Mr. Vampire III

Reviewed by YTSL

For many overseas Hong Kong film fans, the bewitching offerings that form the “Mr. Vampire” and the “A Chinese Ghost Story” series may well be what provides them with their main introduction to the many different (movie) forms of Chinese undead.  Along the way, from that heralded trilogy of Ching Siu Tung directed Film Workshop productions seem to come the lesson of certain naive and idealistic young men and lovelorn female ghosts likely to be inescapably attracted to each other.  Meanwhile, the popular supernatural action comedies that were helmed by Ricky Lau and produced by Sammo Hung appear to point to a bushy eye-browed Taoist priest-sifu who comes in the form of the late great Lam Ching Ying indisputably being the ghost and vampire buster you would want around to help you vanquish whatever kind of ghoul is plaguing your community or individual self.

Lam Ching Ying, Lui Fong and Richard Ng
In the often mind bogglingly innovative MR. VAMPIRE 3, some of the undead beings that are on view and have to be contended with are a pair of vampire brothers (who don’t hop and opted to cast away their more traditional dark blue clothing for customized baby blue garb!), a large family of scare-mongering spirits who are intent on showing how upset they all are at a rich man for his having built his house on top of their graves, and -- most seriously -- a rough bunch of black magic practicing horse thieves who are led by a “demon girl” (that Wong Yuk Wan masochistically portrays) whose arsenal include a slew of cockroaches, other yucky insects and panic-inducing vampire bats as well as way deadlier weaponry.  There additionally are two temporarily possessed morticians who -- along with the good vampire who has a spell cast on him and consequently mistakes someone he actually likes as a giant bird that he ought to attack! -- need to be seen to by those who ended up biting more than they had bargained for by imprisoning a couple of those forbidding but still deceptively human looking bandits, one of whom turns out to also be the lover of their fearsome female leader.
Billy Lau, Lam, ? and Wong Yuk Wan
Still, it becomes obvious rather early on in this immensely thrill as well as twist and turn filled movie that certain of these creatures pose fewer threats to the people who encounter them than other ones.  For example, the cute kid “kyonsi” and his genial looking older sibling (who Lui Fong plays) are quickly shown to not be particularly frightening beings, not only because they don’t have particularly deathly pale faces but also because they are so fond of a particular fellow (essayed by Richard Ng) whom they refer to as Uncle Ming who is not a bad person in general as well as is very much a living human.  Indeed, this far from devilish duo turn out to actually have functioned for a time as the professional assistants of that Taoist priest who is more of a con-man than genuine expert exorcist, and who accidentally stumbled into the midst of a community that happened to be preparing to do battle against a bunch of criminal wrong-doers who they ended up realizing were “no ordinary people” and more than just mere “magicians”.
If the village’s leader had in fact been the bumbling plus bumptious individual who gets referred to as “Captain” Chiang (and over-played by Billy Lau), it truly would have been in big trouble.  Fortunately, it turns out that one of its senior residents is a One Eyebrow Priest who Chiang addresses as sifu -- a term that gets translated in this thrill filled movie’s English subtitles as “master” -- and many others no less respectfully call “uncle” (who could only have been portrayed by Lam Ching Ying).  Even so, MR. VAMPIRE 3’s very capable hero was to find that he had a most formidable main foe in the not at all talkative and often snarling female fiend who rather understandably sought long and hard to rescue the captured members of her gang from fates that included their getting turned into oil fried ghosts (N.B. that with a change of tone or two, “yau cha kyai” gets wittily turned from having the previously pointed out meaning to being the name of the fried dough sticks that are a favorite Cantonese breakfast food!)!
Ng and Kay Lay
Lest it not already have been apparent (especially from a read of the latter portion of the previous paragraph’s last sentence), MR. VAMPIRE 3 really does have some amusing components as well as fantastical elements -- that involve such as the grand “Reversal of the Five Elements” -- plus its share of exciting action packed sequences.  This having been said, the still fresh feeling 1987 work whose Chinese title actually would be translated into English as “Mr. Unreal Goblin” -- rather than “Mr. Stiff Corpse”, like the first two examples of the kind of at times downright incredible efforts that Hong Kong rather lamentably no longer seems willing and probably also able to make -- also may well be the darkest toned of the three films in this generally fun series that I’ve thus far viewed sequentially.  Irregardless, what admirers of the lamented late Mr. Lam ought to be happiest to know though is that he -- who co-action directed this work along with Stephen Tung Wai and Sammo Hung Stuntmen's Association -- really was given ample room to showcase his ample action abilities in an offering that obviously benefited from this arrangement.
Cameos from Sammo, Yip Wing Cho, Corey Yuen, Wu Ma

My rating for this film: 8.