Pages Navigation Menu

Review of Shocking Asia (1991)

Review of Shocking Asia (1991)

©1991, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1991, Summer). Review of Shocking Asia (First Films Organisation, Ltd., Hong Kong, 1981). Chrysalis Quarterly, 1(2), pp. 32.

This film is the first I came across that had anything whatsoever to do with transsexualism.




Chrysalis Page (PDF)



Geiselgaslejg-Film Productions

First Film Organisation Ltd., Hong Kong (Available for rental in many video stores)

Review by Dallas Denny


Shocking Asia is a German-made documentary film. It seeks to titillate and amaze the viewer by graphically displaying Far Eastern practices which seem outlandish or exotic to Western eyes. It is comprised of a number of short segments showing such things as drinking the blood of snakes (which are considered to be aphrodisiacs in Japan), self-mutilation during religious celebrations, and museums dedicated to displays of phalluses in various states of tumescence.

Shocking Asia would rate a CQ caterpillar, but for one thing: it contains, so far as I know, the only publicly available filmed depiction of sex reas­signment surgery (SRS).

The surgeon is Dr. S.S. Ratnam of Singapore, who has published exten­sively on transsexualism in the medical journals, and who had been doing male-to-female SRS for over ten years when Shocking Asia was made.

The brief segment on Dr. Ratnam’s patients begins with a shot of some of them soliciting in an alley in the city. One of these women is later shown being operated by Dr. Ratnam. The scene is rather graphic, showing every­thing from the initial incision to the removal of the denuded penis, and insertion of breast prostheses as well.

Although the commentators seem unduly cynical (this holds throughout the entire film, and not just for the section on transsexualism), and despite the obviously exploitative nature of the film, the transsexual section is han­dled in a surprisingly sympathetic manner, and is worth watching.

Shocking Asia is available for rental in many video stores; the second shop I tried had it. Be sure to avoid the sequel, Shocking Asia II: The Final Taboos. You want the original. I wouldn’t suggest buying it, but if you are curious about SRS, or are contemplating it for yourself, you might pick up Shocking Asia and fast-forward to the relevant section.

But if you are squeamish, forget it.