Friday, December 22, 2017

Zai shi feng liu jie (1985)

... aka: 再世風流劫
... aka: 뼈와 살이 타는 밤
... aka: Byeowa sali taneun bam
... aka: Haunted Romance, A
... aka: Night of Burning Flesh, The
... aka: Night of Burning Flesh and Bones
... aka: Ppyeo-wa sal-i taneun bam

Directed by:
Myeong-hwa Jo (South Korean print)
Ching Luk (Hong Kong print)

I have an extremely long list of films I'm constantly on the hunt for. And sometimes I find out I have the same film listed two or three different times under different titles. That appears to be the case with this one. Depending on the source one consults, this is either a Hong Kong production originally titled Zai shi feng liu jie (English title: A Haunted Romance) directed by Ching Luk aka Charles Lowe or a South Korean production with the English title Night of Burning Flesh and Bones (or just The Night of Burning Flesh according to the poster) directed by Myeong-hwa Jo aka Joe Moung-hwa. The latter I also see listed under two other titles: Byeowa sali taneun bam and Ppyeo-wa sal-i taneun bam. In short, you can see this one film listed places under at least eight different titles directed by four or five different directors. The cast lists are also different depending on where you look, though it wasn't uncommon for actors to be known by different names in other countries or for distributors to simply make up names of cast members so they sounded more homegrown.

While this clearly does have South Korean involvement, what ultimately gives it away as also a HK co-production is the presence of several cast members, most notably the female lead. She's credited as Ji-hye Han on the Korean print but she's better known under the names Chi-Wai Yuen, Maria Yuen and Maria Jo. Yuen's career lasted less than a decade, in which time she was frequently cast in sexy roles usually requiring nudity in a number of exploitation and sleazy horror films. Her best known film is the crazy cult favorite Seeding of a Ghost (1983) but she also appeared in Dead Curse (1985), Watch Out (1986), Cannibal Curse (1988) and others. Going through my screen caps I also found out she's the female lead in the (awful) ghost comedy JOKERS PLAYING GAMES (1987) that I reviewed here awhile back. In that one she used the name Chi-Wai Lui.

While out of town on assignment and in the woods snapping photos of bugs, birds, lizards and rabbits, photographer Jun-sik (Chow Fong) finds a gold locket with the photo of a beautiful woman inside. He removes the picture, rips it up and then returns to his hotel room, where he replaces the old photo with one of his wife and hopes to present it to her as a gift when he returns home. Immediately after, he sees visions of the beauty in the photo (Yuen) sitting on a patio and wandering the hallways, more often than not holding an umbrella. The woman then materializes in his room. She announces herself as Chung-ah, takes a shower, comes out in a towel, laughs, acts seductive and plays hard to get to the point where Jun-sik is driven to crawling at her feet ready to worship her. Before he can, he wakes up in his bed. A nightmare? Well, when he opens up the locket and finds Chung-ah's photo back inside he's not so sure.

Concerned by the strange incident, Jun-sik goes to see a doctor, who tells him there's nothing physically wrong with him so he may want to seek a spiritual remedy if he's indeed being pestered by a ghost. That turns out to be about as helpful as going to the hospital with cancer and having a doctor sending you home with a prescription for prayer. Next thing we know, Jun-sik is gutting a white baby rabbit and burning its innards in a field while praying. He disposes of the locket in the ashes and returns home to his wife (Lai-Fong Cheng) and young daughter (Bo-Ming Man), whom he frequently neglects. However, mutilating Thumper turns out to be a waste of time as the ghost pays him a nightly visit to seduce him again. When the little daughter looks over to daddy's bed, she sees him in an embrace with a skeleton!

Chung-ah eventually explains that she and Jun-sik were lovers in a previous life and she'd like to be lovers again. Whether he likes it or not is irrelevant as she's determined to get her way. And that she does. Jun-sik is soon sneaking out of the house and lying to his wife to join his new ghost lover in hotel hot tub romps and flings at closed down disco clubs. As the affair becomes more intense, he starts becoming withdrawn and depressed and has nightmares of murdering his wife and daughter. Chung-ah then starts doing everything in her power to keep him from returning home, including ratting him out to his wife. The wife then destroys his photography lab, where he keeps a cage full of white lab mice (huh?!), in a rage. The ghostly vixen also causes the young daughter to have horrible nose bleeds and even threatens to kill her.

Jun-sik comes to the conclusion that constant sex with a beautiful woman who can't keep her hands off of you is no match for the love of his family. He seeks the aid of an old psychic woman (Jeong-ae Lee) who then sends him off to the country to see a monk (Ling-Kwong Wan). Chung-ah shows up there dressed in a bikini top and high-waisted skirt and with her patented pink umbrella to attempt to dazzle the holy man with her charms but is unsuccessful. He then barricades himself and Jun-sik inside with spell papers on the windows and doors. Chung-ah talks a local dimwit (Baek Lee) into removing the papers for her so she can gain access. While the monk attempts to stop the succubus-like spirit, Jun-sik's skirt-chasing colleague (previously seen screwing one of his bikini models) tries to seduce his abandoned wife. Someone also goes crazy at the end and starts killing off the characters, including suffocating one with an empty fish bowl over the head (!)

Clearly made on the cheap, this has a plodding storyline, no real special effects, bare bones art direction, unlikable characters, no humor and is padded, poorly paced and often poorly edited. To the director's credit, he does attempt to at least spice things up visually with colorful lighting and some decent camerawork. He also has a good eye for how to frame a shot and knows how to make certain colors pop (particularly the spirit's pink clothing and umbrella) against white rooms and urban backdrops. The shot compositions lead me to believe the director is indeed Ching Luk, whose only other known credits are in cinematography. He was a cameraman on Enter the Dragon (1973) and shot THE ACCIDENT (1983) and a few Shaw Brothers movies like 1980's Lost Souls. The synth music score is also pretty good / eerie and there's a bit of 80s schlock fun during certain scenes like the modeling session and a trip to a disco where a group of guys break dance to a terrible song called “Shake Your Body."

At the end of the day this is mostly just a vehicle for the charms of the sexy leading lady, who is quite nice to look at throughout and has no less than four nude scenes. However, if you end up seeing the Korean cut of the film like I did, nearly all of her nudity has been fogged out. Strangely, we do get to see breasts two different times but these are during sequences when owners of said breasts are being attacked! Odd that they decided that depictions of normal, consensual sex (well, as normal as sex with a ghost can be, I guess!) are deemed worthy of censorship but sexual violence is not. Maybe that's a Korean thing.

This one's never been released in English and the best version currently available is a Korean VHS dupe which has a very soft, very bright picture. Since there are a lot of voice overs used, both from the male lead and the ghost lady, and I couldn't understand those, I'm boosting what I'd otherwise rate this by half a star. Maybe it has brilliant dialogue? I highly doubt it but, hey, stranger things have happened.

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