A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)Directed by: Siu-Tung Ching
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, Ma Wu
Tagline: "Make me invincible, O Gods!"
A hapless tax collector (Leslie Chung) seeks shelter in a spooky monastery when he can't find a room in town. On his arrival, he is disturbed by Swordsman Yan (Wu Ma) fighting a rival. Yan sees him and tells him he should leave the place. He doesn't, and during the night he meets a beautiful mysterious woman (Joey Wong) playing a lute, who then runs off and leaves him alone.
The next morning the tax collector decides to write up the amounts owed in his books himself (which had been ruined by the rain). When he arrives in town the people are amazed he survived the night. On his way back, he sees a wanted poster with a man on it that looks like Yan, so he steals a horse and rushes back to save the woman.
That night, the tax collector finds out the woman is a ghost and decides to help her. They are attacked by Yan and only just manage to escape. The tax collector runs to the local police to try and get Yan arrested. Yan turns up and belts everyone and the local magistrate says it doesn't matter if he killed a ghost as it is not his jurisdiction.
Yan decides to get the tax collector to help him kill the ghosts. The woman arrives to meet with the tax collector, but they are attacked by the evil Tree Demon and her humongous tongue. Will they beat it or not?
I am very familiar with this movie as SBS television in Australia has repeated it quite a bit. I still enjoyed seeing it on the big screen with other people as it was quite a different experience.
Stories of the spirit world's conflict with the living are quite common in Hong Kong cinema and the traditional stories on which they are based. This movie is one of my favourites in the genre apart from Mr Vampire.
Some people may be confused by the fact that certain characters have female-sounding voices, but actually this is a Chinese opera tradition and many elements in this movie draw their influence from the art form.
My favourite character in the movie is Swordsman Yan played by Wu Ma. He is very expressive and has some funny lines such as the drunken Taoist rapping scene. He appears in many other movies playing similar characters if you want to look out for him.
This movie generated two sequels and an animated version if you are interested. The first movie is my favourite though as everything in the series was still fresh at the time.
This movie is also available as part of the 'A Chinese Ghost Story Trilogy' Box Set.