Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Almost everyone has heard of "Mister Vampire", an iconic semi-camp classic of the Hong Kong spooky comedy genre. Which came out in the mid-eighties, featuring Lam Ching-ying and Ricky Hui. The production values were not very high, but that wasn't the point. If anything, it was sort of understated 'tongue in the third cheek'. 殭屍先生 ('keung si sin sang').
Which I saw for the first time at the 華聲戲院 (China Sound Theatre) on Jackson Street.
Now, sadly, an emporium where you can purchase bank of hell notes and paper mock-ups for your dearly departed. Not quite the same attraction for a wandering kwailo.

It was no longer a first run movie house when I went there, and mostly during its final years it showed Japanese soft-focus titty flicks. An interesting category in its own right, but not very instructional. Even dubbed in Mandarin.

[And probably the reason my Mandarin abilities are crappy.]

The vampire (殭屍 'keung si') in the title is a hopping corpse. Master Kau (九叔 'kau suk) has been tasked with transporting someone's deceased relative which has turned into an undead vitality-consuming entity to a final resting place in his ancestral village. He has two incompetent helpers, and hilarity ensues. Taoist magic, kungfu, hopping and flying cadavers, romance.

The ingénue (Moon Lee 李賽鳳 'lei choi fung') has a face capable of looking pouty, but one remembers her best from subsequent flicks in which she's one tough cookie. She's been described as "cute as a bug", and has many fans primarily because of that. Well, ingénue is perhaps the wrong term; in Mr. Vampire she's a bit drippy.

I had to look her up on the internet, because I couldn't remember her. Ricky Hui (許冠英 'huei kun ying') and Lam Ching-ying (林正英) were stuck in my head. Yes, I've seen her in other films; but she wasn't as memorable as, for instance, Cherie Chung (鍾楚紅 'jung cho hong') in 'An Autumn's Tale (秋天的童話 ' chau tin dik tung waa').

The small food counter next door (茗香糕粉小食 'ming heung gou fan siu sik') has excellent potstickers and dumplings if you go at the right time. Delicious dim sum. I've been there more often than the theatre. Siu mai with a touch of chili oil; mmmmmmm.

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