THE VALIANT ONES
(Hong Kong 1975)
Original Title: Zhong Lie Tu
Directed by King Hu Produced by King Hu Action by Sammo Hung
Starring: Roy Chiao, Pai Ying, Hsu Feng, Sammo Hung, Han Ying Chieh, Lee Man Tai, Lau Kong, Tiu Wai, Mars, Yuen Biao, Billy Chan, Corey Yuen Kwai, Simon Yuen, Yuen Miu, Peter Chan, Yuen Wah, Tung Wai
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Wuxia / Martial Arts / Adventure
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: The emperor dispatches an officer and a small band of fighters to deal with invading Japanese pirates, intent on bringing destruction to the people of China.
Views: According to the intro of The Valiant Ones, the number of pirates sailing the South China Sea by the 16th Century had multiplied so much that governments had lost any real control of the regions they had seized. These gangs had been formed many decades before when teams of Japanese ronin and bandits joined forces to wreak havoc across land and sea, with many of them arriving on Chinese years over the years – protected by traitorous Chinese officials. As the chief of a Southern clan makes plans to reach the capital, plans are put in action for him to be escorted by a team of highly skilled fighters who must safely guide him through the pirate-infested region. It really doesn't get any more complicated than that, with The Valiant Ones focusing on certain plot points that help bring the main characters closer to their goals...
I have to say, I'm still pretty shocked as to why (at the time of my writing) this classic King Hu movie has yet to get restored and released on Blu-ray! I thought Eureka Video would have been all over this given their previous releases from the director, but it looks like The Valiant Ones could stay lost a little longer for some bizarre reason. And it's certainly not because it's a bad film – quite the opposite in fact – with the 1975 production popping up at the height of his popularity after the success of films like Come Drink With Me, Dragon Inn, A Touch Of Zen, and The Fate Of Lee Khan. It should also be recognised for having such a great cast on board with future stars in extra roles and mostly that of pirates, like Sammo Hung (who also choreographed the fight action), Yuen Wah, Corey Yuen Kwai, Mars, Yuen Mui, Stephen Tung Wai, Yuen Biao, Billy Chan, Peter Chan, and even Jackie Chan who, as legend has it, was in need of the work and was given the chance to play many roles throughout – but only if he kept his face hidden from the camera. Interestingly enough, Jackie's old master of drunken boxing himself and father of the Yuen Clan, Simon Yuen Siu Tin, appears as a pirate bowman which was great to see. Of course, I'm not forgetting about the main cast such as the wonderful Roy Chiao as General Yu, who puts his team of warriors together which includes the beautiful Hsu Feng and great Pai Ying, as the husband and wife duo sent out to project the travelling chief. Hsu clearly enjoyed her time with King Hu and no doubt appreciated his gamble on her when she debuted in the director's classic, Dragon Inn. From there, Feng returned for the stunningly filmed A Touch Of Zen and again for The Fate Of Lee Khan, before returning for The Valiant Ones. Of course, Hsu Feng starred in a host of kung fu films over the years due to her success courtesy of King Hu projects including The Invincible Sword, Duel At Forest, 18 Shaolin Disciples, Dragon Gate (which was penned by King Hu), The Face Behind The Mask, To Kill With Intrigue and many more including more King Hu titles. The great Pai Ying, who debuted alongside Feng in Dragon Inn, pretty much followed the same path returning to join her in further King Hu adventures as well as starring in a host of other kung fu classics. From The Angry River with Angela Mao Ying to Hapkido, and A Fistful Of Talons to Royal Warriors, Pai Ying fast became a recognisable face of kung fu cinema and went on to star in over 100 titles through to 2001. Popular bad guy Han Ying Chieh who starred in The Eagles Claw, The Big Boss, Fist Of Fury, A Man Called Tiger, New Fist Of Fury, and many more – also co-stars, along with other veteran names of the kung fu world such as Lee Man Tai, Lau Kong, Yuen Ting, Yeung Wai (Bruce Kong), and Hao Li Jen, and many more.
As well as turning in a great performance as Hakatatsu the Japanese pirate, a young Sammo Hung returns to choreograph for King Hu after their partnership in The Fate Of Lee Khan. Of course, the legend already had 5 years experience working as the martial arts director for over 20 titles including early Golden Harvest productions such as The Invincible Eight, The Angry River, Bandits From Shantung, Lady Whirlwind, When Taekwondo Strikes, and The Skyhawk for example. In The Valiant Ones, Sammo provides a wide range of exciting fight scenes that utilise the skills of his Peking Opera School brothers, most of who play accompanying pirates, with fast and furious swordplay that keeps the viewers glued to the screen and doesn't disappoint. On top of that, the film is beautifully captured by Chris Chen Ching Chu – a cinematographer who has lensed many classics including Bruce Lee's The Big Boss and Fist Of Fury, Jimmy Wang Yu's A Man Called Tiger, A Queen's Ransom, and The Killer Meteors, Lo Lei's Back Alley Princess and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu, and once again with Jackie Chan for Dragon Lord. Though I have to say, even with the poorer quality of this version I watched, the colours still pop with costumes and scenery which is what makes me even more excited to see a restored full HD version on Blu-ray someday soon. The Valiant Ones is somewhat of a different King Hu movie to those more often associated with his name, but it's an absolute cracker and one that's well worth seeing!
Overall: Another one of King Hu's finest, The Valiant Ones is a classic kung fu adventure that makes for a fun watch!
VAMPIRE CLEAN-UP DEPT.
(Hong Kong 2017)
Original Title: Gau Geung Ching Dou Foo
Directed by Chiu Sin Hang, Yan Pak Wing Produced by Angus Chan Action by Tang Shui Wah, Chi Man Wong, Chan Ga Leung
Starring: Babyjohn Choi, Chin Siu Ho, Richard Ng, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lo Meng, Eric Tsang, Lin Min Chen, Bondy Chiu, Susan Yam Yam Shaw, Andy Tsang
Reviewing: Panorama HK DVD Release
Genres: Vampire / Comedy / Action / Horror
Rating - 3.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Unbeknownst to other people, there has been a secret government organization called VCD – Vampire Cleanup Department. One night, the nerdy geek Tim Cheung (starring Babyjohn Choi) sees a hideous vampire in a dark alley. He is scared and promptly faints. He is saved by Uncle Chau (starring Chin Siu Ho) who believes in his ability to recover quickly after being beaten by vampires. In his first mission of hunting vampires, Tim gets lost and meets a lady vampire. Summer (starring Lin Min Chen). Tim thinks she is harmless to human, so he hides her in his some out of helplessness. As Summer gets along with Tim, she learns to be human again and even communicates with Tim with body language. Tim has to hide Summer away from VCD. Secret never keeps long, Uncle Chau is furious knowing the relationship between Tim and Summer, and decides to terminate Tim's job at VCD. Meanwhile, the 'Red Moon' phenomenon appears once in a century, drawing the most powerful Vampire King to rise from his grave! The police is not able to control it and suffers severe casualty. Tim plans to find Uncle Chau to reunite VCD, so as to save Summer and fight against the Vampire King. Can Tim successfully rescue Summer? Can Tim convince Uncle Chau to accept Summer as a harmless vampire? Is VCD able to stop the Vampire King from haunting the city?
Views: All over Hong Kong, gruesome murders are happening that leave their victims turned into vampires. After every attack, follow the Vampire Clean-up Department, a group of dedicated vampire hunters who have been protecting the city for decades. While on a walk one evening, clumsy geek Tim (Babyjohn) comes across a vampire attack and nervously steps in to help, which results in the monster sinking his teeth into the screaming nerd's backside. Rescued by the VCD, Tim wakens in their secret hideout and is invited to join the team due to the fact that he was turned by the vampire bite. After a tour of the place and reluctant introduction to the team, Tim soon finds out that his parents were once the managers of the VCD and agrees to take on the role. Once in, Tim finds that most of the aging vampire hunters are willing to help, but Uncle Chau (Chin Siu Ho) proves to be a challenge. Matters between them are made worse when, while on a mission, Tim clumsily falls into a lake and comes lips-to-lips with a female vampire who suddenly loses her demonic looks to become a beautiful girl called summer (although still very much undead). As the team take the Summer back to base, they soon learn that a more powerful vampire – known as the Vampire King – has appeared due to the arrival of the centennial Blood Moon! Making a move to find it, Tim is left in charge of cremating Summer, something of which he also messes up quite easily as he falls for the beautiful corpse and hides her in his apartment – leading to a host of comedic and romantic situations. As his training continues, Uncle Chau starts to warm to Tim helping him learn kung-fu so that he can protect himself against vampires, but it doesn't last long. Finding out that he has been hiding Summer in his apartment, Uncle Chau fires Tim from the VCD and sends him packing. To make matters worse, the police break in to the VCD to steal Summer and put a stop to their operation that sees the VCD team dispersed. In a bid to make amends and put a stop to the Vampire King, Tim does what he can to bring the team back together and help make the city a safe place – as well as trying to rescue Summer in an emotional finale that sees the VCD put an end to the Vampire King once and for all...
I quite like Vampire Clean-up Department! Any film that spins off a classic such as Mr. Vampire with past original cast members such as Chin Siu Ho and Richard Ng, and fills the rest out with great names such as Yuen Cheung Yan, Lo Meng, Eric Tsang, and the wonderful Susan 'Yam Yam' Shaw, gets my vote! On top of that, throwing the cute Babyjohn Choi (yes that's how he spells it) into the mix proves to be an entertaining addition to the team, and to be honest, I'd love to see some sequels on the way. Although he has appeared in quite a number of big titles since launching his acting career in 2008, such as 12 Golden Ducks, SPL 2, Ip Man 3, Shock Wave (and its sequel) and a number of the Storm films from David Lam, Choi still seems like a relatively new face to Hong Kong film fans. He definitely handles the charm and comedy very well, but doesn't exactly give off that action-hero energy – especially when starring alongside martial arts heroes like Chin Siu Ho, Lo Meng, and Yuen Cheung Yan. By this stage of the game, Chin had starred in over 100 films and while it seemed that his star was fading in the late 90s, he would continue to appear in smaller titles for a good decade or so. Things would eventually pick up and fans would see him back on the big screen in films like A Battle Of Wits, The Lost Bladesman, Lets Go!, and the wonderful Rigor Mortis that I just loved!
While it is far from the perfect return of the Mr. Vampire series, Vampire Clean-up Department does a great job in modernising such a well-told-tale for a new audience. The only thing holding it back from a higher rating for me is the over abundance of CG effects used, which often distracts form the genuinely great vampire make-up and action scenes and weren't really needed when you think what wonders the film makers could do, over 30 years ago. Regardless, the film does entertain a lot and while its writers and directors are still new to the industry, the film manages to capture some charm of the classic series along with great comedy sequences and decent action. And while the fights in Vampire Clean-up Department are nothing spectacular, they still entertain enough to a certain degree. These were handled by Johnny Tang Shui Wa, an actor/choreographer who is still relatively new to the industry (at the time of writing) with credits behind the scenes on films like Red Cliff, Golden Job, Overheard 2 & 3, Helios, and Black Ransom, as well as many others. Directors Chiu Sin Hang and Yan Pak Wing, both of whom have cameos in the film, do a fine job with their first film and clearly show a love for the aforementioned classics that inspired their project. As mentioned, I only hope they can return with some sequels to this and get to start their own franchise of the much-loved genre. And although they get some good scenes and screen time, I did feel that Yuen Cheung Yan and Lo Meng were criminally underused in the action department, but you can't have everything I guess. And of course, the amazing Richard Ng continues to entertain with some great comedy moments and his undeniable on-screen charm. I must also point out one welcome note that comes just before the end battle. As the team reminisce about their time together and Bondy Chiu flicks through some photographs, we catch a glimpse of the original vampire hunter himself – the great Lam Ching Ying – which just seals the deal on that connection to his infamous series, backed by a line mentioned briefly at the start of the film.
I think Lam Ching Ying would be proud!
Overall: With a little less focus on the CGI and more on the action, VCD could have been much stronger film, but it still proves to be highly entertaining and got me wanting more!
DVD Extras: Trailer, Music Video, Making of Documentaries
(Hong Kong 2000)
Original Title: Gam See Sin Sang
Directed by Tony Leung Hung Wah Produced by Tony Leung Hung Wah Action by Cheng Ka Sang
Starring: Gallen Lo, Wayne Lai, Kathy Chow, Kingdom Yuen, Joey Man, Yuen Wah, Jude Poyer, Leung Yuan Man, Cheng Ka Sang
Reviewing: Universe HK DVD Release
Genres: Vampire / Martial Arts / Comedy
Rating - 2.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Southern Mao and Northern Ma are the professional corpse escorts. Although they always compete for the fame and glory by playing different tricks on each other, but it cannot stop Ma's young apprentice and Mao's adopted son from falling in love. One time, the black wizard is paid to destroy two corpses of Mao and Ma. Being encouraged to an ultimate fight, Mao and Ma kill each other...
Views: 'No one hides a secret letter in a vagina!' is a line delivered by Yuen Wah in Vampire Controller, a horror comedy from Tony Leung Hung Wah and independent Hong Kong studio Matrix Productions. For the 10 or 12 years they were seemingly in the business, the Matrix studio never really produced anything too memorable and mainly focused on dark sex thrillers and horror comedies, with the odd action or crime film thrown in like Michael Wong's Ultimatum or Psychedelic Cop starring Danny Lee. Vampire Controller is probably one of their more entertaining projects (which is saying a lot) and has some decent comedy and action to keep viewers entertained to a point. The film opens in 17th century China where British actor and stuntman, Jude Poyer, is dressed as a ninja and trying to sneak into a guarded mansion to meet his lover, Jenny. As they embrace, a second masked man attacks them and poisons the lovers which leaves them dead. Before he passes, Poyer accidentally swallows a mysterious pill that has been thrown from the attacker – who suddenly disappears through a wall. After they are prepared for their funeral, the bodies are moved to their final resting place by two teams of corpse escorts – one for the male led by cousins Mao and John, and the other for the female led by Ma and her apprentice Tien. As the attacks keep coming, the escorts soon learn that their new additions had a secret letter from the king and are soon asked to help a Japanese agent find it. As they continue to guide the dead, the team come up against a black magic wizard who has been hired to stop them, forcing them to fight between themselves and against the very creatures they are guiding!
I wouldn't say that Vampire Controller is the best of Hong Kong cinema's vampire genre, but it's not completely unwatchable either. Even though it seems like there is enough going on, the film moves quite slow and when you think you've sat through a full 90 minutes already – you're only halfway there. Saying that, it has been shot decently thanks to Yip Wai Ying, the man behind the lens of many other Matrix Productions and director of over 20 titles himself including Troublesome Night 12, 14 & 19. This, however, was penned and directed by Tony Leung Hung Wah, an actor/writer/director who has been a part of the Hong Kong film industry since the early 80s. Apart from bit-part roles in films like Law With Two Phases, It's A Mad Mad Mad World 3, His Fatal Ways, and The Untold Story, Leung wrote the scripts for many Hong Kong hits including The Ghost Snatchers, In The Line Of Duty 5, 6 & 7, Triad Story, Best Of The Best, Taxi Hunter, Bomb Disposal Officer Baby Bomb, and a host of titles for Matrix Productions. The mid-late 90s would see him director his first film, Mystery Files, followed by A Lamb In Despair and The Wicked Ghost (all of which he also wrote). While I can't say I've ever seen any more of his directorial efforts, I know that there isn't many of them that have ever been highlighted to me as 'must sees', if any at all. The action is handled by Cheng Ka Sang, an actor who appeared in over 90 films from the late 1970s including By Hook Or By Crook, The Clones Of Bruce Lee, Fearless Hyena 2, The Innocent Interloper, The Killer, Seven Warriors, Shanghai Shanghai, Police Story 3: Supercop, Heroic Trio 1 & 2, Love On Delivery, this film and so much more. And while his credits as an action director are much smaller, he still manages to provide some clean fights and action scenes throughout Vampire Controller – even with a cast of non-fighters...
Wayne Lai Yiu Cheung leads the way as corpse escort Mao Mao, joined by Gallen Lo Ka Leung as his apprentice John. While neither are actors I would ever rush out to see, I have caught the former in films such as Satan Returns, Armageddon, Bio Zombie, Storm Riders, A Killer's Expiry Date, Gen X Cops, and Dog Bite Dog for example – and most of which he did a pretty good job. In Vampire Controller, Wai works with what he has and entertains for the most part as does his partner in crime, Gallen Lo who started off as a TV actor in shows such as Legend Of The Condor Heroes and Cold Blood Warm Heart, as well as appearing in films like Fatal Mission and A Warriors Tragedy with Frankie Chan. The wonderful Kingdom Yuen stars as Ma, corpse escort extraordinaire and competitor to Mao Mao. Mostly known for her outlandish roles as a brothel madam or village loud-mouth in films such as Fight Back To School, Justice My Foot, King Of Beggars, Last Hero In China, Hail The Judge, and then some, Yuen has managed to rack up over 170 film roles since coming into the Hong Kong film industry in the late 1980s. The beautiful Kathy Chow stars as Tien Gee, assistant to Ma and love interest of John. Since her film debut in Cadets On The Beat, Chow has went on to star in many fun films such as Holy Virgin Vs The Evil Dead, Don't Give A Damn, Beast Cops, Legendary Amazons, and The Rookies with Milla Jovovich. It was nice to see Brit-kicker and stunt director Jude Poyer open the film in a different role to what he would usually play, and to have the great Yuen Wah appear as the black wizard who is hired to stop our heroes in their track. He doesn't really get much to do in the way of action which was slightly disappointing, but he still manages to entertain. Wah's career was a little wobbly around this period and had worked on this and Ultimatum for Matrix Productions in the same year. Thankfully, he would get another chance at fame when Stephen Chow Sing Chi cast him as the landlord in the awesome Kung Fu Hustle just a few years later, and has since joined the MCU with his memorable performance in the epic Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. Regardless, his presence is hardly enough to make Vampire Controller a Hong Kong classic and hardly shines a light on many of the great roles he has delivered over the years before. The film does have its moments here and there, but in a genre that is bunged with so many great titles already, Vampire Controller just manages to stay afloat...
Overall: Slow-paced and anti-climatic, Vampire Controller has a few moments of entertainment but I wouldn't rush to see it!
DVD Extras: Trailers
(Hong Kong 2002)
Original Title: Geung See Dai Si Doi
(aka) Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters; Era Of Vampires
Directed by Wellson Chin Produced by Tsui Hark Action by Tony Tam Chun To
Starring: Michael Chow, Ken Chang, Lam Suet, Danny Chan, Yu Rong Kwong, Anya, Chen Kuan Tai, Horace Lee, Ji Chun Hua, Lee Kin Yan, Lee Lik Chi, Wong Yat Fei
Reviewing: Columbia Tri Star UK DVD Release
Genres: Vampire / Martial Arts
Rating - 3.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: In 19th century China, an evil monk awakes a nest of ghoulish vampires hell-bent on devouring human life. Now, a quarter of heroes trained in the Taoist Mao Shan school of magic and their master must use their unique powers to destroy the Vampire King and its lethal coven before it's too late. Masters of the martial arts, each of the four heroes specialise in controlling the element of the namesake: Rain, Lightning, Wind and Thunder! From critically acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark (Black Mask 2, Once Upon A Time In China, Double Team), Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters is an action-packed thrill ride destined to become a martial arts/horror classic.
Views: Prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark writes and produces this modern take on the classic Chinese vampire tale that sees a Taoist master and his students on a mission to take down the king of vampires. They soon realise that they have underestimated the power of this soul-sucking undead enemy and after a fierce battle, find themselves rendered unconscious for three whole months. Not knowing what time has passed and believing that their master was lost in battle, his 4 top students Wind, Rain, Thunder, and Lightning continue their mission with the use of their undead-tracking compass. It soon brings them to the stately home of Jiang, where a wedding is taking place and the warriors very quickly find themselves hired for kitchen work – renamed as Kung, Hei, Fat, and Choi by the boss. As it turns out, the Jiang mansion is heavily haunted with the mysterious Master Jiang continuing on the family tradition as a wax artisan – his home packed with ancestors preserved in wax. After marrying the beautiful Sasa, Master Jiang's son is bitten by a poisonous snake and dies. Now, the 4 vampire hunters are given the job of finding the creature but soon find themselves fighting for their lives against the powerful Vampire King, Master Jiang himself, and Sasa's greedy brother, Dragon, who is intent on stealing the Jiang's family treasures!
I have to admit, when I first saw Vampire Hunters upon its initial (UK) release, I wasn't a huge fan. I had been so hooked on Mr. Vampire and many other Sammo Hung/Lam Ching Ying horror comedies for so long that this new take (aided with some dodgy CGI) just didn't do it for me. Now, almost 20 years later, I can totally appreciate it for what it is and actually really enjoyed watching it again. The film is packed with plenty of great martial arts action, nice moments of horror, a fun cast, and some gorgeous cinematography courtesy of the wonderful Herman Yau who worked with Tsui on films such as The Legend Of Zu, XanDa, Time And Tide, and Seven Swords. Herman is joined by cinematographers Joe Chan, who has actually helmed many of Yau's very own (directed) films such as his Troublesome Night titles, The Woman Knight Of Mirror Lake, Turning Point, and Shock Wave 1 & 2 – and Sunny Tsang who worked the lens of films such as XanDa, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon, A Fighters Blues, and Dragon Blade, as well as a number of Wellson Chin's movies. I am surprised that Hark himself didn't take the reigns of such a project considering his love for horror movies from his debut film The Butterfly Murders to We're Going To Eat You, and The Chinese Ghost Story Trilogy to the awesome Wicked City adaptation. Instead, he handed directional duties to Wellson Chin – a popular actor and director who has starred in classics such as Warriors Two, The Magnificent Butcher, Encounters Of A Spooky Kind, The Dead And The Deadly (many of which he also worked as an assistant director on), and a number of the Inspector Wears Skirts films. This Jackie Chan produced series was probably one of his bigger successes as a director along with Naughty Boys, fun Prince Of The Sun, Ghostly Vixen, and Cynthia Khan's wild Super Lady Cop. Vampire Hunters would be one of his final films before directing The Extreme Fox over a decade later, which would be his last to date as I write. Personally, I think this was a great effort from Chin and I'm quite surprised we didn't see a sequel or two from it...
I'm sure had the incredible Lam Ching Ying been alive at the time of this production, we would have seen him star as the master of this rag-tag bunch of warriors. But alas, it was not meant to be but Vampire Hunters still has a strong enough cast to keep Hong Kong film fans excited. The powerful Ji Chun Hwa from the Shaolin Temple Trilogy steps into the role as Master Mao Shan, and does a great job at it as well as getting to kick-ass a number of times throughout. Ji became a regular face of Hong Kong cinema, often hired as the villain of the piece in films like Red Fists, Fong Sai Yuk 2, New Legend Of Shaolin, Tai Chi Boxer (Tai Chi 2), and Deadend Of Besiegers. I've always enjoyed seeing him on-screen and though he pulled off the bad guy persona brilliantly, so his role in Vampire Hunters was a nice change. His last feature role came in 2015 in the Chinese film Gun Transit before he unfortunately passed away in July of 2018. Michael Chow Man Kin stars as Thunder in yet another exciting role to add to his resume. I'm a big fan of Chow's and have long been entertained by him in films such as The Inspector Wears Skirts (aka Top Squad), Police Story 2, The Big Heat, Miracles, Asian Connection and many more. In Vampire Hunters, the funny man gets to deliver a few laughs but also dives right in with the action, once again impressing as a leading man and martial arts star. The wonderful Lam Suet stars as Rain, and gets to shed his usual Johnnie To persona for an exciting part as one of the vampire slayers. Much like Chow, I always enjoy seeing Suet pop up in any film. He's such an odd actor, but after 260+ roles, you can't help but like the guy. Making his feature film debut in Andy Lau's Proud & Confident, Suet went on to appear in many classic hits from Story Of Ricky to God Of Cookery, and soon became a steadfast actor for director Johnnie To in many of his amazing films. While shooting Vampire Hunters, Lam Suet went on to star in a further 12 productions the very same year and has continued to be one of Hong Kong's busiest actors to date. Bruce Lee lookalike Danny Chan Kwok Kwan stars as the 3rd brother, Lightning and gets to kick ass a number of times and looks like he's having a lot of fun doing it. Although known more globally as the Bruce Lee of Stephen Chow Sing Chi's wonderful Shaolin Soccer from just a year before, Danny had been on the scene since the mid-90s with smaller roles in films like Young & Dangerous 3, Sealed With A Kiss, The Legend Of Speed, and Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone. The brilliant Kung Fu Hustle soon followed which has seen Danny Chow go onto many great titles including Ip Man 3 & 4, Just Another Pandora's Box, Kung Fu League, The Rookies, and the television series, The Legend Of Bruce Lee. And Ken Cheung, of Sunshine Cops, Extreme Challenge, and SPL fame, stars as the final hunter, Wind, getting to win the heart of Sasa by the end of the story and delivering some great martial arts action throughout. Taiwanese actress Anya, who made a bigger splash in Naked Weapon the same year, plays the maiden in distress although doesn't have too much to do really, and Horace Lee Wai Shing stars as her brother Dragon, who delivers some pretty sweet moves as the brutal and greedy sibling. The great Chen Kuan Tai also pops-up for a fun appearance and the awesome Yu Rong Kwong stars as Master Jiang, the wax artisan and secret kung fu master. Although he is made-up to look a lot more aged than he really is, Kwong still gets the chance to go up against the most of the aforementioned stars in a host of amazing moves and fight scenes - and it was also nice to see him share the screen once again with Ji Chun Hua, his co-star from Red Fists and Deadend Of Besiegers.
With a legendary producer behind him and a host of great cinematographers, Wellson Chin also had the talents of director Marco Mak in the editing room and Tony Tam Chun To as the action director. Starting of in the industry as an actor in the Shaw Brothers film, Shaolin Temple, Tam went onto star in 80 features – many of which were for the studio from Crippled Avengers to The Flag Of Iron, and Two Champions Of Shaolin to Martial Club, and other classics such as The Prodigal Son, Shaolin Drunkard, The Champions, Tiger On The Beat, and so much more. Around this time, Tony also started to make a career as a fight choreographer on titles such as Fury, Bloody Brotherhood, and Holy Robe Of Shaolin Temple, as well as Donnie Yen's Crystal Hunt, Cheetah On Fire, and Legend Of The Wolf, and has since gone on to work on more of his titles including Wu Xia, The Monkey King, Dragon Tiger Gate, Legend Of The Fist, and The Lost Bladesman. In Vampire Hunters, Tam delivers some of his finest wire-fu and martial arts choreography, making everyone on-screen look pretty amazing when in battle and directing some exciting fight scenes. Many have compared it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon due to its time of release and because of a few scenes of tree and rooftop hopping – but I thought it impressed on its own merits!
I'd love to get my hands on the Singapore release of Vampire Hunters as it offers an extra 15-20 minutes of footage, most of which would probably explain a few of the more questionable moments throughout this release and apparently, makes for a much better film. Regardless, this release still offers up an exciting film with great picture quality and original language options, and I'll not be leaving it so long again before popping it back in the player for another watch!
Overall: Stylish, gory, and action-packed, Vampire Hunters is another great film from Tsui Hark that offers plenty of exciting moments!
DVD Extras: Trailer
VAMPIRE SETTLE ON POLICE
(Hong Kong 1990)
Original Title: Yi Mei Dao Gu
Directed by Chen Chi Hwa Produced by Ng Gan Yan, David Chung Action by Hsiao Hou, Pan Yung Sheng
Starring: Sandra Ng, Billy Lau, Alvina Kong, Anglie Leung, Alex To, Charlie Cho, Eddy Ko, Wu Fung, Douglas Kung, Lee Man Tai, Cheung Yuen Man, Lo Hoi Pang, Jack Wong
Reviewing: Star Treasure HK DVD Release
Genres: Vampire / Martial Arts / Comedy Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: After four vampires invaded a police camp, Tutor Chan (Wu Fung) and Officer Tong (Eddy Ko) recruited 9 student cops who were born in Year of Dragon, in order to train them to array the position of Nine Dragon Chasing Spell, which was helpful to resist the ghosts. After the student cops knew their officer's intention, they all want to ask for resign. After the whole camp was occupied by the ghosts, however, they decided to stay to offer help. On the night of 14th July in Lunar Calendar, at the very time when Tutor Chan failed to dispel the vampires, madam Lee (Sandra Ng) showed the enemies her final weapon, which made her transform into the Fairy Eyebrow and carried on the battle. Under the help of the wizard, they finally got rid of all the ghosts.
Views: Four mischievous vampires settle on a police cadet camp in Hong Kong, intent on killing Officer Tong who suffers from recurring nightmares. We soon find out that they have been after him from a past life – not the one when he was a chicken or the one when he was a whore, but an older past life when he lived as a corrupt official. In this life, Tong framed a family for the theft of some treasures before sentencing them to death – an act that has now haunted him for centuries. As the hauntings progress, a band of new cadets (who were all born in the year of the dragon) are brought together to help get rid of them!
I'm a big fan of Vampire Settle On Police Camp. Its mindless fun that plays like a blend of The Inspector Wears Skirts and Mr. Vampire (or any amount of Lam Ching Ying-inspired antics). and while the film does offer some gore and horror, it's very little in comparison to the silly antics, police training, and fantastic martial arts action on offer. Directed by the wonderful Chen Chi Hwa, who is well known for his off-the-wall movies, the film is typical of the many Hong Kong comedies that were coming out around this period. Starting life in the industry alongside a young Jackie Chan, Chen directed a number of the Lo Wei classics as well as The Face Behind The Mask, Ape Girl, Dance Of Death, and 36 Crazy Fists. As the years went on, the relationship between Chan and Chen held strong with the latter becoming the executive (or assistant) director on many of Jackie's biggest hits including The Young Master, Police Story 1 & 2, Project A 2, Miracles, Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor, and Drunken Master 2. Of course, Chen would continue to helm his own titles which included Kung Fu Kids 2, Young Taoism Fighter, Retreat Of The Godfather, and Red Pirate starring Jonathan Ke Quan of The Goonies and Indiana Jones fame. Vampire Settle On Police Camp is far from his best work, but it does entertain and makes for a fun watch thanks to a great cast.
The great Eddy Ko stars as Officer Tong, the man with a wicked past life who is being haunted by the family of vampires. I've long been a fan of Ko's from his early appearances in kung fu classics such as A Tooth For A Tooth, The Avenging Eagle, Thundering Mantis, Tsui Hark's Butterfly Murders and We're Going To Eat You, through to his roles in Duel To The Death, A Punch To Revenge, Dreaming The Reality, Heroes Shed No Tears, The Bride With White Hair, and more. I was so excited to see him appear in Lethal Weapon 4 with Jet Li upon its release way back when and pleased that the guy was getting a bit more attention on a global scale after all his years in the industry. The hilarious Billy Lau reprises a role very similar to that of his in The Inspector Wears Skirts as does his co-star, the handsome Alex To, from the same film. Although this was only To's fifth film, Lau had already starred in almost 60 productions including horror-based comedies such as Those Merry Souls, Mr. Vampire 1, 2 & 3, Haunted Cop Shop, Spooky Spooky, Vampire Vs Vampire, Here Comes A Vampire, and Funny Ghost with the wonderful Wu Fung who stars here as one of the officers. Fung is another face I just love seeing pop up in any film, and with almost 400 titles to his name since the early 1950s, it's hard to ignore the man. The delightful and hilarious Sandra Ng stars as Madam Lee, training officer to the crew and piling on the laughs in a role similar to her own in the aforementioned Inspector Wears Skirts series, and Operation Pink Squad (which, in turn, was somewhat of a spin-off to the same series). I adore Sandra and think she is one of the funniest people in the business, as well as a genuinely great actress when she needs to be. The first movie I ever saw her in was Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars quickly followed by Top Squad (the UK video release of The Inspector Wears Skirts) and ever since then, I've went out of my way to catch her in whatever I could. Since then I've enjoyed her in the continuation of The Inspector Wears Skirts series, Operation Pink Squad, Crazy Companies, Return Of The Evil Fox, Alls Well Ends Well '92, Holy Weapon, Black Rose 2, the Golden Chicken Trilogy, and so much more. Here, Sandra gets to don the usual garb of Lam Ching Ying's vampire busters – complete with monobrow – and pulls of her best Taoist spells to put the vampires to rest. The great Lee Man Tai from films such as The Fate Of Lee Khan, The Valiant Ones, Killer Meteors, Prodigal Son, Millionaires Express, Last Hero In China (and a host of other Chen Chi Hwa titles), stars as the grandpa vampire along with Wong Mau Chow, from many early Alexander Lo Rei classics, who stars as daddy vampire. The rest of the cast is filled out with plenty of familiar faces including the wonderful Lo Hoi Pang as a monk, Alvina Kong, Anglie Leung, and Cheung Yuen Man as female cadets, with the awesome Jack Wong, Charlie Cho, Cho Yuen Tat, and Douglas Kung Cheung Tak appearing as the horny male cadets alongside Billy Lau and Alex To. Douglas Kung, of course, has made a name for himself as an action choreographer on films such as The King Boxer, Wushu, City Cops, Princess Madam, and Mission Of Condor, while helming many of his own films including the fun Chinese Heroes, Undiscovered Tomb, and Shaolin Vs Evil Dead 1 & 2 with Gordon Liu and Fan Siu Wong.
The crazy stunt work and brilliant fight choreography is handled by the very talented Shaw Brothers superstar Hsiao Ho, who starred in many great movies including Heroes Of The East, Disciples Of The 36th Chamber, Dirty Ho, My Young Auntie, Legendary Weapons Of Kung Fu, and into more modern hits such as Millionaires Express, Eastern Condors, Pedicab Driver, and Iron Monkey. He is joined by kung fu actor and choreographer Pan Yung Sheng, who appeared in over 120 films since the early 70s including many early projects alongside a young Sammo Hung, as well as a host of Shaw Brothers titles before rejoining Hung for films like Prodigal Son, Winners & Sinners, Owl Vs Bumbo, Mr. Vampire 1, 2 & 3, Pantyhose Hero and more. As a martial arts director, Pan only worked on a few titles including this, but he was clearly watching the master at work over the years when on set with Sammo and would have worked with Hsiao Ho a number of times also. Between them both, the pair deliver a host of exciting, quirky, and fun fight scenes – most of which involve some sort of painful-looking stunt work. Again, it will never go down in history as one of the best Hong Kong films ever made, but Vampire Settle On Police Camp does entertain on many levels and mostly because of the action. It's such a shame that this DVD version of the film is so badly cropped and scuffed, as I'd like to see a cleaner version of it at some point...
Overall: Short and sweet, action packed and funny, Vampire Settle On Police Camp is harmless fun and worth a watch!