Year of release: 1995
Director: Norman Chan
Action directors: Norman Chan, Ring Law, Danton Mew
Producers: Ko Sai-Man, Peter Chan
Writers: Norman Chan, Ring Law
Cinematography: Johnny Koo
Editing: Angie Lam
Music: Tang Siu-Lam
Stars: Chan Kwok-Bong, James Pax, Strawberry Yeung, Danton Mew, Sunny Luk
Rated III for violence, language, nudity, and sexual situations
Movie Review Index
The 1995 Category III release Gates of Hell isn't what many people, most notably film snobs, would consider great cinema. But as a cheap exploitation flick, it does what it sets out to do in fine enough fashion. Mainly, it features a lot of gratuitous nudity, a fair share of bumping and grinding, and more than a liberal dose of your good old-fashioned ultraviolence. While this sort of content is admittedly playing to a limited audience, if you're into the seedier side of Hong Kong cinema, then this is a picture that will be right up your alley.
Chan Kwok-Bong and Strawberry Yeung play a couple honeymooning in San Francisco. The missus has a visit from Aunt Flo, so Chan decides to head to a nudie bar, where he is drugged and robbed. The thugs are pissed that Chan doesn't have any cash, so they decide to ransack his hotel room, where they end up kidnapping Strawberry because their dai lo (James Pax) is looking to get into the porno biz in order to compete with the Italian gangs encroaching on their turf. Yeah, I know, this is real compelling stuff. But basically, this leads to Chan taking out his vengeance on the gangs and everyone living (or, rather, not living) not so happily after.
Gates of Hell certainly isn't polished cinema. Director Norman Chan (who also goes by the alternate stage name of Otto Chan) began his film career in the early 1980's as a producer and production manager before wanting to step behind the lens. After a couple of failed attempts at more mainstream fare, Chan went over to the dark side, cranking out about a dozen Category III releases during the mid 1990's. Most of his output was much like this, obviously shot with next to no budget, a situation that is not helped by the poor transfer on the World Video DVD, which looks like it came from a fifth-generation VHS tape and has subtitles that read like they were drunkenly mashed into the translation feature on Google.
However, for the most part, Chan knew how to play to his particular audience, and Gates of Hell is another example of this. Category III exploitation fare can often be tricky to pull off, as it is often all too easy to make matters fall too far towards the sleaze end of the scale, with the picture becoming fodder for the raincoater crowd, rather than an actual movie. To his credit, Chan knows how to strike a cinematic balance, making the proceedings here salacious and titillating without veering towards out-and-out pandering or blatantly disgusting antics. And for a movie like this, that is an accomplishment in and of itself, making Gates of Hell a release that's well worth checking out for fans of the genre.