Sunday, June 13, 2021

Biao ge dao (1987)

... aka: 表哥到
... aka: Biu go dou
... aka: Cousin Arrives
... aka: My Cousin the Ghost

Directed by:
Ma Wu

Te-Ta Wu aka Cousin Big (Richard Ng) runs a restaurant in the Chinatown district of London and has been cutting costs by serving unsuspecting customers pigeon under the guise of it being "roast spring chicken." Well, I guess at least it's not cat. Cousin Big has imported in his lazy, hot-tempered, cleaver-wielding cousin Mako (director Ma) to be head chef but the two are constantly butting heads. During an argument, a couple of immigration officers overhear Wu revealing that Mako is in the country illegally. They apprehend him and he's expelled by the government and forced to fly back to Hong Kong. The luckless Mako then goes to work as a cook for a large banquet hall, where he discovers the woman he thought was his girlfriend has dumped him to marry another guy (Tien Ching). Mako's four younger male cousins; Chou Hsiao Yung (Kenny Bee), Q (Hoi Mang), Pao (Tai-Bo) and, uh, "Fat Maid" (Chi-Kit Li), also work there as waiters and all of them live together in an inherited home, along with an older, mysterious female boarder named Rose Wang (Wan-Si Wong), who claims to work as a "beautician in a funeral parlor" and has paid up rent for six months yet is hardly ever there.

The cousins, who all get fired from their jobs after a mix-up involving rat poison, receive a letter in the mail from Cousin Big. He's finishing up business in the UK and is going to be moving back to Hong Kong. He hopes to move in with them and will be bringing all of the money he's saved up to invest in the family. Before he arrives, the young cousins attempt to evict Rose, but she's not going away so easily. After all, she's actually a ghost and has unfinished business to attend to. Back in her human existence, she was a spinster bridesmaid on her way to a wedding when she, bride-to-be cousin Gi (So Yip) and the groom were all killed in a car crash.

Seeing how Rose was the bridesmaid but never the bride, she's never been able to experience love, something she would like to do before shuffling off to the afterlife. When she and Cousin Big meet it's love at first sight, but can a ghost and a moral actually be together? Well, that issue is swiftly taken care of via a convenient plot twist that reveals that Cousin Big too is dead (he drowned in the Thames River back in England) and is himself a green-blooded ghost. The difference is that he doesn't yet realize it and is in some kind of transitional limbo state between the living and the dead. When the other cousins find out what Cousin Big truly is, they're advised to not let him find out or else he'll never be able to be reincarnated into another body.

The jealous ghost of Gi turns up and she too is lookin' for some lovin', though if she doesn't find it soon she'll have to spend the rest of eternity alone. Not wanting a human mate, she sets her sights on Q, bewitches him and tries to make him commit suicide in a variety of ways, including hanging himself from a ceiling fan, bashing his head against the wall repeatedly and electrocuting himself. Can his friends save him? Will Rose and Cousin Big be able to live together in wed-dead bliss?

While not badly budgeted or produced, this cliché-ridden, poorly-structured and forgettable HK ghost comedy still never rises above the average. As per usual, it tries to have a grounding point of sorts in the more mature older characters (Ma Wu running around with a cleaver acting crazed notwithstanding) while the younger ones behave like annoying buffoons and Three Stooges rejects slapping each other upside the head the rest of the time. This one isn't very funny, is very light on horror content and has no notable make-up effects or stunt work (just lots of ghosts gliding around and floating), but does feature some mediocre visual sfx like ghosts pulling their heads off. The best bit is a clever effect when a bicyclist in a movie starts to ride right off the TV screen.

Aside from an amusing choreographed window cleaning routine, most of the other gags are puerile and include someone eating a piece of iron-charred human flesh, putting stinky underwear in someone's face, pulling a thermometer out of a babies ass and sticking it in a mouth, one of the cousins offering his ass up to his horny elder to keep him from being seduced by a female ghost, a guy trying to sexually assault an unconscious female and a fight over an inflatable sex doll. There's also a long comic scene where Gi "dances" with Q and throws him around a room while the Ghostbusters theme song plays. The ghost and afterlife rules this keeps throwing out there are hard to keep tabs on and seem as if they just made them all up as they went along.

Clips from the obviously far superior horror-comedy MR. VAMPIRE are seen on a TV screen where there's also an uncredited cameo from Pauline Siu-Fung Wong. Other small roles are played by James Tien (asshole restaurant manager), Teddy Kip (a chef), Billy Ching (waiter) and veteran character actors Gwa-Pau Sai (who appeared in well over 800 films made between 1946 and 1995!) and Mang-Ha Ching as Cousin Big's potential in-laws. It was produced by Sammo Hung.

Rather surprisingly, this Bo Ho Films Co. / Golden Harvest release was a box office hit in Hong Kong and managed to rake in more money than most other films of this type. There was a VHS release through Ocean Shores and a 1999 DVD release through Mega Star, which comes with English subtitles. Definitely not priority viewing.

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