As Michael Douglas approaches 70 and we wave goodbye to the golden-era of Hollywood’s erotic-thrillers, the recent local release of The 33D Invader reminds us that Hong Kong’s Category III films still exceed typical fringe exploitation budgets, and live on in the realm of mainstream Cantonese film. Cash Chin’s latest, distributed by Madman, contributes to his legacy as one of the premier filmmakers of the genre. Whilst it’s unlikely that Chin’s films will be retrospectively revered like those of more fortunate genre ‘auteurs’, The 33D Invader is recommended viewing for those interested in Hong Kong flicks and down-and-dirty genre fans alike.
Reading the synopsis of The 33D Invader, it’s hard not to smile. The year is 2046 and, in contrast to the prophecies of Wong Kar Wai, this story is comparatively simple. The Xucker race from Planet Xucker have made 99% of Earth’s males infertile through radiation attacks. A healthy young woman named “Future” (Macy Wu, one of the few Chinese lead actors in the film) must travel back to 2011 in order to get pregnant and save humankind. To stop her, the Xucker race sends a pair of aliens (Xucker One and Xucker Two) dressed like European ravers from the 1980s. If they succeed in impregnating Future with their poisoned sperm, she too will be left infertile and her mission will have failed.
This far-fetched story intersects with the tale of three nerdy, sex-obsessed male university students, who discover they are living next door to four beautiful female students who generally prefer wearing swimsuits to clothing (interestingly, the girls are played by Japanese and Taiwanese actresses). It’s typical teen comedy here, as the three young men try just about anything to spend time with their objects of desire. Most of their antics are innocent enough within the context of teen comedy, but are also somewhat illegal by today’s standards. Also living with the geeks is the film’s male lead, Lawrence (played by Taiwanese actor Chen Jyun-yan). Lawrence — either slightly more moralistic or, simply, more satisfied than his friends — is the healthy specimen that Future sets her sights on.
Despite having an animated opening scene and title sequence, we’re already into a shower scene by the 7-minute mark. Consistent nudity, not surprisingly, jeopardizes a consistent three-act architecture (but who really goes for that, anyway). When the film’s not focused on showing off its naked cast, it generally goes for crass jokes over narrative depth and, unfortunately, the definite potential of the film’s absurdity is not realized. The sex scenes grow more gratuitous as the film goes on and the sadomasochistic rampage of the Xucker aliens seems a bit too much, considering that The 33D Invader will undoubtedly appeal to a core audience of teenagers. (Don’t lose any sleep, though — this degree of distastefulness is typical of the genre, and was much worse in the Cat-III films proliferated during the 1990s.)
Aside from some impressive visual effects, production values seem lower here than in Chin’s earlier work, though this seems less to do with Australian DOP Ross Clarkson, and more to do with the relatively uninteresting urban setting of the film. Despite its title, this film is actually in 2D, classically deceptive marketing that I look forward to seeing more of.
In most countries, the sexploitation genre has had its time, but, following the curious success of Sex and Zen 3D (Cash Chin directed Sex and Zen 2 in 1996), a genre resurgence is what we’ve come to expect from Hong Kong. Yes, the Category III film will likely stay with us for a while longer.
If you’ve seen all four Terminator films and you admire Russ Meyer, The 33D Invader could be one for you.