(Sinnui Yauman III: Do Do Do)
Hong Kong. 1991.
Director – Ching Siu-Tung, Screenplay – Roy Szeto & Tsui Hark, Producer – Tsui Hark , Photography – Moon-Tong Lau, Music – Romeo Oraz & James Wong, Art Direction – James Leung. Production Company – Golden Princess Film Production Ltd.
Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Fong), Joey Wong (Lotus), Lau Shan (The Master), Jackie Cheung (Yin), Nina Li Chi (Butterfly)
After a hundred years, a Buddhist master and his disciple Fong go to the Orchid Temple with a gold statue of the Buddha to exorcise the tree demon. The tree demon sends the mischievous Lotus to seduce and distract Fong. However, Lotus and Fong end up falling for one another. Fong then has to hide and protect her from his master’s exorcism rituals and she to protect him from the wrath of the tree demon.
This was the second sequel to A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), the immensely popular film that carried the Wu Xia cycle to cult popularity in the West. It was followed by the likable A Chinese Ghost Story II (1990). As with the preceding two entries, A Chinese Ghost Story III brings back director Ching Siu-Tung and producer Tsui Hark, as well as the first film’s heroine Joey Wong. Producer Tsui Hark later oversaw the animated A Chinese Ghost Story: A Tsui Hark Animation (1997), while A Chinese Ghost Story (2011) was a poor remake of the original.
The plot never strays too closely from the formula of the first film – featuring a bumblingly naive male hero and an aging Buddhist master, with the young hero falling in love with a woman whom he does not realize for a considerable part of the film is a ghost. The plot again features the ghost heroine having to betray the demon master who holds her in its thrall for the sake of her human love and a climactic effort to save her soul by finding her ashes. A number of scenes have even been borrowed wholesale from the original – the attacks by the demon’s ghost tongue; a scene with the heroine hiding the hero between her legs, which is modelled after the scene in the first film where the heroine hides the hero under the water in her bath.
Where A Chinese Ghost Story III falls down surprisingly enough is in the first film’s way-out trademark fantasy scenes with people bouncing off trees and flying through the air in combat. These barely appear with the exception of a couple of sequences near the end. When the film does tend to rely on such fantastic scenes with flying carpet escapes and mystical suits of armour, the CGI effects used prove disappointing.
Where A Chinese Ghost Story III does work is in the enormous degree of slapstick energy that Ching Siu-Tung gives it. The scenes with the ghost heroine trying to seduce the monk hero and get his clothes off, inventing snake bites for him to suck, the search for the lost Golden Buddha that keeps driving her away and giving her headaches, and especially the twists with the hero trying to protect comrade-in-arms Jackie Cheung from the ghost heroine and her sister, are all conducted with an enormous degree of the slapstick dexterity that Hong Kong cinema specialises in.