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Issue #134 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES November 18th, 2002

The Mad Monk
(1993; Cosmopolitan Film Productions Co.)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Jai gung
Mandarin: Ji gong
English: Lord of Salvation

The mischievous god Lo Han (Stephen Chiau Sing-chi) is wreaking havoc with the balance of the universe and his fellow deities demand that he must be punished for this tomfoolery. Lo and his sidekick, Tiger Fighter (Ng Man-tat), are sentenced to spend the next ten lifetimes as animals but their sentence is delayed by the timely arrival of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy (an ideally cast Anita Mui Yim-fong), who convinces the heavenly judge to give the pair one more chance. Lo may avoid his fate if he can convince three mortals to change their ways for the better within three Earth days. He cannot, however, use any form of magic, just his own sincerity to accomplish this task. Tiger and a guard (Wong Yat-fei) sneak down from Heaven to secretly help but, when Tiger is reincarnated as Lo's sai lo, he ends up as a drooling, middle-aged baby! Meanwhile, the 72 hours are counting down and the three subjects still must be found and helped. Two of the mortals in question are Pai Hsiao-yu (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk,
looking positively luminous), a prostitute who enjoys her work far too much, and the exceedingly timid beggar Chu Ta-chung (Anthony Wong Chau-sang). They turn out to be a serious handful for Lo but the biggest challenge will be to convert Yuan Pa-tien (a perpetually sneering Che-Kirk Wong Chi-keung), who is undiluted evil from stem to stern, and in league with the giant demon Heh Lo-sha.

Like Chiau's monster hit JUSTICE, MY FOOT! (1992), THE MAD MONK is enjoyable but not an easy ride for English speaking viewers. Between the frantic pacing, poorly translated bursts of mo lei to, and Buddhist doctrines that will mean little to those unfamiliar with the religion, gweilos can be forgiven for losing track of who is who and what is what. At least part of the narrative chaos can be traced to the production itself, which found Chiau and director Johnny To Kei-fung constantly disagreeing. The kitchen sink plotting suggests that re-writes occurred, muddying the waters to a considerable degree at times. Regardless, the picture boasts a wonderfully surreal look during the Heaven sequences, while other scenes offer the moody but captivating visuals To is known for (particularly when Lo must descend to Hell and confront Heh Lo-sha). There is also a bit of fantasy action (courtesy of Tony Ching Siu-tung) and, although some of the verbal tongue twisters do not come across, a good portion of the slapstick does. Michael Chan Wai-man (as the god Earth, who operates in a manner suspiciously similar to a triad leader), Lau Kong, Wong Yat-fei, Gabriel Wong Yat-san, and Yuen King-tan also appear.

Cover art courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Ng Man-tat (left) and Stephen Chiau (right). Image courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Maggie Cheung Man-yuk. Image courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.
Ritek/Thunder Media #DVD-007 (Taiwan label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Dubbed Mandarin Language Track

Permanent Subtitles In English and Traditional Chinese

9 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Letterboxed (mostly 1.75:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

89 Minutes

Contains moderate fantasy violence and some raunchy humor

DVD menu courtesy Ritek/Thunder Media.

Australia: M (Medium Level Violence)
British Columbia: M (Some Violence)
Great Britain: 12
Hong Kong: II
Ontario: R (Brutal Violence)
Singapore: PG

THE MAD MONK was first released on DVD by China Star but that version lacks subtitles. Ritek's Mandarin-dubbed Taiwanese release is the only current option for English speakers and the presentation is no one's idea of pristine. There are no video mattes (causing the ratio to change numerous times), and the source print is quite worn. Also, as the result of some post-production foul-up, the image jitters vertically throughout much of the film, even though the burned-in theatrical subs remain stable. The disc also has no menu, just a chapter screen. Image and color quality are okay but this is obviously the transfer originally created for Long Shong's 1993 VHS/LD release. There are no extras.

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