Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Tale from the East – review

dvdDirector: Manfred Wong

Release date: 1990

Contains spoilers

This film begins with a voice over telling us all about the unification of China and the attempt to make pills that granted immortality. It is mostly confusing to be honest except that we need to know that there was a pearl, which was one of these pills, and it was stolen.

After this we see what might have been two ropey looking demons in a car except they were genuinely two people in rubber masks, Chu Tai-Lit (Billy Lau) and his sister Kot-Yee (Joey Wang, who was in the fantastic A Chinese Ghost Story). They are heading to a Barbeque picnic – that it appears they have charged other youths to go to.

little glowing princessThat night there is a certain alignment of planets – that occurs every 200 years – and as the alignment occurs the rains begin. The BBQ moves from being a series of over the top posturing and reaction shots, to all the kids legging it. Kot-Yee and Tai-Lit get to their car but it breaks down and the soft-top springs open. Kot-Yee goes to a nearby house to use the phone as Tai-Lit tried to fix the car. We see a little glowing girl emerge from the Earth.

all muddyWe also see a warrior, Huang Zhin (David Wu), appear who loses his sword when lightening strikes it. Kot-Yee tries to use the phone but is rebuffed by an irate butler who is trying to have some rumpy pumpy with the maid whilst he awaits the arrival of some electricians (the power is off in the house). Kot-Yee sneaks into the house to use the phone but has to hide when it rings. She sees the little girl and leaves the house when the coast is clear. Back at the car Tai-Lit is under the car when Zhin walks by. However, Tai-Lit notices a piece of gold on the floor (fallen from Zhin’s armour) and then another, he follows a trail of them until he reaches the muddy Zhin. He and Kot-Yee fight Zhin, whom they beieve to be a ghost until a fall in water cleans the mud away. Zhin, however, is knocked out and so they take him home.

head in a fridgeWe see a creature tracking through the woods looking for the little girl. He is our vampire and is a monstrous warrior monk called the Blood Demon. At the house two electricians arrive (Eric Kot and Jan Lamb) and start trying to fix the electrics whilst the Blood Demon attacks. He manages to kill the butler and maid, cutting the butlers head off and leaving it in the fridge whilst he drinks the man’s blood from the open stump of neck.

the blood demonEventually the electricians escape and head back to base – unaware at the time that the little girl has hitched a ride with them. So what is going on? Two hundred years before a corrupt Prince took control of China. He sent Blood Demon after the Queen (also Joey Wang) and the little princess in order that he might steal the jade heirloom that has the pearl in its centre. The Queen died but Zhin (who was a royal guard) and the princess vanished when the planets aligned. The next alignment has brought them back and the Blood Demon still hunts for the pearl.

spewing pink bloodHowever all is not good, not only are they hunted but they are also dying as their blood is so old (and thus it has turned pink rather than red) it cannot sustain their lives. Indeed they haemorrhage the pink blood at one point and seem as though they are to immediately expire. They are revived at that time by blood transfusions but that is not a solution that can last them. They actually are not aware of the pearl and its power at first.

Luckily Mr Wesley (Kuang Ni) is on hand to work out what is going on – though it seems to be through novels and Video Discs of Back to the Future. This is not the only western film reference as the theme to the Untouchables and Ghostbusters are used in the film's soundtrack also. It is through Wesley that they are able to use the pearl to cure Zhin when he is left injured.

the pearl swordThey have, of course, to destroy Blood Demon and it seems, at first, it is to be through a magic sword – Zhin’s retrieved sword with the pearl attached. Actually it ends up being death through electricity – both from a power cable and lightning channelled through the sword.

The film is okay but it is far from the greatest Hong Kong offering. It seems a little cheap, the effects are corny and the story muddled. Fans of Hong Kong cinema will enjoy looking out for stars such as Amy Yip as herself in fleeting cameos but all told this is a little too filled with histrionics and more than a little saccharine at the end. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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