Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ge shi gui jian qing (1987)

... aka: Chinese Ghost Love
... aka: Gak sai gwai gan ching
... aka: Ghost's Lover
... aka: Jie tai sheng gui

Directed by:
Chuan Yang (Richard Yeung Kuen)

Man-yu Chao (Zhenzhen Li) suffers from bad recurring nightmares. She also suffers from a terrible marriage to John (Lo Yuen), an uncaring, sex-crazed jerk of a husband who works as a doctor at a clinic, clearly puts his own needs above hers and refuses to have children. Because of her frequent nightmares, Man-yu suspects her apartment is haunted. Rather conveniently, living right next door are Ho Te (Kwan Hoi-San) and his nephew Ho Ning, Ghostbusters-inspired experts in the supernatural who have all kinds of special transmitters, lasers, electrodes, computers and gadgets they use in their research. Man-yu is planning a trip to Seoul for a few days and leaves the neighbors the keys so they can come and go and do their investigations as they please. Maria (Ma Lai-Lee), the Chao's beautiful new live-in Filipino maid will also be around and becomes the infatuation of the younger of the two paranormal experts. Doctor Chao, on the other hand, decides to cancel the Seoul trip so he can have an affair with a nymphomaniac / hypochondriac patient of his named Tina, who he's just treated for V.D. (!) When he shows up at her apartment for their tryst, she refers to him as a “sex maniac” and then proceeds to rip off his pants with a fencing sword. Tina keeps him so busy over the next few days that he doesn't bother going back home.

Meanwhile in Seoul, Man-yu and her lesbian friend June, who decided to accompany her on the trip to fill in for the husband, go to a disco. June hooks up with a young woman (who turns out to be a scam artist) and leaves Man-yu. She's hassled by a gigolo and then finally finds herself ordering a Bloody Mary for an intense-looking guy sitting at the bar, whom she wrongly assumes is also a gigolo. He says “I suck blood.” She still asks him to escort her back to her hotel, which he does and is a complete gentleman about. The next day, June bails on sightseeing to hang out with her new girlfriend, leaving Man-yu alone in an unfamiliar country once again. She bumps into the stranger from the disco - who eventually reveals himself to be Wei Chou (Chen-Chung Tang) - and the two start hanging out. He gives her the grand tour of the city, showing her all the best museums, zoos and restaurants, and she finds herself drawn to him. Phone calls back to her home reveal that her husband hasn't even been there since she's been gone. Frustrated, she decides to go ahead and have her own little fling. Unfortunately for her, whatever happens in Seoul doesn't stay in Seoul.

After Man-yu returns to Hong Kong, she's taken by surprise when her husband reveals he now wants to start a family. Her guilt over her own affair doesn't last too long after she walks into John's office one day and catches him in the middle of screwing Tina. Tina, who proves to be rather Fatal Attraction-ish, starts referring to John as HER husband and threatens to kill Man-yu if she doesn't leave them alone. Despite claiming he couldn't possibly get a travel visa to come to Hong Kong, Wei shows up there just in time to comfort Man-yu. The two continue their romance, she falls in love, files for divorce and then discovers she's pregnant with Wei's baby. But Wei isn't quite what he appears. He's actually a ghost; one who has no issue resorting to violence in order to protect his child because he will be reborn in its body. Wei electrocutes Tina to death for threatening Man-yu and then gets really nasty when he learns his lover is planning to get an abortion. Can the ghost busters next door help her get this clingy spirit out of her life for good?

I'd love to one day make a comprehensive list of ghost movies produced in Hong Kong during the 80s as I'm frequently uncovering ones I'd never even heard of until I find them. Venturing a guess, I'd say there's somewhere between 150 to 200 of these; most of which are completely unknown to audiences outside of Asia. Ghost's Lover, like many of this type, defies any one genre classification. It has elements of fantasy, comedy, drama, romance, action, mystery and horror; with the latter only being a truly pronounced part of the plot during the final half hour or so. It seems somewhat cheaper than many others of this ilk and a lot of the melodrama is a bit soap opera-esque and schmaltzy, but the characters are fairly well-defined, the performances are acceptable, it's very funny at times, the ending is surprisingly grim and the whole thing is pretty entertaining and charming; albeit overly talky. One thing it is decidedly not is scary. If you don't go in expecting that, this is a pleasant enough diversion.

Sometimes erroneously listed as a 1984 release, Ghost's Lover was actually released in Hong Kong in May of 1987. The VHS version I watched had burnt-in English subtitles (which are filled with spelling errors, sometimes alter the character names and are often cut right off on the sides) and was from Sunny Video. This version appears to be edited and there are numerous abrupt cuts in picture and sound any time there threatens to be nudity, which is pretty often. The director is best known for the crazy Seeding of a Ghost (1983).


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