IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993)

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THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993)

The Bride With White Hair is a martial arts, fantasy, romance and is a fairy tale-like story that finds handsome warrior Zhuo Yihang (Leslie Cheung from A Chinese Ghost Story) falling in love with beautiful witch Lian Nichang (Brigitte Lin from ZuWarriors from the Magic Mountain), who belongs to an evil cult Zhuo is tasked with destroying. As the two defy their orders and superiors, forces conspire against them, including He Lühua (Yammie Lam), a woman warrior with eyes for Zhuo Yihang and the vengeful, jealous conjoined twin cult leader, Ji Wushuang (Francis Ng and Elaine Lui).

Flick is one of the best examples of the Hong Kong cinema revival of the 80s and 90s and has all the action, fantasy, love and betrayal one could want. It is a sumptuous visual feast as directed by Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky, Freddy vs Jason), from a script he wrote with Lam Kei-to, Elsa Tang and David Wu. You can see where Yu’s American horror flicks got their stunning cinematography, blood-spattered action and twisted sense of humor, as they are all present here. There are dazzling sword duels, dark magic, gallant heroes, vile villains and a seductive wolf witch to keep one entertained for it’s economical 92 minutes. There is an eroticism to many scenes that the Hong Kong cinema usually reserved for their more intense Category III films and there is quite a lot of blood spurting and severed heads, not to mention the disturbing portrayal of it’s conjoined twin villains. The costumes are lavish, as are the settings, the cinematography by Peter Pau and Lee Tak-shing is sumptuous and the score by Richard Yuen suits the dark fantasy atmosphere perfectly. Sure Zhuo Yihang and Lian Nichang’s love making scene seems to go on a bit too long and Zhuo Yihang’s belief that she may have betrayed him comes a bit too quickly, especially considering his vow to always trust her. Otherwise this is an enormously entertaining dark fairy tale, romance for grown-ups and one of the most renown classics of this era of Hong Kong cinema.

A great cast helps Yu tell his story well. Leslie Cheung’s handsome warrior Zhuo Yihang is a far cry from his timid tax collector from the Chinese Ghost Story movies, but no less a solid romantic lead/action hero. He’s charming, brazen, lethal and sexy, when he appropriately needs to be. Brigitte Lin is beautiful and intriguing as wolf witch Lian Nichang. She can be a fierce and deadly warrior, yet also very sexy and playful, depending on the scene and is very convincing as all of the above. She and Cheung have a great on-screen chemistry and generate some nice heat. When forces pit them against each other, they make good adversaries. Francis Ng and Elaine Lui are really creepy as the conjoined twin leaders of the cult. They exude power and malice, yet their constant bickering and antagonizing of one another really adds a twisted dimension to them. A disturbing duo. The rest of the supporting cast give solid performances, too!

Overall, this is a great film and the type of movie the Hong Kong cinema was so skilled at making during this era. The film looks fantastic, the action scenes are fast, furious and bloody and the romantic scenes generate some real heat. There is a bit of a twisted humor to it and some legitimately spooky scenes as well. Not quite perfect, but close to it and enormously entertaining. There was a lesser sequel released only months later directed by David Wu and a TV series in 2012. The Bride With White Hair is currently streaming free on Tubi!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) swords

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: A CHINESE GHOST STORY I & II

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A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987)

One of my all time favorite films since first seeing it at The Film Forum in NYC at The Hong Kong Film Festival in September of 1991. This Hong Kong classic is an enchanting supernatural romance/action/ fantasy, a fairy tale-like story of a meek tax collector, Ning Tsei-Shen (the late Leslie Cheung) in ancient China, who encounters and falls in love with a beautiful ghost, Nieh Hsiao-Tsing (the gorgeous Joey Wang). But this enchanting specter who has stolen his heart is betrothed to the devil himself by her master, the soul sucking Tree Demon (Lau Siu-Ming). The mild mannered Ning Tsei-Shen teams up with a powerful Taoist monk (the scene stealing Wu Ma) and vows to save his supernatural love from her eternally damning fate.

A Chinese Ghost Story is simply a great movie directed by legendary Hong Kong director Ching Siu-Tung and produced by the equally legendary Tsui Hark, that delivers everything from sumptuous cinematography, charming romance, thrilling martial arts action, spooky scares and some very effective old-school SPFX. The film has the wonderful ability to charm us, entertain us, give us the chills and make us laugh out loud. The cast is perfect with leads Cheung and Wang making an enchanting couple, Wu Ma a cantankerous mix of Bruce Lee, Gandalf and Yoda and Lau Siu-Ming is creepy and formidable as the weirdly androgynous Tree Demon. A simply wonderful and wildly entertaining film!

4 supernatural sirens!

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A CHINESE GHOST STORY II (1990)

Chinese Ghost Story 2 is a cinematic rarity, a sequel that’s an equal. Tax collector Ning Tsei-Shen (Leslie Cheung) returns and is once again drawn into a battle with evil supernatural forces over a woman. This time, she’s a flesh and blood woman, Windy (Joey Wang) who is the spitting image of his ghostly love from the previous installment. As Ning is mistaken for a rebel leader, he is more then happy to perpetuate this error in order to get close to the beautiful rebel, Windy. But the rebels are up against a demon in disguise and once again Ling is forced to battle an assortment of supernatural foes.

Chinese Ghost Story 2 is a bit bigger with more action, but, the human element is not lost thanks to another fine performance by Leslie Cheung as he tax collector and Wang as his paramour, Windy. There are some delightful new characters such as cocky Taoist monk, Autumn (Jacky Cheung), Windy’s spunky sister, Moon (Michelle Reis) and heroic swordsman, Fu (Waise Lee). There is also a surprise cameo from a character from part 1 that I won’t spoil, but the audience at The Hong Kong Film Festival at the Film Forum in NYC erupted in thunderous cheers when they appear. While less of a romance and more of a supernatural adventure this time, CGS2 nonetheless has some great action, some nice chills, some hysterically funny scenes, (one involving two characters, a giant demon and a freezing spell might be among my favorite slapstick comedy scenes.) and some charming old fashion FX that might be cheesy elsewhere, but bring a smile to one’s face here. Again Ching Siu-tung skillfully directs and beautifully shoots this great follow-up and Tsui Hark again produces. Another Hong Kong classic.

4 supernatural sirens!

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There is a Chinese Ghost Story 3 (1991) also directed by Ching Siu-Tung and while it is entertaining, it takes place 100 years later and is almost a reboot, so it doesn’t quite fit in with the first film and it’s direct sequel…unless you want to include it for a complete trilogy viewing. Joey Wang stars again, this time as a Ghost named Lotus and Lau Siu-Ming returns as the tree demon.

-MonsterZero NJ

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