Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Che yuen joi che (1982)

... aka: 邪完再邪
... aka: 鬼妻
... aka: Ghost Wife
... aka: Hex After Hex

Directed by:
Chih-Hung Kuei

Director Chih-Hung Kuei's Hex trilogy concludes with this third and final installment for Shaw Brothers. It has absolutely nothing to do with the serious Diabolique variant HEX (1980) and is instead a direct follow-up to the first comic sequel, HEX VERSUS WITCHCRAFT (also 1980). In HvsW, a desperate, down-on-his-luck man with a gambling problems gets more than he bargained for marrying a ghost for money. This sequel initially follows a similar premise but then shoots off in its own crazy direction. Checking out a knock on the door late one night, muscular movie stuntman Ma Su (Meng Lo) - neighbor of the guy from the previous film - finds a parcel full of gold and valuables laying on his doorstep. He thinks he's lucked out until old Mr. Liu (Chi Hing Yeung) shows up to inform him that he can only keep the money (plus he'll get a house) if he agrees to marry his daughter, Ah Tsui. The daughter happens to love muscular, fit men so it appears to be a good match-up. Well, except for one tiny detail: Ah Tsui is dead. Ma Su refuses to marry a ghost, but when the old man returns home, the daughter's angry spirit leaves the altar. The ghost causes a car accident that kills Ma Su's pretty neighbor Suk Yi (Nancy Lau Nam-Kai) so she's able to inhabit her body and make a play for Ma Su herself.

Suk Yi / Ah Tsui shows up at Ma Su's apartment and insists he call her Red Pok Pok. She seduces him and gets him to marry her. Many problems ensue for the young couple, none of which really has anything to do with her being a ghost. For starters, they and the other tenants in their apartment building face eviction from a development company. To scare them off on demolition day, Ah Tsui pretends to be Yoda from Star Wars (!) and then transforms into Darth Vader and strips the construction crew's clothes off with a light saber (!!) After being fired from Shaw Brother Studios for refusing to do a dangerous stunt, Ma Su ends up getting a job as a driver for Johnny Tien (Dan Lau), the greedy and comically awful manager of the Puck Hik Real Estate Company. Because of his ineptitude and gambling issues, Johnny has run the company into the ground and takes it all out on his employees by being the boss from hell. He doesn't give his employees benefits, watches everyone on video monitors and fires people for the most ridiculous reasons imaginable, even leading one tired, overworked old man to hang himself in the bathroom.

Johnny's having a hard time getting the locals to leave their homes so he can tear them down and begin construction on some high-priced hotels, so he hires a bumbling, cross-eyed arsonist (Yue Tau-Wan) to cause problems. Once Ah Tsing discovers what he's doing, she decides to use her supernatural powers for revenge. During one silly scene, she zaps the arsonist's clothes off, so he slips on a pair of pantyhose, is chased around by angry villagers, gets his ass burned with fire, slides down a hill in a bucket, gets piss accidentally thrown in his face and then has the Shaw Brothers logo branded onto his ass. Ah Tsing has it in for the evil Johnny even more, especially after he fires her hubby. She gets his secretary Lily (Lily Chen) fired, takes her place and then sets out to destroy the shady businessman. She can't type, but Johnny tells her that all she needs is a "nice buxom body" to be his secretary. Ah Tsing feigns interest in him and the two start going on dates. All the while she's actually setting him up to lose all his money during an auction. It all drives him crazy and he's sent away to a nuthouse. Despite receiving plenty of help from his new wife, Ma Su eventually realizes she's a ghost. His friend Big Beard takes him to see Master Lau Gia Lin; a sorcerer who teaches Ma Su about "Sun-Da;" a practice for invoking Gods to drive pesky spirits away. He calls up the spirit and manages to banish her, but begins to have second thoughts about doing so.

This mile-a-minute ghost comedy moves along at an insane pace, with little regard for pacing and continuity. There are many extremely irritating and over-the-top characters and gags miss the mark as often as not, but it's so freaking weird you can't keep your eyes away from the screen. Not just a crude comedy, Hex After Hex also seems to be trying to make a serious point about the infiltration of American culture into Chinese culture. Characters wear clothes with American labels, the English language seeps into the country's dialect and an American named "The Godfather" lives behind a gated home and burns petitions from the locals without even reading them. The finale is one of the absolute strangest you'll ever see in any film as a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the city square is brought to life by a rival sorcerer to do battle. It flips off the hero and then its jacket opens to reveal a slot machine and pieces of gold spew from its mouth. Wow.

Aside from the Hex trilogy, director Kuei also made BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), Ghost Eyes (1974), Fearful Interlude (1975), The Killer Snakes (1975), Spirit of the Raped (1976), Bewitched (1981), CORPSE MANIA (1981), Revenge of the Corpse (1981), Curse of Evil (1982) and THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983) (1983). All of the ones I've seen so far on his filmography are worth seeking out and I can't wait to see more.


Woman Hunt, The (1972)

... aka: Escape
... aka: Highest Bidder, The
... aka: Women for Sale

Directed by:
Eddie Romero

An exploitation twist on Richard Connell's famous and oft-filmed short story "The Most Dangerous Game," this Filipino-lensed turkey misses the fun mark by a wide, wide margin. Working on behalf of wealthy sadist Spyros (Eddie Garcia), a trio of thugs are given the task of kidnapping five beautiful women for use in their shady employer's brothel. Lured onto a boat, naive blonde stewardess Lori (Laurie Rose) and her friend become the latest abductees... except one of the kidnappers gets a little too rough with the friend trying to silence her. Oops, make that four women. Lori is taken aboard another boat and thrown into a bamboo cage, where she joins the sexy, short-haired McGee (Pat Woodell), black Billie (Charlene Jones) and Filipino Rita (Liza Belmonte). The ladies are all taken to a remote island, where they're blindfolded, have their arms tied behind their back and then are thrown into a truck and driven out into the jungle. From there, they're transferred into a cage being pulled by a cow for the rest of the trip. After a botched (and extremely pathetic) escape attempt that night, they finally make it to their destination the following day.

Upon arrival, the women are each given their own room and some sexy evening wear for a "dinner party" they're to attend later that evening. Little do they realize, but Spyros has other plans in store for them other than sexual slavery: namely letting them loose in the jungle, hunting them down and then killing them. He even forces some of his reluctant millionaire clients to take part. Before any of that can happen, some of the thugs decide to try make a move on the ladies; or as one so eloquently puts it: "Sure is a lot of pussy going to waste over there." Some of the girls attempt to comply in hopes that they'll be spared, but when McGee gets her top off for the mean Karp (Ken Metcalfe), he just throws her on the ground, spits on her and calls her a pig, and when Billie gets drunk Silas (Sid Haig) into the sack, he just passes out on her. Looks like their destiny is pretty much set in stone... unless they can escape. Thankfully, the conscientious Tony (top-billed John Ashley; also one of the producers) is having no part in the "hunt" and helps the ladies get out of the house, but they still have miles of dangerous jungle to navigate as well as Spyros, his guests and his goons to evade, if they're going to reach safety.

Combining elements of numerous tried-and-true exploitation subgenres: jungle-action, women-in-prison, hunting humans, etc., probably sounded great on paper, but unfortunately the execution is extremely bland and the film pretty much flat lines right out of the gate. Part of the blame falls on the director for his inability to generate any excitement or fun at any point in the film. Perhaps even more of the blame falls on the writers (it was scripted by David Hoover based on a story he co-wrote with Jack Hill), for doing a poor job rehashing an already tired plot, for refusing to give any of the characters even the slightest glimmer of personality and for pussy-footing around with various boring nonsense before allowing the action to finally kick in. Hell, our heroines aren't even actually in the jungle until the final 20 minutes, and even then we're not given much in the way of action or violence. Certainly not enough to justify the first boring hour of this 72-minute film.

I also have a bone to pick with the cast. With the possible exception of Haig, the performances are uniformly terrible and lifeless and most of these people behave as though they'd rather be somewhere else doing something else. This isn't fun, spirited, over-the-top bad acting from an enthusiastic cast, it's just bland, bored bad acting. In low-budget exploitation films, a game cast goes a long, long way. Roger Corman (the uncredited executive producer) knows this himself because many of his own super-low-budget films were elevated tremendously by talented, memorable actors like Dick Miller and Beverly Garland. Sadly, this one lacks anyone with the charisma and talent of, say, Pam Grier or Roberta Collins; both mainstays of Corman productions from around this same time. Perhaps the worst offender of all is the painfully wooden Lisa Todd (later of Hee Haw fame), who's handed a camp movie dream role as Spyros' black-clad lesbian assistant and does absolutely nothing memorable with the part.

Best one can say for this one is that there's breasts (all of the female leads aside from Todd lose their top at least once) and a bit of blood toward the end (including a spike trap hitting a stomach, a head being blown off and a real cobra getting hacked up with a machete). Romero also made The Beast of the Yellow Night (1971), The Twilight People (1972) and Black Mama, White Mama (1973) for Corman's New World Pictures. IMDb claims this was released in 1973, but it actually first hit theaters November 1972.

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