Issue #235          HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            October 25th, 2004

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Mortuary Blues
(1990; Golden Harvest/Bo Ho Films Co. Ltd.)

Cantonese: Si ga jung dei
Mandarin: Shi jia zhong di
English: Corpse Family Important Ground


RATING: 5/10


The success of MR. VAMPIRE (reviewed issue #142a) led to a spate of HK horror comedies in the late '80s and director Jeff Lau Chun-wai contributed to that trend with such "Police Academy Meets the Monsters" items as HAUNTED COP SHOP 1 & 2 (both co-written by Wong Kar-wai!) and OPERATION PINK SQUAD II (inexplicably rechristened THUNDER COPS for its DVD release). By the time he came to write and direct this project for Sammo Hung Kam-po's Bo Ho Films company, the well was starting to run dry but MORTUARY BLUES still offers some fast paced fun for viewers who don't mind wading through a bog of low humor. The basic premise is reminiscent of John Carpenter's THE FOG: three centuries after one of their ancestors murdered the crew of an imperial ship and stole the gold they were transporting, the residents of an island off the coast of Hong Kong find themselves threatened by the spirit world. Before he died, the commander of the vessel put a curse on the island and the villagers decide to sacrifice one of the their number as a desperate act of appeasement. Meanwhile, slovenly cop Shih (Corey Yuen Kwai, who also produced and helped choreograph the action) is oblivious to this activity, devoting his efforts to finding evidence of local drug trafficking. In his mind, that can be the only explanation for why the villagers manage to support themselves without ever really working. The arrival of a third-rate opera company coincides with a pair of treasure hunters (Chung Fat and Tai Po) discovering the whereabouts of the plundered gold. Demonic forces make short work of them but three dimwits (Sandra Ng Kwan-yu, Sheila Chan Suk-lan, and actor/composer Lowell Lo Kwun-ting) from the troupe get their hands on the dead robbers' map. They somehow manage to correctly open the pagoda where the loot is stashed but also unleash the ghost of the captain. Murder and mayhem result and the only way to stop it is for Shih and the other survivors to get their hands on three coins and a magic sword, located at the heart of a dangerous underground cave.

Sandra Ng (left), Sheila Chan Lowell Lo Sheila Chan

The opening half hour delivers a barrage of the cheapest scatological, sex, and drug jokes imaginable but things improve considerably once the treasure site has been discovered. The level of humor does not rise appreciably (eg. we get yet another example of the uniquely HK horror/comedy edict that female ghosts can be temporarily subdued by grabbing them in, uh, delicate areas) but the level of manic energy certainly does. Our would-be heroes must battle persistent demons, dodge various Indiana Jones-style booby traps, and foil a guardian ghoul in a submerged cavern. These encounters provide engaging (if rather exhausting) diversion but the finale (in which the troupe attempts to foil the captain by staging an impromptu performance) will work best for those who have some basic familiarity with Peking Opera. Peter Chan Lung, Charlie Cho Cha-lei, Alex To Tak-wai, and Amy Yip Chi-mei also appear.

Corey Yuen Sandra Ng Corey Yuen


The Mega Star catalogue number on the copy previewed indicates that the DVD was designed for both the HK and Japanese markets: the viewer is given a choice between a menu in the former language or one in Chinese and English. Light speckling can be seen in the non-anamorphic presentation but colors are attractive and the image quality is good most of the time. Only the Cantonese version is included (in a somewhat hollowed out 5.1 re-mix that mostly just widens the original mono). The HK theatrical trailer and additional trailers for HAUNTED COP SHOP and THE DEAD AND THE DEADLY are on offer, along with a useless "About the Film" option that merely replicates information available on the back of the keepcase. Mega Star's rights to the Fortune Star library have expired but, as of this writing, MORTUARY BLUES can still be obtained. The film is now also available on DVD from Deltamac and that version likely utilizes the same transfer, along with the original mono audio.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Mega Star. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong/Japan Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Mega Star Video Distribution #MS/ DVD/315/JP
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Cantonese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean
  • 9 Chapters
  • 4:3 Letterbox (1.70:1)
  • 88 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Hong Kong: II
  • Ontario: PG
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence and horror, coarse language, and brief nudity


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful