Phallic Symbolism and “Rock on Fire”

“Don’t you feel gross?” (Nadeki, “Lady Killer”)

“Rock on Fire” features phallic symbolism beyond the usual, verging on fetishism.  In addition to being the senior investigating officer, living conspicuously alone, cursing out a supervisor, sporting an unusually severe haircut, riding a motorcycle, driving a red sports car and killing a male adversary (Ken Lo) with a large shotgun, Nadeki’s character “Inspector Cindy” has a quite unusual and distinctive dream sequence that seems to align her persona as masculine.  This dream (actually a nightmare) involves a confrontation between her phallic police detective character and the monstrous, seductive, castrating figure of her female adversary “Icy”(played by Mikie Ng).  The mise-en-scene seems distinctively masculine; stripped down to her undershirt and shoulder holster while pulling an “all-nighter” at the office in the company of her male colleagues, Inspector Cindy falls asleep at her desk.

A common enough device in HK action films (and suspense genre films world-wide), nightmare sequences display the passions and fears of the character in a richly symbolic manner.  In “Rock on Fire,” Nadeki’s masculine attired character confronts her female nemesis while the latter is both naked and engaged in dominating intercourse with one of Inspector Cindy’s male police subordinates.  Cindy struggles to raise her handgun, but cannot – rendered literally and figuratively impotent by the sexually charged scene and gaze of Icy.  On the other hand, when the nightmare is dreamed by the quarry in “Dreaming The Reality,” Moon Lee’s unconscious yielded a vision of a masculinized Yukari Oshima (wearing a male police officer’s uniform) who had no trouble raising her weapon.  In “Rock on Fire” Inspector Cindy jerks awake when Icy raises her weapon, licks it, and fires.  Cindy is later almost killed by her female adversary – who, it may be noted, is cast as Japanese and attacks her with a wakizashi.
Mikie Ng’s role as Icy is clearly horrifying – a female slasher, seductive yet brutally homicidal.  Every sexual pairing in this film is associated with extreme phallic imagery or death.  Icy bites out the throat or gouges out the eyeballs of her male partners directly after coupling.  The sight of such body parts directly connotes castration.  Accordingly, in the dream sequence, the nightmare of the symbolically masculinized detective (Nadeki’s Cindy) is that when she confronts the seductive and castrating female assassin (Mikie Ng’s Icy) she too will be rendered impotent.
After escaping being tied up and almost torn limb from limb, Inspector Cindy – bloody and abject – confronts her adversary in a battle of dueling excavators!  It may also be noted that virtually the only other female action performer to be depicted operating this specific type of machine was once again Yukari Oshima – while playing a male gendered transsexual in “Story of Ricky,” (1992).  The symbolism of these earth moving machines – with their mechanical arms representing virtual bodily extensions – is somewhat reminiscent of the “mecha” theme of anime involving massively developed robotic physiques (sometimes piloted by females).

It seems hard to escape the inference that the conventions of the horror film – improved and sharpened by HK filmmaking – are discernable in the Cat. III title “Rock On Fire” and that the symbolism of the Final Girl confronting a female-gendered monstrous adversary is also markedly present.