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Issue #142 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES January 13th, 2003

Encounters of the Spooky Kind
(1980; Golden Harvest/Bo Ho Films Co.)

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

Cantonese: Gwai chuk gwai
Mandarin: Gui da gui
English: Ghost Strikes Ghost

Alternate English Titles: Encounter of the Spooky Kind, Spooky Encounters

A bonafide classic of the HK horror/comedy genre, ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND set the standard for the many that followed. Loudmouth braggart "Bold" Cheung (Sammo Hung Kam-po, who also directed) is actually anything but. In fact, he is a blithering coward under the thumb of his shrill, bitchy wife (Leung Suet-moi) who is having a secret affair with Tam (Wong Har), a powerful politician. When Cheung almost catches the pair in bed together, Tam gets worried about his image being sullied. He decides to have Cheung killed and enlists the aid of the wizard Chin Hoi (Peter Chan Lung) to do the deed. Setting up a trap, Chin's friend, Fa Kau (Wu Ma), bets Cheung that he cannot live up to his nickname and spend the entire night in a haunted temple. Cheung agrees to the wager but, on his way to the temple, he is stopped by Tsui (Chung Fat), one of Chin's associates. Tsui refuses to allow his sect to participate in such underhanded doings and instructs Cheung on how to spend the night in safety. Come midnight, Chin re-activates a dormant keung si and it prowls the premises looking for Cheung. Just as the creature is about to finish him off, the sun rises and the monster retreats. While still in a daze after his perilous ordeal, Cheung is tricked into spending another night in the temple and, once again, survives thanks to Tsui's help. Tam then decides to take a different approach, framing Cheung for the murder of his wife. Arrested by a resolute inspector (Lam Ching-ying) and facing execution, Cheung manages to escape prison. Tsui decides to take him as a pupil, instructing him as best he can in the ways of occult self-defense. The climax finds Tsui and Chin facing off in a thrilling magicians' duel, with Cheung, Tam, and Chin's assistant acting as supernaturally controlled surrogate fighters.

In contrast to most of the later Golden Harvest entries in this genre, the horror sequences are played straight, with an emphasis on gruesomely decomposed corpses and bloody, arcane rituals. The screenplay allows for a number of martial arts sequences, which are smoothly integrated and necessary to the plot. The best occurs after Chin puts a curse on Cheung, causing him to lose control of his hand (anticipating a similar sequence in Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD II) while trying to fight off a number of attackers. The finale is an intense tour-de-force, highlighted by an ingenious comedic conceit that will be lost on most Western viewers: in order to increase the power of the combatants, the magicians invoke the spirits of various Chinese gods to inhabit their bodies. This leads to a number of broad characterizations, the best being Hung's chattering Monkey King, which allows the actor to present a spectacular display of monkey-style kung fu. Hung also stars in Ricky Lau Koon-wai's ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND II (1991), though the film is a sequel in-name-only. The mix and match soundtrack on the Cantonese version includes cues lifted from HORROR EXPRESS and PHANTASM, while the English dub features library tracks from a company called Avalon Music. The supporting cast includes Tai Po, Cheung Ti-hong, Billy Chan Wui-ngai, Ho Pak-kwong, and Yuen Mo.

Cover art courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Sammo Hung and friend. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Peter Chan (left) and Wu Ma. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Sammo Hung and Chung Fat. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Hong Kong Legends/Medusa #MDV 566 (UK Label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and English Language Tracks (both post-synched)

Optional English and Dutch Subtitles

30 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 2 Only

Macrovision Encoded

PAL Format

99 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence and horror

DVD menu courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Great Britain: 15
Netherlands: 12
Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG

Hong Kong Legends have delivered another superb rendition here. The extremely pleasing image is spotless throughout, boasting vivid hues, accurate fleshtones, detailed contrasts, and properly balanced blacks. The English subs are much improved over HK theatrical prints and early video editions, as is the audio (though that is still no reason to listen to the wretched English track). Bey Logan's commentary thoroughly addresses the performers' backgrounds and relevant Chinese traditions, while also providing interesting anecdotes about the production. It is another excellent talk that should please both seasoned viewers and newcomers to the genre. An 18 minute restoration and video production featurette shows just how ragged some of the materials HKL works with are, prior to their digital restoration. A contemporary interview with Sammo Hung (13 minutes) finds the star discussing his Peking Opera days and some of his famous co-workers. There is also a 20 minute biography segment that covers just about every aspect of his career you could ask for. A Picture Gallery, the original HK trailer, a UK promo spot, and additional spots for THE IRON FISTED MONK, THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER, and ten other HKL titles round out a terrific release.

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