Shocking Asia (1974)
This is probably the most extreme movie I’ve ever seen. I first gave it a watch a few years ago, during my first spell of mondo movie research… But once it got to the sex change operation, I had to run behind a chair and hide. It felt too… close up. The images were far too visceral to experience neutrally.
But right now I’m at a life-moment where I feel pretty dead inside. And so I’m trying to snap myself out of it. Figured… Fuck it, let’s revisit SHOCKING ASIA.
It’s actually not a terrible film! I love how they repeat “SHOCKING ASIA” in the narration. LOL. A beautiful touch of camp. But overall, it holds the attention with its variety of spectacle and attempts to present genuinely curious shock spectacle.
The narration isn’t too cheesy or awful (like ECCO, for example) — it’s actually kind of inspiring. I’m going to note it as a base reference point (along with MONDO CANE) for what a shockumentary voice over should sound like / how the narration should be structured.
The scene concepts are quite good too. I’m also going to note those for my own shock documentary currently in production — MONDO MIAMI. I’ve actually incorporated already the female wrestlers,. and have plans to film an erotic art museum / love motels… So this is good. This film also serves as a good reference point for the base minimum of spectacle for other shockumentary films.
Because SHOCKING ASIA isn’t just about solid technique in mondo scene structure & narration… It has a centerpiece. In the case of this movie, it’s the SEX CHANGE OPERATION.
In the case of other shockumentary films, it’s the self-immolation of a monk, or the brutal devouring of a tourist by an African lion, or the close-up execution of a captured soldier.
However, SHOCKING ASIA lacks a variety upon its variations. It’s all pretty much the same pace at its most macro-scopic: A vignette scene clearly filmed without sync sound; artificial “foley” sound added after the fact; creepy stock music; droll voice over. It’s like that, one scene after the other, for over an hour.
The only jump in aesthetic dimensionality is when we see the doctor who will perform the sex change operation. Suddenly, we can hear sync sound coming from his mouth. We hear the rotating whir of the film camera motor in the background. Something feels… exploitative… Something feels… off….
I believe it’s this momentary jump in structure which dramatically adds to the tension of the film.