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September 16th, 2000 Issue #10

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

The Haunted Cop Shop
(1987): 6/10

Cover art courtesy Mega Star.

Maang gwai chai kwoon

Meng gui cha guan

Strong Ghost Police Office

Jacky Cheung. Image courtesy Mega Star.

The film that launched the "Police Academy Meets the Monsters" cycle, this Jeff Lau Chun-wai farce tackles both Eastern and Western horror conventions. Much-hated police chief Shun (Woo Fung) receives a visit one day from an ex-officer, who is now a monk. He has come to worn his former boss that the station (which used to be a bar and the site where a group of Japanese soldiers committed suicide at the end of World War II) will soon be overrun by the undead during the upcoming Festival of Hungry Ghosts, unless precautions are taken, a threat Shun doesn't take seriously. Later that evening, bumbling cops Macky Kim (Jacky Cheung Hok-yau) and Chiu Man (Ricky Hui Koon-ying) have fun tormenting thief Sneaky Ming (Billy Lau Nam-kwong), whom they get to confess in a novel fashion. Locked away in his cell for the night, Ming finds himself invited out to a ritzy bar and a round of mahjong.

Jacky Cheung and Ricky Hui. Image courtesy Mega Star.

What he doesn't realize is that his three opponents are spirits and he has inadvertently wagered his life. Vampirized by their leader, General Issey (a bloodsucker of the Western variety, sporting the requisite Bela Lugosi-style cape), Ming tries to make Macky and Chiu believe that he is no longer of this earth but the two remain unconvinced -- until Ming gets hit with a ray of sunshine and promptly disintegrates into a pile of ashes. This, however, is just a taste of what the partners and their new female boss have in store for them, as Issey is such a powerful foe, even Taoist master ghost fighter Chung Fat-pak (Chung Fat) cannot contain him.

Chung Fat. Image courtesy Mega Star.

The script (co-written by Lau and Wong Kar-wai -- yes, THAT Wong Kar-wai) contains a few too many throwaway bits that don't really pay off but there are also others that amuse through sheer audacity (Macky and Chiu get revenge on their Madam by fooling her into eating dog meat, which they got by slaughtering the commander's favorite police dog!) and the horror sequences are atmospherically staged. While it does not have quite the inventiveness or comic momentum of its 1988 sequel and Lau's OPERATION PINK SQUAD II, THE HAUNTED COP SHOP is lively fun and worth tracking down. Lau and Fruit Chan Kwoh appear briefly.

VCD Specs:

Mega Star #MS/VCD/030/97
Digital Mono
Cantonese Left Channel/Mandarin Right Channel
Chinese and English Subtitles
Not Rated
88 minutes
PAL Format

Billy Lau Nam-Kwong. Image courtesy Mega Star.

Prior to the release of this VCD, this horror/comedy hit was quite difficult to find with English subtitles. The presentation is typical for VCD: the image is hazy and rather soft, night sequences tend to lose a lot of detail in shadows, and fast edits result in tiling. Colors are fairly vivid and the disc is worth acquiring, though a DVD will hopefully appear someday and make the dark sequences easier to appreciate.


Copyright © John Charles 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review