... aka: All in Dim Cold Night
... aka: All in the Dim Cold Night
... aka: Autumn Light, Night Rain
... aka: Tragedy of a Ghost
... aka: Tragedy of Ghost
Widowed landowner Lord Chao (Yang Yueh) becomes infatuated with sheltered, naive country girl Tsio-O (Meng Chin). In order to finagle his way into her life, he hires her father (also a widower) as a rent collector and uses his frequent absence from the home to make his move. After Tsio-O repeatedly rejects his gifts / sexual propositions, Chao gives her an offer too good to pass up: He'll marry her if she'll just have sex with him. After all, he says, she has to marry someone anyway so she may as well wed a well-off lord, right? Tsio-O finally relents to the lord's sexual demands and waits patiently for him to follow through on his promise. Soon after, chatty matchmaker Miss Tsaw (Hsing-Chih Kao) comes to the lord's home with news that the fiance of Shew-Yin (Ling-Chi Chin), an extremely wealthy lord's daughter, has been killed and her father has agreed to let him marry her. Seeing how Shew-Yin comes from so much money and Lord Chao has recently been depleting his own wealth, he agrees to the union. Only there's a complication... he's gotten Tsio-O pregnant.
Managing to conceal her pregnancy for six months, Tsio-O finally has to come clean due to her weight gain. Her father (Chung-Lien Chou) reacts to the news by beating her until she reveals who knocked her up. When he goes to confront Lord Chao, he's met with denial that they were ever even together. He's accused of being a liar and loses his job. Later that winter, Tsio-O gives birth alone in her room, passes out and awakens to find her baby gone. While she was out, her father had bundled it up, taken it outside and left it in the woods to die. Tsio-O flees into the forest and finds it, then goes to the lord's home to ask him to have mercy on their child. He refuses to even see her and orders his men to slam the door in her face. She ends up freezing to death on his doorstep. As for the baby, Chao orders his right hand man Chao Chung (Yu Wang) to "throw him out."
With rumors quickly spreading around the village about what's taken place, the matchmaker and Lord Luu (Yeh Tien) decide to fast track the wedding. The bride is delivered and the marriage is consummated. However, it's not going to be happily ever after for Lord Chao, his new wife and some in his inner circle when Tsio-O's "very revengeous ghost" returns. A puddle of blood keeps appearing right where Tsio-O died, laughter and crying are heard outside the home and other strange things occur. The ghost tricks the matchmaker into eating centipedes before dropping a boulder on her and then pays Lord Chao a visit on his honeymoon night demanding to know where their child is. Consulting a monk (Kuo Chun Chen) leads Chao to prayer and fortifying his home with spell paper.
After her horrifying honeymoon, Shew-Yin returns to her father and refuses to go back to the home, giving Tsio-O's ghost the opportunity to impersonate her to gain access and trick Chao into bed with her corpse. The body is then placed in a casket, taken to a temple and sealed with sacred paper, but she still manages to get out when a buffoon accidentally sets the paper on fire. She returns to the lord's home yet again, where the monk attempts to exorcise her spirit before she can carry out her plans to kill Chao and find the burial location of her baby.
From a technical standpoint, this is well done in regards to the sets, costumes, period detail and overall atmosphere. Being Taiwanese, I wasn't really expecting this to match the quality of similar traditional ghost tales from Japan and Hong Kong, but this was a respectable enough production. There's a strong performance from lead actress Chin, a few fun special effects (especially a bit where the ghost's top half detaches and flies around) and some decent camerawork following the floating spirit around. The first 40 minutes provide a serious, fairly compelling dramatic set-up to the supernatural revenge scenes. All of that makes the second half, which deteriorates into a poorly-paced mess of uncertain mood (the introduction of two "funny" characters throw the tone completely off), sloppy jump cuts and underwhelming horror scenes, all the more disappointing.
The ghost's "revenge" is also incredibly unsatisfying. Tsio-O is poised to take out a lot of people who really deserve it, but ends up only killing two and driving a third (who didn't even have anything to do with what happened to her) to suicide. The guards who push her and her baby out into the cold to die aren't even touched and one is later used for lightweight comic relief! The man who buries her baby per the Lord's orders - who may have even buried it alive - is not only left unscathed but positioned to be the film's conscience! Tsio-O's father beats her, threatens to kill her, tries to kill her baby and seems more bothered by her being pregnant out of wedlock than the aftermath or her death. Nothing happens to him either and he's last seen in pleasant spirits relaying helpful information to the very people responsible for his daughter's death. I see little point in even making a film like this and then refusing to give these assholes their just desserts.
Never officially released in the U.S., but there's an OK quality widescreen print available in Mandarin with embedded English and Cantonese subtitles. FLK Cinema offers that same version on DVD under the title Tragedy of a Ghost.