Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ling chen wan can (1987)

... aka: Ling san man chaan
... aka: Vampire's Breakfast

Directed by:
“Wong Chung” (Chung Wang)

Bet you can guess what's for breakfast. This is another of those HK vampire horror comedies, this time from Cinema City and the short-lived Dennis Yu Film Production Company (Yu is credited as the co-producer), who also gave us the more widely-seen Evil Cat (1986). Before you yawn, this one does have a few elements to help spice things up, primarily a blonde-haired, white-eyed, ugly, monstrous-looking vampire instead of pale, brainless hopping ones (or romantic, handsome European ones for that matter) and a more balanced approach to blending the comedy, horror, action and drama as opposed to all-out slapstick. The star is Hong Kong Film Award-winning actor Kent Cheng, who was pretty much China's answer to John Candy (a lovable big guy versatile at both comedy and drama) and often played characters whose names were indicative of his size. For instance, he played “Fatty” in THE IMP (1981), “Fatty Cheng” in THE ACCIDENT (1983) and “Fat Bing” in Dr. Lamb (1992). According to his IMDb filmography, some of his other film roles include “Fatso,” “Fat Cat,” “Fat B,” “Porky Lang,” “Porky Wing” and even “Fat Ho” (!) In this one he plays a reporter named Liao Chi Piao but everyone calls him, you guessed it, “Fat Piao” (or sometimes just “Fatty” for short). I'll spare him any further indignity and just call him Piao. Size doesn't really matter when you're battling the undead, anyway... unless you're getting into a foot race with them.

The film opens with a series of murders being committed by the bloodsucker (played by one-time actor Simon Willson). A young taxi dancer leaving a disco is attacked and drained dry in her car (her body is soon discovered by the thief breaking into it) and then a couple sneaking off for a little late night hanky panky at a construction site are surprised by the vamp, who proceeds to throw the guy off scaffolding and chase the topless girl around, finally putting the bite to her off-screen. Near one of the murders, librarian Angie Lin (Emily Chu) is driving by and hits the killer with her car. After he runs off, she goes to the report the incident to the police. The next day, Piao's story-chasing boss (Ma Wu) sends him out to one of the murder sites to get information. Not wanting to panic the city and an asshole besides, Inspector Chen (Parkman Wong) destroys the film in his camera, chases him off and demands he not write a word about it. Taking another tip from his colleague Ming (Stephen Chang Gwong-Chin), he goes to visit Angie and it's love at first sight. Well, for him at least. She initially thinks he's “just plump and OK.”

Piao soon realizes they may be dealing with a vampire when he discovers all the victims died of “over-bleeding,” there were no blood stains left behind at crime scenes and he survived and easily walked away from a high speed collision with a car. Piao locates Mao (Keith Kwan), the thief who found the first victim's body, who confirms there were bite marks on the neck of the girl's body, and the two men team up to get to the bottom of things. Inspector Chen is harder to get on board, though. Make that impossible. Even after seeing the vampire robbing a blood bank, flinging around heavy steel cabinets with ease, withstanding dozens of bullet hits and surviving an explosion, he's still skeptical and attempts to arrest Piao and Mao for breaking and entering until his superior (Leung Hak-Shun) lets them go. Undeterred, the two then break into a morgue to get photo evidence of puncture marks on the bodies and then it's off to one of the crime scenes. That trip pays off when they finally get actual photo evidence of the vampire.

Our hero and the editor-in-chief attempt to run the story to warn the city but the police intervene and confiscate all of the newspapers; even holding a press conference to denounce the story as a fraud. But life must go on... Well, for those the vampire doesn't sink his fangs into, at least. Piao still lives at home with his elderly, lonely mother (Lai Wang), who wants nothing more for her son than to find a nice girl and settle down, plus a grandchild. Much to Piao's surprise, the pretty Angie is willing to go on a date with him and even come back to his home to meet his ma. After tea, dinner and a game of Monopoly, Angie decides to trail Piao to another location where they both barely survive yet another vampire attack. It's more of the same during a climactic battle on the roof where the vampire keeps going even after losing his head.

Vampire's Breakfast is a middling movie of its type. It's well-made, competent and nicely-shot (though the constant blue-filtered night scenes are a bit much), with an appealing cast, a few laughs and fairly likable characters. However, it's also nowhere near as crazy, inventive or action-packed, or as memorable for that matter, as a good number of other similar films. Importing in some Western vampire mythology and similar killing techniques (crucifixes, holy water, stakes through the heart, sunlight...) is a slight difference, but that alone isn't enough to elevate this above the norm, particularly to those outside of Asia where these things are less of a novelty and more of a cliche. The whole thing is lightweight, pleasant and perfectly watchable... you probably just won't remember anything about it a few days later.

There was an English-subtitled video (and V-CD) released by Rainbow Audio & Visual out of San Francisco and a DVD release through Joy Sales / Fortune Star.

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