Picture of a Nymph
In the aftermath of the very successful Chinese
Ghost Story, a plethora of similarly styled supernatural films were made
– some quite good, some quite sexual and others that were neither. This
Sammo Hung produced film follows the formula of a Chinese Ghost Story as
closely as it possibly can even to the point of having Joey Wong once again
play a mournful tragic ghost figure and Wu Ma (who also directs) once again
as the surly ghost fighter. Though it isn’t nearly as poetic, romantic
and sumptuous as Chinese Ghost Story, this film is overall quite entertaining
with a number of excellent fantasy/special effect scenes. It has also added
– much to it’s benefit - a new character, the son of Wu Ma – played by
Beginning in myth like fashion, Lam Wai puts his
son into a basket and lets it float down stream where a singing and semi-naked
Wu Ma finds it and adopts the boy as his own. The boy grows up to be Yuen
Biao and though he is following in the footsteps of his father as a hunter
of ghosts, he plays it in charming Biao fashion - quite shy and playful.
In an early scene, he tracks a demon, Yuen Wah, into the house of a poor
young scholar – Lawrence Ng – and a battle ensues pitting the acrobatic
skills of Yuen Biao against the deadly entrapping whiskers of Yuen Wah.
During the fight, Ng’s house burns down and so
Yuen offers him shelter in the home where his father and he live. Ng soon
comes across the ethereal and painfully gorgeous Joey Wong. Joey is a ghost
of course – and truly doesn’t have to do much in the film but flutter her
eyebrows over those sad brown watery eyes and look tragic and vulnerable
– but that is enough. On her way to her wedding the Ghost King attacked
her entourage and Joey jumped to her death rather than become the slave
to the Ghost King. Now Joey’s wandering spirit resides on the earth – unable
to reincarnate and still being sought after by the Ghost King.
The Ghost King is in fact a female – performed
juicily by Elizabeth Lee in a sensually evil manner – and she is in the
habit of picking off brides to be and making them her slaves – and though
never spelled out, it gives off hints of ghostly lesbian activities.
Love is a funny thing and Ng willingly enters
into hell to fight for Joey’s soul with Yuen and Wu Ma not far behind him.
Of course as Yuen thoughtfully tells him – even if you should get her out,
she is still a ghost and you are still a human. A mere trifle to Ng. With
a face like Joey’s, he will gladly take the downside – and who wouldn’t?
Yuen on the other hand is in love with a village girl (May Lo) who already
has been captured by the Ghost King.
Ng’s portrayal of the scholar was the weakest
point of the film for me. Perhaps, I always think of him in terms of his
role in Sex and Zen, but he always comes off as callow and effete and not
at all the material of a romantic lead. So I found it difficult to be swept
up in the drama and romance of this film and didn’t honestly care that
much about the outcome. At the same time, this is a beautifully rendered
film with a nice eye for detail, great eerie atmospherics and some memorable
images. For Yuen Biao fans, he is very personable in this film and performs
some nice acrobatics – but as one might expect in a ghost film like this,
there is no real opportunity for martial arts type action.
My rating for this film: 7.5
Distributor - Universe
I've been waiting for quite some time to find
this film with sub-titles and was thrilled with this DVD. The transfer
is absolutely lovely - and the many night scenes also look quite good.
Previews: Legend of Wisely, No Compromise,
Subs - English, Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia
Star files - Joey Wong and Yuen Biao
Easy to read subs