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

Mr. Vampire
(1985; Golden Harvest/Bo Ho Films Co./Paragon Films)

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

Cantonese: Geung si sin saang
Mandarin: Jiang shi xian sheng
English: Mr. Stiff Corpse

The film that started the keung si horror/comedy craze, Ricky Lau Koon-wai's MR. VAMPIRE mixes low humor with wildly acrobatic slapstick and atmospheric horror setpieces. Taoist priest Kau (Lam Ching-ying) and his bumbling assistants, Man Choi (Ricky Hui Koon-ying; image) and Chou (Chin Siu-ho), seek to end a streak of bad luck that is plaguing the Yam family (including Moon Lee Choi-fung as the westernized daughter). Kau deduces that a previous feng shui master sought to get revenge on the family by providing the wrong burial instructions for the clan's patriarch. Before everything can be set right, the family's grandfather (played by Yuen Bun and Yuen Wah) comes back from the dead and kills his son (Wong Har), who also soon returns from the grave himself. After a comical battle, Kau is able to exterminate the son but the elderly keung si remains on the loose. In the meantime, Man Choi has been injured by the creature and Chou has been bitten by a comely female ghost (Pauline Wong Siu-fung). Both will transform into monsters themselves, unless Kau and his reluctant colleague (Anthony Chan Yau) can save them.

Still one of the best HK films of its type, MR. VAMPIRE establishes all the conventions of the genre in exciting fashion. While some of the humor is overly broad by Western standards, the action (choreographed by Lam Ching-ying and Yuen Wah) is terrific and the film is definitely recommended to both students of Eastern horror mythology and casual viewers alike. Lam is so effective as the erudite sifu, he would become typecast in the role right up until his death. In fact, in some later films, the screenwriters would simply have him playing himself! The success of MR. VAMPIRE led to three official sequels and numerous spinoffs, including Lam's own VAMPIRE VS. VAMPIRE, reviewed in issue #131a.

Cover art courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

From left to right: Billy Lau, Lam Ching-ying, Chin Siu-ho. Image courtesy Hong Kong Legends.
Hong Kong Legends/Medusa #MDV 586 (UK label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and English Language Tracks (both post-synched)

28 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.75:1)

Coded for Region 2 Only

Macrovision Encoded

PAL Format

94 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence and horror

DVD menu courtesy Hong Kong Legends.

Great Britain: 15
Netherlands: 12
Ontario: R (Horror, Violence)
Singapore: PG

Once again, Hong Kong Legends has delivered another "no complaints" transfer. The image has neither speckles nor scratches, colors are fresh looking, and contrasts are nicely detailed. Both versions have been remixed in 5.1 and the result is better than expected. Granted, most of the audio remains upfront but there are some good stereo effects and fairly good bass. The English dubbing is even worse than usual and, unfortunately, the people doing the subs for this release were obviously using it as a reference. Man Choi is referred to as "Malcolm" at one point and Ricky Hui orders "a coke" in a restaurant, which seems unlikely given the period setting. Of course, compared to the original translation, HKL's subs are magnificent, so these criticisms are insignificant but unavoidable, given HKL's stellar track record to date.

There is the usual abundance of extras on offer. Bey Logan delivers another detailed commentary, touching on all aspects of the production, the performers, Taoism, folklore, HK horror traditions, and the infamous DEMON HUNTERS, Golden Harvest's attempt to make an English language version of the MR. VAMPIRE formula (starring Jack Scalia, Michelle Phillips, and Yuen Wah!) that was started but never completed. There are a handful of minor errors but this is, otherwise, an excellent track. Chin Siu-ho speaks for no less than 42 minutes in a remarkably detailed and all-encompassing interview about the film, feng shui, his fellow performers, and other projects he has worked on, notably THE ULTIMATE VAMPIRE. (In another translation error, sifu is rendered as "mother," so Chin says "...my mother Lam Ching-ying") An 18 minute Moon Lee (image) interview is not as detailed but her fans are sure to eat it up regardless. The ever cute Ah Moon reminisces about the film, how she got into the business, and what she is doing now in her semi-retirement. (Another subtitle gaffe here: when discussing her favorite films, Lee mentions Suk san, the Chinese title for ZU, but the subs leave this out) Lam is profiled in an extensive biography section and a "Memories of Lam Ching-ying" tribute (10 mins.) features input from Sammo Hung (who produced MR. VAMPIRE) and Chin. The original HK and UK promo trailers are also included, along with spots for ZU WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN and THE SCORPION KING (the UK title for OPERATION SCORPIO).

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