there have a broad range of knowledge for Asian films in particular:


      • Okay… doing macrame with your own severed muscles and using your own intestines to strangle someone, and this happens in the FIRST 10 minutes of Ricki??? Sorry, but I don’t see myself sitting through that one unfortunately. I actually am very squeamish about any violence that doesn’t involve balletic kung fu.

        Noise sounds interesting, and it would be good to include some Aussie films on the list.

        Thanks for the link. I will definitely check it out.


  5. dorkarama says:

    You might want to check out the famous (infamous?) kung fu movie Crippled Masters, featuring a cast of martial artists all with physical handicaps. One of the oddest kung fu movies ever made:


  6. Norbert says:

    I’d love to add some films but I can’t think of any.


  7. Andrew Dickinson says:

    Can you be more precise about Kunoichi Ninpocho ? imdb doesn’t list any title matching “Female Ninjas: The Magic Chronicles’ “. I’m prepared to bet that it is part of the “Lady Ninja” series, of which one screened on SBS a couple of times by Des Mangan : “Lady Ninja – Reflections Of Darkness”.

    Of course, English titles for these films are often of little help 😦

    And, as you can see on imdb, there are tons of Kunoichi Ninpocho films.


  8. Andrew Dickinson says:

    I’ll see what I can toss off, under your stated headings.

    “physical deformities while others may be centred around acts of virtuosity (such as martial arts films).”

    Chinese Torture Chamber Story
    Sex And The Emperor

    “The range of physical states / issues covered can include sex”,

    Sex & Zen trilogy
    The Demon’s Baby

    “physical disability, violence, ”

    Trilogy Of Lust I & II
    Peeping Tom (warning : I couldn’t get past the first scene)
    Audition (Japanese – Takashi Miike)

    “and acts of virtuosity in a range of situations that may be bizarre, dangerous, heartrending, funny, disgusting, healthy…”

    Run & Kill
    Red To Kill
    Dr Lamb
    The (Tuen Mun) Rapist (1994)
    Battle Royale I & II (J/ese)

    Also, I think you might really get into any number of Category III (= rated R) ghost stories, such as ……

    Erotic Ghost Story trilogy

    and they simply don’t get much more out there than the notorious Japanese *light comedy* (I’m not joking) series Rapeman.

    Is this the sort of quality entertainment you seek ?


  9. jpfmovies says:

    You know one movie from Korea that looks at the human body (though not an action but horror film) is Yoga


    • JP this looks really, really intriguing so thanks for suggesting it. I agree with what the (well written) review on imdb says – production values in the South Korean film industry do seem to be very high.


      • jpfmovies says:

        Yeah the Korean movies have come a long way in recent years . . . a long way and it is not limited to South Korea. From what I understand that wing-nut who runs North Korea has a vast vast film collection and even kidnapped a South Korean director in the 1970’s to make films. So it looks like both Korea’s love their movies!


  10. jpfmovies says:

    P.S. I’ll upload it for you in case you want to watch it.


    • GottaRun says:

      It’s a horror film involving yoga?


      • Yes – I watched the clip JP supplied above and it looks as if it could be quite good. I am actually quite squeamish when it comes to violence (strange quality in a kung fu movie addict, eh?) but apparently this Yoga film deals more with atmosphere and being a thriller than a slassher movie.


  11. Re: Ricki – not watching it is probably a wise choice. I had read a lot about it by the time it crossed my path and had the opportunity to try and watch it, the scenes I mentioned I didn’t see as I switched it off well before they supposedly take place. I suppose I now look like some weirdo with awful taste in films! (It’s not true, promise – I much prefer the tradional + new wave (or what is now known as ‘golden era’) kung fu films without gore… )

    I don’t really have any redemptive titles to suggest, plus I suspect you have plenty to go on now, but for classic Hollywood there’s films like Rear Window, An Affair to Remember and Elephant Man (or 80’s flick Mask – the Cher one not Jim Carrey) – I wouldn’t really say any of them have a dynamic or unusual focus on the human body as such, but they’re examples of general cultural differences in the way certain things were ‘handled’ in US golden era films, mayhaps.


    • Good to be aware of the Hollywod titles and to remind ourselves that we maybe shouldn’t always get blogged down in exploitation or cult films (as fun and great as they are).

      The traditional and new wave films are my favourite kung fu flicks too. I am not a fan of gore either and prefer my kung fu action to be a little (or even a lot) on the balletic side.


      • GottaRun says:

        Hey Dangerous:

        I have been thinking a bit more on this, and it would make sense to put “Chaplin” into your suggestion box. It’s obviously not a dance movie, but Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin shows us the physicality that was present in all of Chaplin’s films. Watching Downey Jr. is to believe that the real Chaplin is on the screen. He has the presence and abilities of Chaplin – it’s a tremendous performance and reminds us of the acting genius that is Downey. It’s a true shame that he lost so much (personal and professional) time to his demons. The film doesn’t need to rely on computer graphics to create the physical humor that made Chaplin, and in this case, Downey, amazing.


      • Thanks for the suggestion. It reminds me that Jackie Chan cites Buster Keaton as one of his great influences. The old silent movie comedians drew heavily on physical theatre techniques honed by slapstick performance in vaudeville


  12. GottaRun says:

    You’re quite welcome; I guess I was on the right track . . . truly, this movie is a real treasure. Downey is such a fine actor and is a master of physical humor. Are you using these suggestions as advice for future reviews?


    • At the moment I am not sure…
      I just thought that I would throw the theme out there and see what comes up – what it means to different people. I feel like there has been a really good variety of responses so far


      • GottaRun says:

        Well, since you have been happy with the responses, you might as well go ahead and pick some of the suggestions and provide reviews. Or did you already have a whole line-up in mind?


      • Thanks for the encouragement. I have just published a blog on one of the movies – Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril.

        I will present the list of suggestions to my fellow movie watching comrades and take a vote…


  13. Pingback: The depiction of bodies in ‘Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril’ | Dangerous Meredith

  14. jpfmovies says:

    I vote for the Yoga Movie not just because I suggested it but because it is one unique film–different than anything that has come along in recent times.



  15. MikeOutWest says:

    Hi Meredith. Coming into this conversation late, but here are a couple more for consideration: There’s a british independent martial arts movie called Kung Fu Flid (aka Unarmed and Dangerous), who’s hero is a phalidamide-affected kickboxer who’s arms end at his elbows. Examples of movies featuring characters overcoming physical handicaps: Story of Ricky features a scene where Ricky’s tendons are cut in his arm, and he has to tie them together with his teeth! Then there is Tsui Hark’s The Blade, a remake of One Armed Swordsman, and King Boxer (aka Five Fingers of Death), in which one character attempts revenge on the man who gouged his eyes out!


    • Thanks Mike. Will keep my eyes out for Kung Fu Flid. I might just be a tad too squeamish for Ricky. I have seen One Armed swordsman and King Boxer (good suggestions) and will soon have the opportunity to see The Blade on the big screen.


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