The Ghost Hill

The Ghost Hill
Director: Ding Sia-sa
Year: 1971
Duration: 91 minutes

The title Ghost Hill is quite misleading as it may give the impression that this will be a supernatural tale but it is a straightforward period sword fighting flick with close to non-stop action. The director is behind a few reasonably well-known films – Whiplash with Cheng Pei-pei, 800 Hundred Heroes with Brigitte Lin and the perhaps infamous A Queen’s Ransom starring Angela Mao and George Lazenby - but Ghost Hill is a more enjoyable jaunt then any of those. There isn’t much of a plot beyond revenge but Ding fills the screen with loads of thugs in bad haircuts, colorful costumes, eccentric weapons and imaginative action scenarios that make it a bit of a hoot.

It begins with a seeming dash of samurai influenced swordplay on the beach as two men duel for the privilege of being handed the Purple Light Magic Sword from an old master who is retiring from the business and looking for the right man to take on the title of Sword King. Even though Jun (David Tong-wai) wins the bloodless match, the old master gives the sword to Shadow Tsai (Tein Peng) and explains that Jun only won by using the secret Hidden Tiger Leaving Dragon sword move which is against the rules of good etiquette. This decision naturally doesn’t sit too well with Jun.

Back home Shadow leaves the sword with his master only to return soon to find that the master has been killed and the sword stolen – he immediately suspects Jun. At the same time across town so to speak the long term nemesis of his family (for never explained reasons) Yun (Chan Bo-leung) and his daughter Swallow (Polly Shang-kwan) are also being attacked by a group of masked villains and the father is slain – and Swallow thinks that Shadow must be behind this. She calls her pal Jun over to help her out. What none of them realize initially is that the very evil King (Sit Hon) is behind both attacks and is trying to set these potentially formidable opponents against one another so that he can then rule the world and perhaps even move out of his spacious cave to a nicer neighborhood. He has a hottie of a daughter – Gia (Han Hsiang Chin) who is equally adept at poison, seduction and swordplay.

Eventually the good guys figure out who is responsible for all this trouble and they team up to invade his multilevel multi-cavernous cave with more booby traps than an Indiana Jones movie and this is when the film really takes off. There are some ten gates opposing our heroes and each one has its own obstacles to overcome such as ice, fire, explosions, poison and so on. With the help of the Beggar Gang who talk in sing-song syncopated rhymes they storm Hell’s Castle and the body count makes D-Day look like a walk in the park. The action choreography is so-so – often looking too slow and on another occasion absurdly speeded up – but it’s the set pieces in which the action is placed that makes it all rather silly fun.

My rating for this film: 7.5