Sunday, 5 August 2007

Mr. Vampire (1985)

Chinese title: Mr. Jiangsi.

Mr. Vampire (1985)
This comedy-horror flick will teach you more Taoist beliefs, and superstitions than your average Chinese ranging from feng shui, geomancy, witchcraft to 'vampire' slaying, and other fun and inventive nonsense. It is Ghostbusters Chinese style, so suspense your disbelief more than usual, and enjoy the hilarity.

The so called 'vampire' creature is really a cross between vampire and zombie. They're the recently deceased, but haven't been buried. In olden China, they could usually be found in temples that are catered to temporarily house these newly dead. They could be summoned to hop from place to place by Taoist maoshan or spiritual monks.

More than anything they're essentially hopping zombies. And like vampires, they're only active - or could be activated - at night.

Problem always arise when you use an English term to describe something from another culture - in this case Chinese. The creature is called 僵尸 ('jiangsi'), which literally means petrified corpse. Bodies that have just undergone rigor mortis. When I typed this Chinese word 僵尸 into Google translator, it translated as 'zombie'. Either 'zompire' or 'vambie' would be a more accurate terms, or better still, use the Chinese term 'jiangsi' (or 'gueng si' if you prefer Cantonese - HK's local dialect) to avoid all the confusion. But the term 'vampire' is more commonly used in the entertainment literature, and we stuck with it. The title of this film probably did more for the popularity of this term than anything else.

While this isn't the first jiangsi flick ever made, only very few been made before by SB. They weren't good, and so they weren't well known. This film might well be the very first jiangsi movie being made.

If it didn't make the record being the 1st of its kind, it made its name by being the first to spawn a series of the unholy jiangsi slaying subgenre in the 1980s and early 1990s. This makes this movie a classic, a game changer for this subgenre. In fact, it set up the rules on how the 'vampires' should behave (e.g. don't breath and they can't see you, they could be killed by a certain rice, etc).

It also launched Lam Ching-Ying's career as the leading figure of 'vampire' slayer, Mr. Vampire. Before this movie, Lam Ching-Ying only played supporting roles in many kungfu flicks made by Sammo Hung, never in leading roles. There's little doubt that Sammo took Lam under his wing.

This is milestone film for HK cinema in more ways than one.


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