Author Pu Songling’s Liao Zhai ghost stories (literally "Bizarre Tales," but usually translated into English as "The Dark Tales") have been the basis of several HK horror/fantasies and this Cathay production features three, with Taiwanese star Tang Qing playing the male lead in each.
In "Marriage With a Vixen," impoverished scholar Wan Zixiang (Tang) moves into a dilapidated cottage on a rich friend’s estate. One evening, Zixiang is visited by maiden Hu Sanmei (Bai Bing) and is instantly smitten. Although Sanmei warns him that she is a "vixen" (a fox spirit that can transform itself into a seductive human female), Zixiang does not believe her and they spend the night together. Zixiang begs her to stay with him and she agrees, making him rich as well, on the condition that he remains faithful to her. However, the other affluent men in the area begin to speak ill of Zixiang and his undeserved status, leading to a growing resentment of his benefactor.
"Yingning" is a lovely young girl Wang Zifu (Tang) runs across one day in the countryside. It turns out that he and Yingning (Zhang Huixiang) are cousins and, to his considerable joy, the girl’s mother allows him to take her back to his family home. Yingning’s incredible weaving abilities and inability to cast a shadow reveal her to be a ghost, but Zifu has fallen too deeply in love with her to be swayed even by this. Yingning can be reincarnated if she performs good deeds for 49 days, but a jealous rival hires a Taoist priest to vanquish her spirit.
The final story, "Hua Gu," opens with scholar An Youyu (Tang) noticing a rabbit being attacked by a fox. He saves the former, injuring the latter with a rock in the process. A storm forces Youyu to take shelter with a local family and he is quick to seduce the lovely young daughter, Hua Gu (Chen Fang). While out for a stroll, he discovers the Hua family tomb, revealing that his hosts are actually long dead. Gu is a fairy who can change her form and the rabbit he saved that day was actually her. If Youyu is willing to wait the ten years it will take Gu to fulfill her celestial duties, they can be together. However, the fox that day was also a fairy in disguise and she decides to get revenge by fooling the scholar into breaking his vow of fidelity.
The approach taken by FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN is very much of the old school and the film is charming for precisely that reason. Each story unfolds amidst lovely, stylized settings and stop motion animation is utilized to show objects moving around on their own and a painting changing its expression. The traditional approach also extends to the female characters, who act in a deferential manner that is appropriate for the time, but rarely depicted in more contemporary pictures set during this era in history. In contrast to more widely seen (in the West) adaptations of Pu Songling’s stories, like A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987), the tales here all have fairly obvious morals and there is nothing in the way of action or frights. The picture does offer a look at a filmmaking style no longer seen in HK cinema and is beautifully crafted and sincerely performed. Unfortunately, sections of "Hua Gu" feature genuine animal violence that may be off-putting for some viewers. The success of FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN led to the production of two sequels, THE HAUNTED (1967) and THE SPIRITS (1969), neither of which are yet available on DVD. As tended to be the case with HK productions of this era, the film was produced with sync sound and shot entirely indoors, creating an artificial ambiance that is distracting at first but preferable to the top-to-bottom looping jobs that would soon become commonplace.