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A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

March 10th, 2006 · No Comments

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Hong Kong financed Asian blockbuster follows the Bollywood production model, offering fantasy, horror, romance, physical comedy, special effects and even a musical interlude all in the same movie.

A timid tax collector hilariously played by Leslie Cheung is out in the 19th century Chinese countryside that should be familiar to any fan of Kung Fu Theater. Drenched in rain, his tax rolls are ruined and he is penniless. Townspeople eager to be rid of the tax man direct him to the deserted Lo Ran Temple in the forest outside of town, from which the locals are sure he will never return.

After an encounter with strange bearded swordsman Master Yan (Wu Ma), Cheung is beguiled by a lute playing beauty played by Joey Wong. Walking corpses and the rest of her spirit family come between the two lovers.

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Directed by Ching Siu-tung and produced by Tsui Hark, this enterprise may not add up to much in the end, but the film is a lot of fun to watch. A huge success in Asia that spawned two sequels, a TV series and cartoon, Sam Raimi was clearly influenced by the film’s frenetic running camera when he made Evil Dead 2.

A memorable sequence involves Cheung having to hide under the water level of a tub so that Wong’s ghost family will not smell him. As she tries to get rid of the other ghosts, Cheung’s head pops up and is dunked back in with Jackie Chan-like acrobat timing.

A gang of stop-motion corpses that recall Jason and the Argonauts are also fun. Part of the film’s success was no doubt the introduction of fantasy thrills and underworld chills to the standard martial arts picture. Loosely adapted by Yun Kai-Chi from Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling’s Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio.

Tags: Bathtub scene · Martial arts

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