Mr Vampire
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Ricky Lau
Year:
1985
Run Time:
98 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
_---
--
Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1 Anamorphic
Region:
2 & 4 PAL
Genre:
Horror / Comedy / Kung-Fu - 15 (UK)
--
MOVIE
10/10

Few Hong Kong films earn the title of a 'classic'. Fewer still, truly deserve that moniker.
Mr.Vampire, however, is one of those rare occassions...

Funny, scary, superbly acted and utterly entertaining, Ricky Lau's groundbreaking 1985 effort remains as good today as it was upon the day of its release, some 17 years ago.
The plot's simple premise allows for a great many elements to be employed, and whilst the make-up is beginning to look its age, the film remains an undeniable pleasure to watch.

Playing the stern Taiost sifu role which became his trademark, Lam Ching-Ying excels. The comedic touches he brings to his laconic character are perfectly weighted, and his relationships with Sung-Gor (Chin Siu-Hou) and Man-Choi (Ricky Hui) are touchingly played. Comedy is often featured in even the most serious of scenes, but it never feels tacked-on or overdone, thanks to the performances of all involved.

One aspect of the film which I have always had great affection for is the inclusion of the female ghost played by Pauline Wong Siu-Fong.
Apart from being quite beautiful, she also manages to give what otherwise would be a rather throwaway segment of the film, a great deal of substance. The use of music and cinematography in the sequence in which Sung-Gor must decide whether to exercise compassion or exorcise his ghost lover is particularly affecting.
More than anything else, this is what sums up the superiority of Mr.Vampire over any of its subsequent spin-offs and series - The film is not only brilliantly acted, directed, photographed and scored, it has heart. And above all else, its this element of the production that makes it a lasting classic.

If you consider yourself in any way a fan of Hong Kong cinema, you simply must own this film...the question is, should you also own this DVD?

PICTURE
9/10

Aside from some very noticeable grain in the film's opening 5 minutes, the transfer is superb.

A detailed and nicely coloured image is presented for most of the film, putting recent releases such as Police Story 2 and Red Wolf, to shame.
Although the grain that has handicapped those two releases is still evident at times, it is nowhere near as abundant or noticeable.

The numerous night-time settings are handled particularly well, with the excellent detail and black levels bringing consistency to this impressive print.
I can't recall noticing any nicks or marks, and the film's lighting and direction is paid full respect by a transfer which exceeded my expectations.

SOUND
7/10

Very few directional effects feature in this sold, and unflashy 5.1 remix.
Dialogue and sound effects are occasionally muffled, but this is an otherwise competent soundtrack.

SUBTITLES
6/10

Good and bad news I'm afraid...
On the plus side, the subs' translations are free from spelling and grammar errors, and translate much of the film's script accurately.

On the downside, the all too familiar changed dialogue and complete mistranslations are included.
For example, the scene in which Sung-Gor saves a woman from a would-be attacker, the word "bastard!" is inserted for no good reason instead of the correct, exasperated, "you...".
In another embarrassingly basic mistake, Sung-Gor (or Sheng as he's named here), is referred to as "Malcolm"!?
Also, the branding iron used to threaten Uncle Kau (Lam Ching-Ying) is said to have the branding "Cutie". The correct translation is cunning/villainous.

Without wanting to sound like a broken record, it's a real shame that HKL allowed these elements to manifest themselves in a set of subtitles which are a vast improvement on recent efforts.

PACKAGING
7/10

Aside from the incorrect listing of a "Vampire's Lair" extra feature on the back cover, this is a nicely designed package.

EXTRAS
8/10

Commentary
Bey Logan's welcome return to the commentating chair, after a short break, means you get what you've c
ome to expect - vast amounts of actor/director information combined with recollections and viewpoints on the film, provided in Bey's inimitable style.
Whilst I still find Logan's commentaries by far the best commissioned for Hong Kong DVD's, with his explanation of many of the movies themes being extremely welcome, he didn't seem to have the same "spark" as in tracks gone by.
As I've wondered before, I get the feeling that Bey is yearning for an actor or director to bounce his ideas and questions off, rather than having to single-handedly do the job.
This is still a good commentary, but I hope Logan is offered the luxury of a partner for some of his future releases.

Tribute to Lam Ching-Ying

In this fine tribute to the legend that was, and still is - Lam Ching-Ying - Sammo Hung and Chin-Siu Hou give their insights and impressions of his personality, career and acting roles.
This is a superb extra, which although ending rather abruptly, is fascinating from start to finish.

Lam Ching-Ying Biography
A relatively short, but exceptionally well-written biography, which is long overdue.
Completely text-based and self-navigated, this is required reading for any Hong Kong film fan.

Interview Gallery

Chin Siu-Hou (40 mins)

By far the best interview ever conducted on a HKL disc, this lengthy chat with Siu-Hou contains huge amounts of detailed information regarding the filming, director, problems encountered, and so much more.
Siu-Hou is also an engagingly interviewee, and manages to constantly entertain with his seemingly endless recollections of his time on set.

Moon Lee (15 mins)
Although it's good to see an old flame from Hong Kong Cinema's past, this HKL interview is barely worth your time.
Moon's film career is covered in brief detail, and she lingers momentarily to reminisce about Mr Vampire, but overall there is very little said of any substance.

Trailer Gallery

UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer

Further Attractions
Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain • Scorpion King •

CONCLUSION
8/10

Subbing aside, this is an A-grade release from HKL, at a time when their reputation as the premiere Hong Kong DVD producers around was beginning to slide.

Not only is the disc excellent, it also has a film to match.
As a member of the living, or one of the undead, you'd be a fool to pass this up.

MOVIE 10/10
PICTURE
9/10
SOUND
7/10
SUBTITLES
6/10
EXTRAS
8/10
MENUS
8/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL 8/10