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The Enchanting Shadow

Hong Kong 1960
produced by
Zhou Duwen, Run Run Shaw (executive) for Shaw Brothers
directed by Li Han Hsiang
starring Betty Loh Ti, Zhao Lei, Yang Chih-Ching, Tang Rhoqing, Su Hsiang, Li Kun, Feng Yi, Ho Li Jen, Li Kuo Hua, Lu Chi, Wang Yue-Ting
screenplay by Wang Yue-Ting, based on a story by Pu Songling, music by Chi Hsiang Tang, Yao Min

Chinese Ghost Story

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Because there are no more rooms in town, little rent collector Ning (Zhao Lei) decides to spend the night at an abandoned temple that's supposed to be haunted and from where nobody has returned - allegedly. He is not a superstitious person though, and the first person he meets at the temple, swordsman Yan (Yang Chih-Hing), who has been staying at the temple for weeks without being harmed, only seems to reaffirm him. Then he meets a lovely girl Xiaoqian (Betty Loh Ti) in another wing of the temple, and before he knows it, the two have fallen in love and he has written a poem onto a picture she has painted. Sure, her granny (Tang Rhoqing) chases him away to guard her granddaughter's innocence, but there's nothing particularly weird about that, right?

Ning only starts second-guessing the events of the night before when he finds Xiaoqian's picture at a shop in town, and the shopkeeper tells him he has had it for ten years, was given it by a girl who later died for safekeeping - but he has no explanation how Ning's poem got onto the painting.

That night, some more travellers stay at the temple, but they all turn up dead, and Xiaoqian shows up in Ning's room to warn him that her granny wants to kill him later on - and he is saved only by swordsman Yan.

Ning makes some investigations about Xianqian and finds out that she really has died 10 years ago, and now acts as bait for granny, a carnivorous demon, and the only way to save her would be to bury her in her native soil - so Ning searches, finds and unearths her skeleton to bring it back to her hometown ... but he soon has to realize he is pursued by granny every step along the way, and when he has almost made it, she blocks his way and prepares to kill him ... but Yan interferes again, and he fights granny until daybreak, when she is weakened enough for him to kill her and save the day ...

 

Though I'm not one who likes to compare films to other, more recent films in my reviews, I feel compelled to do so here anyways, so here goes: The Enchanting Shadow is of course an earlier version of the later, more famous A Chinese Ghost Story - but while the later film is a triumph of kinetic cinema, The Enchanting Shadow is much more on the stagey side and is rather lacking in action. And in diret comparison, I have to admit A Chinese Ghost Story is the more entertaining, more imaginative and ultimately better film.

That's not to say The Enchanting Shadow is pure garbage though, it's just more of a traditional, studio-bound period romance with ghost story elements thrown into the mix - definitely nothing to set the world on fire, granted, but ok genre entertainment if you're into that sort of thing.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD