The Fox Lover (Review)

The Fox Lover

aka 白狐 aka Arctic Fox
Fox Lover
Written by ???
Directed by Niu Chao-Yang

Fox Lover
Another effects-laden Mainland China film about fairy spirits, these have been all been slogs, and I was expecting another mediocre effort. The shocking thing is The Fox Lover is actually good! The freedom of not being a direct copy of one of the classic 80s/90s Hong Kong films has given it some freedom to still be loyal to the tone of the fox spirit movies, but to be able to do its own thing. The other key to success was it isn’t as big budget effects as it is advertising. There are a few scenes, but most of the effects are more practical, and the lack of money means they need to rely on things like the story and acting.

The Fox Lover is based on one of the tales in Pu Songling’s Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio/Liaozhai Zhiyi, the origin for a huge chunk of supernatural ghost lover stories in Chinese film – such as Erotic Ghost Story, Painted Skin, A Touch of Zen, and A Chinese Ghost Story.
Fox Lover
I think things went a bit too far overboard as far as female characters getting a raw deal is concerned. But then practically every character has something bad happen to them. It’s even a disclaimer in the film itself – romances with fox spirits end in tragedy. The only reason the mother fox is offering her daughter to a human is from a sense of repayment for saving her life long ago. It also helps Lord Wang out, as his son Wang Yuen Feng’s mental condition will keep him from finding a human bride who would want to be with him (I don’t think that’s entirely true, as the Wang family has money and there would be many poorer families that would give multiple daughters. But I guess that’s not as good of a choice socially has a hot fox bride!)
Fox Lover
Through a series of problems, the white fox family is drawn into battle with Sea Bat King, who murders Lord Wang as revenge for protecting his village from the Sea Bats. Madam Yu vows to avenge her friend’s death, but the Sea Bats are too powerful to fight without causing danger to her entire family.
Fox Lover

Willow (Gillian Chung Yan-Tung) – Called “crazy” by the other fox sisters, Willow is a strong-willed spirit who delights in causing mischief. Her hobby is ripping up kites. Willow’s color theme is subtle turquoise with touches of lavender and green. One of her closest friends is Rattan the tree. Does not initially think that Wang Yeun Feng is the man that she should make body contacts in cloud and rain with.
Wang Yuen Feng (Julian Cheung Chi-Lam) – The adopted son of the magistrate of Cangcheng, Lord Wang (Wang Yuen Feng was a foundling, and came with sword that no one can unsheathe) Wang Yuen Feng has been afflicted with an illness that turned him into an idiot. Has magic powers that need to be unlocked, and can only be unlocked by making love to a woman he loves.
Madam Yu (Kara Hui Ying-Hung) – White Fox Fairy Spirit who lives in Fox Fairy Valley with her daughters. As she was saved by Lord Wang 40 years ago, she offers to betroth one of her daughters to Lord Wang’s son. Has the Power of 9 Tail, though transfers it to her daughter Willow.
Ling (Abby Yin Guo-Er) – A Human girl adopted by Madam Yu, her color scheme is green and she is usually serving tea to the other girls.
Sea Bat King (Gao Hu) – Lord of Sea Bat Island and leader of a gang of blood drinking demons call Sea Bats. They are like vampires, with long claws on all fingers. Most are formless and black clothed, except adviser Wisdom Spirit. Sea Bat King can morph into a more demonic form that looks straight out of early 1990s practical makeup effects. Sea Bat King hates Lord Wang, who prevented him from feeding on the inhabitants of his town. His vengeance sets into motion a war between the Sea Bats and the Fox Spirit family.
Ji Yao (Guo Ming-Xiang) – A cousin of Wang who becomes the de facto head of the Wang family after Lord Wang is kidnapped and murdered. Wants a fox fairy spirit of his own. He starts out a coward, but finds bravery.

Fox Lover

I’ll get those Hobbits!

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Erotic Ghost Story (Review)

Erotic Ghost Story

aka Liao zhai yan tan

Directed by Ngai Kai Lam
Written by Chang Kwan

Erotic Ghost Story is a classic Hong Kong Cat III film, it is the second most popular with only Sex and Zen being a greater influence to Cat III erotic films. Part of what made Sex and Zen so classic was previewed here, including one of the stars.

The film has its origins as a tale from Liaozhai Zhiyi aka Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio aka Strange Tales of Liaozhai, written by Pu Songling (1640-1715) during the early Qing Dynasty. This is a collection of 431 stories written in classical Chinese (not the usual form for the time.) The earliest existing printed version dates to 1766, but it may have been published earlier. Pu Songling was a former scholar himself, which may explain why a scholar becomes the central figure of some many of his tales. Stories from Liao zhai Zhiyi have inspired countless Chinese films and television shows. Painted Skin, Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story, and several TV shows with fox spirits. You can read many of the translated tales here. Many stories are short, as what was important was the emotional response, not the details.

The three main characters are fox spirits who are trying to become human. This can be accomplished by meditation and prayer, but takes hundreds of years. If they deviate from their path, they will revert back into animals.

Erotic Ghost Story‘s Chinese title is Liao zhai yan tan, which betrays its origin as coming from the Liao Zhai stories. It is a highly eroticized version of the tales, and many other movies and shows reference the work by having Liao zhai or liu chai or liu jai in their Chinese titles. The Witches of Eastwick is largely listed as another inspiration of Erotic Ghost Story, and it got another lucky strike as A Chinese Ghost Story was released the same year. A Chinese Ghost Story had made ghost lover stories incredibly popular. Add that to the fact that Erotic Ghost Story is very well made despite its role as an exploitation film, and you have a recipe for success that made Erotic Ghost Story a classic film that has several sequels and imitators. Maybe we will get to a few of them someday.

Another important factor in the success of Erotic Ghost Story was the presence of Amy Yip Ji-Mei. Amy Yip (aka The Yipster) was at one point the most popular sex symbol in Hong Kong cinema, and pretty much any book you read on Hong Kong cinema written from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s will have at least one chapter dedicated to her. Some authors were disturbingly obsessed with her, but creepy movie books is a subject for another article. She was propelled to stardom with this film, and to super-stardom after Sex and Zen. Amy Yip’s claim to fame was her gigantic rack, and her ability to keep from showing the essential elements of said rack. This was called her “Yip tease”. She revealed things only once, in Sex and Zen, and this was rumored to be because one of the producers was a triad gangster who threatened her. Like most Chinese actresses, she retired and dropped off the face of the Earth after a few years. So let’s meet her and the rest of the cast:

Hua-Hua (Amy Yip Ji-Mei) – Her name is Hua-Hua in subtitles, but Fa-Fa is what is spoken in the Cantonese version. I will be using the subtitle names for everyone, which I believe is derived from the Mandarin names. Oh, well. Played by Amy Yip, Hua-Hua is the middle sister, and her color of choice is purple.
Pai So-So (Man Siu) – So-So is the average one. Okay, now we go the obvious joke out of the way, let’s then reveal that So-So is the oldest sister. She helps guide her two younger sisters in their quest to evolve from fox spirits to human beings. At age 50, foxes can choose to become human or spirits. I bet you didn’t know that. Well, Chinese mythology knows it, so you better buy the Cliff Notes! Her color of choice is pink.
Fei-Fei (Kudo Hitomi) – The youngest of the three sisters and the most easily given to temptation. Sister number three is also the most exposed of the three. Kudo Hitomi seemed to vanish after this role, but I suspect she was a Japanese AV star that I just can’t find any information on because everything focuses on newer actresses. Her color of choice is Lime Green.
Scholar Wu Ming (Tan Lap-Man) – A shy scholar who is also a ladies man and lothario. He gets chased by bandits at one point, and has a terrible, terrible secret….
Wutung (Tan Lap-Man) – This demon is the true form of Wu Ming. Let that be a less to you: All scholars are secretly demonic monsters. The next time you see a scholar beat him upside the head with his books. Wutung is the God of Carnal Desire. He has no clan as far as I know.
Hsuan Kuei (Lam Chung) – A taoist priest who recognize the girls for what they are, and helps them defeat wutung. Lam Chung usually plays sleazy characters in films, so this turn as a Taoist priest is a departure. He will fill the role of Lam Ching Ying for this film.

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