Issue #292         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES       December 5th, 2005

Fairy, Ghost, Vixen
(1965; Cathay)

Cantonese: Liu jai ji yi
Mandarin: Liao zhai zhi yi
English: Bizarre Tales Anthology


  RATING: 6/10


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.

Tang Qing (left), Bai Bing Bai Bing

"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.

Zhang Huixiang Tang Qing (left)

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.


Celestial’s acquisition and release of the Shaw Brothers catalogue prompted Panorama Entertainment to offer a series of films produced by rival studio Cathay. Alas, Panorama is not lavishing the same care with their releases as evidenced by the elderly pan&scan transfer of FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN utilized here. Cropping of the CinemaScope frame is often in evidence and contrasts are weak during night sequences. Hues are occasionally attractive, but rather pasty even at the best of times. The Mandarin audio track is quite thin and mildly distorted, making the optional 5.1 track a pointless waste of space. The sole extra on the DVD (which is all-region, despite the R3 symbol on the cardboard outer sleeve) is a profile of director Tang Huang in Chinese only (the packaging also promises same for Tang Qing, but it has not been included). The master has been converted from PAL and there are a number of artificial fade-in/outs, suggesting that this edition was originally used for commercial TV broadcasts. For all of its weaknesses, this HK import is still welcome, particularly for English speakers, as the non-Shaw Brothers productions from this era are usually not available with subtitles. The packaging claims that this is "arguably the first ancient costume Mandarin production in its form" and while that might be true for Cathay, Shaw Brothers’ THE ENCHANTING SHADOW (from the tale that later formed the basis of A CHINESE GHOST STORY) pre-dates FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN by five years. (Thanks to Brian Naas of Hong Kong Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge for some of the information included here).

Chen Fang (left), Tang Qing Chen Fang

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Panorama Entertainment. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2005. All Rights Reserved.


- NTSC – Region 0

Panorama Entertainment #PANDVD412245

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0

Post-synced Mandarin Language

Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese

12 Chapters

4:3 Fullscreen (1.33:1 – cropped from 2.35:1)

105 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)


- Not Available

Contains brief cruelty to animals and mild horror elements

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