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Issue #184a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES November 3rd, 2003

Enchanting Shadow
(1960; Shaw Brothers)

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

Cantonese: Sin nui yau wan
Mandarin: Qian nu you hun
English: Enchanting Woman Ghostly Spirit

The film that inspired A CHINESE GHOST STORY, this Li Han-hsiang effort is similar in some regards but also very much its own entity. Unable to find lodging for the night, tax collector Ning Caichen (Chao Lei) ignores the advice of several people and heads for a dilapidated temple in the countryside. The place is reputed to be haunted but all Ning initially finds there is gruff Taoist swordsman Yan Chixia (Yang Chi-ching), who is also staying on the grounds temporarily. Yan's real purpose, however, is find and destroy the spirit or spirits that have been draining the life from various travellers who spent the night in the temple. That evening, Ning hears a lyre being played and follows the music to a lovely villa, where he encounters Xiaoqian (Betty Loh Ti). The beautiful young woman appreciates the suggestions that Ning gives to improve a poem she has composed but their time together is interrupted by the appearance of the girl's elderly relatives. Xiaoqian later visits Ning at the temple and the mutual attraction that was evident during their first meeting continues to blossom. However, after Ning follows Xiaoqian one evening, he comes to the conclusion that she is no longer of this earth. This is backed up by a subsequent visit to her home, which is now in the same state of disrepair as the neighboring temple. Xiaoqian warns that her demonic mistress has sworn to take Ning's life, and she begs him to help her reincarnate and, thus, be free of the old woman's domination.

Adapted from "Nie Xiaoqing" in Pu Songling's "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" collection, this is a very elegant and attractive production. Li Han-hsiang was celebrated for the period detail in his films and the art direction here is eye-catching in almost every frame. This level of attention, even to the number of cobwebs and varying degrees of decay seen in backgrounds, greatly increases the atmospherics, while the colorful costumes and lighting schemes seduce the eye. Contemporary viewers are unlikely to find ENCHANTING SHADOW frightening but the temple sequences are gifted with a subtle, pervasively eerie feel that effectively communicates the presence of the supernatural and imminent danger for these human interlopers. As one might expect, the special FX are far fewer in number than found in the remake and the ones that do appear are quite quaint. However, something ostentatious would be a drawback in this case, doing more to disrupt than enhance the climate Li has carefully established. The lead performances are laudable and Betty Loh easily succeeds at garnering the viewer's empathy for her plight as the unwilling tool of an evil as base and ugly as Xiaoqian is innocent and sweet.

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Betty Loh. Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Chao Lei and Betty Loh. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #100208 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Sync Sound Mandarin Language

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian


Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

79 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains mild horror and language

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Not Available

The packaging incorrectly lists the ratio as 2.35:1 but the film was not shot in scope and the fullscreen framing here looks fine. The image is a little softer than some of the Celestial transfers thus far but this is also a much older film and the presentation still looks quite nice. There are some moderately rough patches in the audio (bits where only dialogue is heard have been cleaned up but instances accompanied by music and notable background sounds have the original less-than-stellar audio), and the newly added foley FX are not really necessary, but it is a workable track. In addition to the usual extras found on these Shaw releases, there is the original theatrical trailer (in much worse shape and with the crucial Eastmancolor completely spoiled) and a 16 minute documentary called "The Savant -- Li Han-hsiang," which offers an interesting look at the career of the late director. In addition to some biographical information, the program includes brief comments from several notables, including Ti Lung, Ku Feng, Yum Yun Shaw, director Evans Chan, and Li himself (from a 1983 interview). However, ENCHANTING SHADOW is not among the films covered. The doc’s English subtitle translation is fairly good but the names of the participants, dialogue in film clips, and most of the on-screen text are left only in Chinese.

ENCHANTING SHADOW is available at Poker Industries.

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