Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Yuan Zhen-Xia yu Wei Si-Li (1986)

... aka: 原振俠與衛斯理
... aka: Dr. Yuen and Wisely
... aka: Jyun zan haap jyu wai si lei
... aka: La 7ème malédiction
... aka: Seventh Curse, The

Directed by:
Ngai Choi Lam

Some bad guys have seized control of a warehouse and taken hostages. After a shoot-out with the police, one of the baddies is injured and they demand a doctor be sent or else they'll start offing the hostages. The police captain (Yasuaki Kurata) brings in Dr. Yuan Chen (Siu-Ho Chin), a well-traveled adventurer known for his smarts and his bravery, to try to deescalate the situation. He's able to do just that and police are able to get a handle on the situation. Not helping matters any is obnoxious Western Daily reporter Tsai-Hung Tung (Maggie Cheung), who goes so far as to knock out a policewoman and pose as Yuan's nurse to gain access to the building after police refuse to give her information. She almost gets them killed in the process. Tsai-Hung wants to do an exclusive article on Dr. Yuan, complete with nude photos (!) and follows him to a party, follows him in her car and basically makes a nuisance of herself.

After shaking Tsai-Hung, Dr. Yuan returns to his pad only to find a naked woman waiting there for him. Such is the life of a debonair playboy. But another man soon shows up to ruin all his fun. After the two get into a fight and break nearly half of Yuan's furniture in the process, the guy, Heh Lung (Dick Wei), informs our hero that he has unfinished business left to attend to. He mentions a blood spell, a ghost spell and tells him he has three days to meet him in Thailand or else. He also tells Yuan to steer clear of sex or else he'll relapse. We soon find out just what that means when Yuan tries and fails to have sex with his female friend, which results in a painful complication.

Yuan goes to visit his best friend and mentor Wei (Chow Yun-Fat - who's not the star despite prominent billing) and relates a long flashback to a previous trip he'd made to Thailand a year earlier. While accompanying a medical team searching for herbs to treat AIDS, Yuan met a lovely girl named Betsy (Sau-Lai Tsui). Unfortunately, Betsy belonged to the witchcraft-practicing "worm tribe" called the Yunnan. The Yunnan have been taken over by an evil sorcerer named Aquala (Elvis Tsui), who periodically conducts human sacrifices and has a little, flesh-burying, snake-tailed pet Muppet he uses to kill off any dissenter. Since Betsy had rejected his romantic advances, Aquala decided it was time to leave her as an offering to an old skeletal ancestor, who wakes up long enough to feast on blood and sometimes turns into a big, drooling monster.

Overhearing their plans, Yuan broke into the tomb, fought the ancestor off, rescued Betsy and made it back to camp. But the torch-carrying tribe followed and there was so much chaos that Yuan lost track of Betsy. Everyone ended up getting slaughtered aside from Yuan and an old professor (Ken Boyle), who instead found themselves tied up in the tomb. As punishment, Aquala covered the Professor with some goo that made his body explode with maggots and inflicted Yuan with a different curse that makes his veins start to explode. Yuan managed to untie himself and run off into the jungle, where Betsy found him, extracted a "charm" from her breast and fed it to him. But there's a catch: The charm only works for one year.

With that year now up, Yuan finds himself yet again having random blood ruptures. They occur once every 24 hours and, as per the curse, the seventh vessel to pop is going to be the heart. Wei sends him to Thailand and tells him he'll meet him there soon. When he arrives, that awful budding reporter Tsai-Hung is there waiting for him. She turns out to be Wei's spoiled cousin and the daughter of a rich tycoon with an unlimited gold card so she can basically do as she pleases. Tsai-Hung, Yuan and Heh Lung, later also joined by Wei and his assistant Su (Sibelle Hu), then team up to both try to reverse Yuan's curse and put a stop to Aquala, whose latest scheme involves kidnapping a hundred children from a neighboring farming village and feeding them through a stone trash compactor to crush their bodies to a pulp so he has enough blood for a certain spell!

If you're looking for over-the-top and nearly non-stop gore, brainless action, stunts, martial arts, monsters and a surprise around every corner, you probably won't do much better than this. There's a possession, a play on the famous Indiana Jones boulder scene, people getting yanked all over the place with wires as they're kicked, shot, hacked, blown up with grenades, shot with arrows and smashed with a jeep, sword fighting, a head ripped off, a boiling blood bath, nudity, witchcraft, booby traps, spells requiring black dog blood and pregnant cow placenta, a face ripped off, a head stomped in, a full-body explosion caused by a rocket launcher, an Alien-inspired monster and a gigantic statue with a swastika on its forehead protected by spikes and kung fu fighting Buddhist monk ghosts. It's like they literally jammed everything they could possibly think of into this one film... and it's all pretty glorious to see!

This Paragon / Golden Harvest production was based on a popular series of Dr. Yuen adventure / fantasy novels by Ni Kuang, but also brought in the Wei character from another sci-fi series titled Wisely by the same author. The Wisely / Wei / Wesley character turned up in numerous other Hong Kong films and was the central character of a Singapore TV series. Ni also appears here briefly in the cute opening sequence as Dr. Yi, who's surrounded by Miss Asia beauty queens and asks our heroes to recount their story. There are a lot of cameos, including Kara Hui as a policewoman and Jing Wong and Yuen Chor during a pool party scene.

The director (aka Nai-Choi Lam or Simon Lam) started out as a cinematographer for Shaw Brothers before branching out to direct. I've only seen three of his films thus far - the other two being Her Vengeance (1988) and Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1992) - and they're all really good.

Seventh Curse was very well-distributed internationally as far as HK films go and I found official home video releases for the UK, France, the US (through Tai Seng), Thailand, Japan, Germany and other countries. Depending on which of the versions you watch, you could get a different ending (there are apparently three).

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