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.
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
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
Very few directional effects feature in this sold, and unflashy
Dialogue and sound effects are occasionally muffled, but this is
an otherwise competent soundtrack.
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
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.
from the incorrect listing of a "Vampire's Lair" extra
feature on the back cover, this is a nicely designed package.
Bey Logan's welcome return to the commentating chair, after
a short break, means you get what you've come
to expect - vast amounts of actor/director information combined
with recollections and viewpoints on the film, provided in Bey's
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.
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
Siu-Hou is also an engagingly interviewee, and manages to constantly
entertain with his seemingly endless recollections of his time on
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.
UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer
Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain
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
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.