Reviewed by YTSL
There are some Hong Kong movies that even this
avowed Hong Kong film fan is afraid of approaching. "Bullet in the
Head", "The Blade" and "Fist of Legend" intimidate on the basis of their
dark and humorless reputations. On the other side of the coin,
"Fantasy Mission Force", "Crazy Safari" and "The Blue Jean Monster" threaten
to be too mindbogglingly and laughably inane as well as insane. The
1985 offering whose Chinese title is "Mr. Stiff Corpse" and English one
is MR. VAMPIRE appeared to fall into the latter category and also be really
too exotic and foreign to deal with.
We are, after all, talking about a movie whose
viewer is faced with the concept and sight of blue-faced, Ming Dynasty
costumed, long-fanged, HOPPING stiff corpses -- not just one or two but
at least ten of them (one of which is played, underneath lots of makeup,
by the never disappointing Yuen Wah) -- here. You know you have an
extraordinary picture when the cast of characters also encompasses an enchanting
lovelorn ghost (who comes in the comely yet ethereal form of Pauline Wong),
a one-eyebrow Taoist priest (Lam Ching Ying plays his part with dignity
and gravity along with vexed capability), one mischievous apprentice who
is in danger of turning into a hopping vampire himself (Ricky Hui is amusingly
buffoonish) and a second high-spirited assistant who is gullibly ripe for
seduction (charmingly portrayed by Chin Siu-Ho). Throw in such as
high jinks over English tea (the afternoon meal; not just the drink) as
well as in a coffin-filled room, detailed discussion of the most appropriate
methods of placating the dead and subduing supernatural threats, stunt-filled
action along with appropriately cartoonish (but not all that cheesy) special
effects, and the viewer just has to accept that the best way to take in
this movie is to go with the flow and just enjoy the weird ride!
To be sure, MR. VAMPIRE is definitely not for
everyone. Someone I know (who admittedly has not seen too many Hong
Kong movies) who was moved by the romantic segments of this movie went
into shock over the quick mood change that came with one of the lover's
head suddenly flying off in an attack on its person! From that one
example alone, it should be starkly apparent to the reader of this review
that this is most definitely one of those wild mixed-genre efforts that
could only have come out of Hong Kong. I must admit to loving the
comment found in Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins' ""Sex and Zen" &
"A Bullet in the Head"" that: "There is a fine line between horror
and humor, and MR. VAMPIRE does everything but jump rope with it" (1996:25-26)!
For the record: This Sammo Hung production
is more slapstick comedy than serious horror and also successfully weaves
in romantic, suspenseful thriller AND musical (The movie's "Ghost Bride"
got nominated as Best Original Film Song and music makers did win a Hong
Kong Film Award for Best Original Film Score!) elements. I am not
sure that this Ricky Lau directed work could be labeled a primo "classic"
but it did inspire and spawn many sequels and imitators, and has definitely
aged better than quite a few of its contemporaries.
My rating for the film: 8.