(Mang Gwai Chai Goon)
Hong Kong. 1987.
Director – Jeffrey Lau, Screenplay – Jeffrey Lau & Wong Kar-Wai, Photography – Peter Ngor, Music – Alistair Monteith-Hodge & Anders G. Nelsson, Art Direction – Louise Kwong & Raymond Lee. Production Company – Golden Harvest.
Ricky Hui (Man Chiu), Jacky Cheung (Macky Kim), Chan Ga-Chai (Fanny Ho), Gung Wu (Superintendent Shun), Billy Lau (Ah Wong), Rico Chu (General Issei), Fat Chung (Chung Fat Pak), Yin Szema (Millie), Lee Lee Lau (Female Vampire), Ging-Man Fung (Uncle Wah), Kam-Bo Wong (Monk Wai Chin)
Police superintendent Shun receives a visit from a former officer now turned Buddhist monk who warns against letting a woman in pink into the station. The petty thief Ah Wong is arrested by detectives Macky Kim and Man Chiu. In the cells, Ah Wong is visited by a vampire woman in pink who takes him to meet the ghosts of the Japanese soldiers who inhabited the station during World War II. The Japanese General Issei turns Ah Wong into a vampire. Ah Wong rampages through the station before Macky and Man Chiu accidentally expose him to sunlight, reducing him into dust. They are then ordered by their new superior Fanny Ho to bring Ah Wong in. With Ah Wong reduced to dust, they decide the only way of doing so is to convince her of the reality of the vampires.
Hong Kong cinema between the early 1980s and late 1990s contained an unparalleled outpouring of fantastic cinema. (See Hong Kong Cinema). Tsui Hark didn’t create Wu Xia Cinema but popularised it with the completely nutty Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983). This was followed not long after by the hits of Mr Vampire (1985) and A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), which built on this to create a unique blend of martial arts, Chinese supernatural and comedy in ways that boggle the minds of Westerners. Mr Vampire and in particular its sequels played everything with a greater comedy emphasis.
The Haunted Cop Shop draws much influence from Mr Vampire. For all its title, there is little to do with any haunted police stations – there are a few scenes set in a police station at the start and some ghosts of Japanese soldiers who occupied the building during WWII. Mostly, the film concerns cops battling and engaged in comic shenanigans with vampires. It should be noted that rather than the jiangshi, the traditional Chinese hopping vampires of the Mr Vampire series, this goes with standard Westernised vampires with fangs, drinking blood and in red and black capes. As such, Rico Chu cuts an impressive presence as the Japanese vampire general.
Jeffrey Lau directs with all the madcap slapstick energy of these films (the form of Hong Kong comedy known as mo lei tau). It is a very frenetic and silly film filled with sequences racing around the police station with the cops pretending to be ghosts to scare Billy Lau; Ricky Hui having to venture into the morgue as the vampire girl returns to life; Jacky Cheung trapped in a coffin with a vampire. The slapstick becomes positively manic during an exhaustingly paced sequence where the three cops turn up at a house and encounter a vampire hunter character (Fat Chun) and engage in a fast-paced fight that wrecks half the house. There’s even a slapstick sequence with the two detectives at one point trying to fool supervisor Can Ga-Chai into eating a plate of cooked dog meat.
The major problem in all of this is that the film lacks anything that can be considered a plot – it is just frenetically madcap happenings where the characters move from one location to another. The film introduces the ghosts of Japanese prisoners and then forgets all about them and then we just suddenly have a vampire appear inside the prison. Typically the film introduces Fat Chun’s vampire hunter in mid film, has him take on vampires and then equally abruptly forgets all about him as the scene moves on where you cannot help but think that such a character might have made a huge difference to the outcome of the action.
The film features Cantonese pop singer Jacky Cheung who also had a reasonable acting career throughout the 1980s and 90s. Ricky Hui, who has to count as maybe the ugliest lead in any Hong Kong film, was a popular star of the era and had appeared in a string of comedies along with his two brothers – he had also appeared in Mr Vampire. Billy Lau who plays the vampirisied perp who is reduced to ash was also a mainstay of the Mr Vampire series. The film is co-written by Wong Kar-wai who became a celebrated director with films such as In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004).
The Haunted Cop Shop II (1988) was a sequel featuring return performances from Ricky Hui, Jacky Cheung and Billy Lau and with Jeffrey Lau returning as director.
Jeffrey Lau’s other genre films include:- the true-life serial killer film The Hong Kong Butcher (1985); the horror comedy Thunder Cops (1987); Mortuary Blues (1990) also featuring cops versus monsters; All For the Winner (1990) and All For the Winner 2/The Top Bet (1991), gambling comedies about people with clairvoyant abilities; the martial arts film The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993); the two-part adaptation of Journey to the West, A Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Pandora’s Box (1994) and A Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella (1995); the Chow Yun Fat fantasy comedy Treasure Hunt (1994); the ghost comedy Out of the Dark (1995); the historical fantasy Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002); Second Time Around (2002), another gambling fantasy; the martial arts fantasy A Chinese Tall Story (2005); the comedy Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg (2009); the romantic comedy The Fantastic Water Babes (2010); the time travel/Wu Xia film Just Another Pandora’s Box (2010); East Meets West (2011), a comedy wherein Eastern deities become superheroes; A Chinese Odyssey Part 3 (2016); and Kung Fu League (2018) in which legendary martial arts heroes are summoned to aid a nerd.
Trailer here (no subs)