Original Hong Kong film poster
|Cantonese||Goeng1 Si1 Sin1 Sang1|
|Directed by||Ricky Lau|
|Produced by||Sammo Hung|
|Written by||Sze-to Cheuk-hon
|Music by||Anders Nelsson
The Melody Bank
|Edited by||Peter Cheung|
|Bo Ho Films Co., Ltd.
Paragon Films Ltd.
|Distributed by||Golden Harvest|
|Running time||96 minutes|
Mr. Vampire is a 1985 Hong Kong comedy horror film directed by Ricky Lau in his directorial debut, and also produced by Sammo Hung. The film's box office success led to the creation of a Mr. Vampire franchise, with the release of four sequels directed by Ricky Lau from 1986 to 1992, and subsequent similarly themed films with different directors released between 1987 and 1991. The vampire of the film is based on the jiangshi, the hopping corpses of Chinese folklore. The film was released under the Chinese title 暫時停止呼吸 (literally: Hold Your Breath for a Moment) in Taiwan. The film was the breakthrough success of the jiangshi genre, a trend popular in Hong Kong during the 1980s, and established many of the genre's recognisable tropes.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Accolades
- 5 Box office
- 6 Distribution rights and classification
- 7 Critical reception
- 8 Spin off media
- 9 Screenings
- 10 Home media
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Mr. Kau is a Taoist priest who performs magic that maintains control over spirits and irrepressible vampires. Together with his inept students, Man Choi and Chau-Sang, he resides in a large house protected from the spiritual world with talismans and amulets.
One day, he accepts an assignment from a wealthy businessman, Yam, to remove Yam's deceased father's grave and rebury it, with the hopes that doing so will bring more prosperity to the Yam family. Unfortunately, upon opening the coffin, Kau notices the body is still intact, even though it's been years since he died. Realizing that it is a vampire, Kau orders it to be moved to his house for further study and to be subject to spells that will prevent it from awakening. Kau deduces that Yam's father had died angry, and his last breath became stuck in his body for years, causing it to keep him "alive" and reducing it to a mindless state.
Once in the house, Choi and Sang cover the coffin with enchanted ink to keep the vampire from escaping. However, they accidentely skip the bottom of the coffin, and the vampire breaks out two nights later and escapes the house, heading straight for Yam's home. It savagely kills Yam and goes into hiding when before morning.
Wai, an incompetent police inspector who is smitten with Yam's daughter Ting, blames Kau for murdering Yam and arrests him. Kau is imprisoned in the local jailhouse and Yam's body is placed in a makeshift morgue nearby. Choi stays at Yam's house to protect Ting. Sang breaks in to free his master, only to witness Yam reawakening as a vampire. Kau and Sang engage it in battle and kills it. Wai realises his mistake in framing Kau earlier and accepts the fact that another vampire is on the loose.
The vampire again invades Yam's house, forcing Choi and Ting to hide. Kau and Sang arrive in time to wound it in battle and forcing it to flee, but not before it attacks and critically wounds Choi. Kau invites Ting to stay at his house for safety. The next morning, after examining Choi's wounds, Kau claims he too may become a vampire. He orders Sang to buy glutinous rice to feed to Choi, claiming it may decrease the vampire's venom in Choi's body and bring him back to his normal state. While shopping for the rice, however, Sang fails to notice that the shady merchant deliberately mixed different kinds of rice in the bag. While Sang rides home, he is lured by a mysterious woman into her home. He soon deduces she is a spirit, but she uses her supernatural power to seduce him. They sleep together for the night.
When Sang arrives back at Kau's house, the priest is quick to notice his student's predicament. That night, he silently follows Sang to the spirit's house. The spirit transforms into a hideous ghoul and attempts to kill Kau, but fails at the hands of his talismans. She bewitches Sang to turn on his master, but after a brief fight, Kau breaks the spell and she escapes.
The next night, Kau ties Sang to a chair and prepares to capture and eliminate the spirit. Sure enough, she arrives at their house and Kau chases her throughout. As Sang tries to free himself, Choi turns into a vampire and attacks him. Amidst the chaos, Kau restrains Choi and almost terminates the spirit, but stops when Sang begs him to let her go. Saddened she can no longer be with Sang, the spirit flies away.
Over the next few days, Kau restores Choi's health and turns him back to human. Wai brings in news that the vampire is now active again. When Kau leaves to investigate, the vampire, now in an almost demonic form, invades Kau's place. After pushing Choi off a balcony, it turns its attention to Ting and Wai, but Kau and Sang again divert its attention. Their combined efforts, however, are not enough to destroy it. Finally, Kau's fellow Taoist priest Four Eyes arrives on coincidence, and they all manage to destroy the vampire by burning it alive. The film ends comically as Four Eyes realises his own army of vampires (under his control) is caught in the fire as well.
- Lam Ching-ying as Master Kau (九叔), a unibrowed priest specialising in Taoist supernatural arts
- Ricky Hui as Man-choi (文才), Kau's student
- Chin Siu-ho as Chau-sang (秋生), Kau's student
- Moon Lee as Ting-ting (婷婷), Master Yam's daughter
- Huang Ha as Master Yam (任老爺), a rich man. He is apparently killed by the vampire but later rises from the dead to become like his late father.
- Anthony Chan as Priest Four Eyes (四目道長), Kau's friend. He uses magic to control "hopping" corpses and transport them to their hometowns for burial.
- Wong Siu-fung as Jade (董小玉), a female ghost who seduces Chau-sang
- Billy Lau as Wai (阿威), the cowardly police inspector. He is also Ting-ting's cousin.
- Yuen Biao as a "hopping" corpse
Director Ricky Lau wanted a fresh-faced girl whom people were unfamiliar with to play the role of Mr Yam's daughter so he avoided choosing a well-known actress. He spotted dancer Moon Lee at a performance and approached her and asked "Are you interested in acting as you'd fit into a part I have?"
Lam Ching-ying was recommend to the director by Sammo Hung to play the main role, the director had seen Ching-ying before on Prodigal Son which the director had worked on. The director noted in an interview that "He seems cold but actually he is with a good heart" that was why he was suitable for the role.
The director had still not settled the actress to play ghost's role, the role ended up going to Wong Siu-fung, who impressed Ricky Lau in her previous film 'Person at the end'. Chin Siu-ho was chosen because he knew Kung Fu and all about action scenes. The Director noted in an interview "he was serious and used no stuntman".
Writing and inspiration
According to the producer Sammo Hung, the idea for Mr vampire originated through childhood stories he heard from his mother who was also an actress. One of the major sources of inspiration for the film Mr. Vampire was from a collection of supernatural tales called Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Qing Dynasty writer Pu Songling. Mr. Vampire is based on a story of a resurrected corpse. The script was not written by Ricky Lau alone it was written by many script writers, who included Roy Szeto (Chak Han), Wong Ying and Barry Wong (Ping-Yiu). When the script was finished Eric Tsang review it Sammo Hung also reviewed it and gave Lau some ideas.
In an interview the director mentioned "Compared with nowadays the situation was different because now they often use less time to finish the script" In the original script, the ghost (Jade) was written to die during the film but during filming Lau decided to change the ending and keep her alive so that could it would be more romantic.
The director and writers used a cheap gimmick only once, when they made a man in poor quality gorilla suit chase the characters down a mountain.
Filming and locations
Filming lasted more than five months to almost half a year. While on the set the actors would sometimes crack jokes, and if director Ricky Lau liked them he would retain those scenes in the film. The love scene that contained no violence took two weeks to complete, in addition to a further three weeks of shooting in Taiwan.
The production team built a village that appeared in the opening and ending scenes of the film, while a few scenes were shot on a standing set near Taipei because they lacked a good studio set of a long street running into the distance, which could be done by CGI in more recent times. The scene in which a dead body was found was shot in Taiwan on a set that has stone arches. In that set a real street was constructed from stone, and has been reused for other films and television series. In Hong Kong most studios could not afford a standing set. It took one week in Taiwan to set up the sets mentioned above. The Golden Harvest studios were used as the set for the scene were Master Kau is in jail.
The scene were the body is being exhumed was filmed just out of the New Territories in Hong Kong. The background has been used in such movies as The Young Master and the end fight for The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Also filmed in the New Territories were the scene where the police go to find the vampire in the cave and the scene in which a body is being burnt.
Producer Sammo Hung visited the set less frequently to promote a relaxed atmosphere, as he was aware that his presence may make the cast and crew nervous. Hung took hands-off role on the film and entrusted Mr Vampire to protégé director Ricky Lau.
A real snake was used for the scene showing one being cut, and it was used to make snake soup later. This was because the production team was unable to afford a fake snake. This was also the same with the scene where a chicken's blood is needed and its throat is cut and a bowl held under it neck to collect the blood.
Mr. Vampire is set in the Early Republic, as can be seen from the five-coloured-star cap emblems on the "modern" uniforms, but the vampire's costume belonged to the previous dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, contrary to a commentator's notes. Oddly in one scene after Chau-sang has woke up Ting-ting had a white flower in her hair which signifies morning but it is night time in the film.
Action scenes in the movie were designed both by the director and the Chiny-Ying as he was also an action director. There wasn't much time for the director and actors to sleep. The director and actors had 2 shifts (12 hours per shift). The Day shift is from seven in the morning till seven in the evening. The Night shift is from seven in the evening work till seven in the morning and for many actors they didn't really sleep for maybe two weeks.
During filming the extremely hot summer months, Yuen Wah suffered not allow to remove the plastic from his face. After several hours in the make-up chair, he spent the working day unable to move, talk or eat properly. Ironically, Ricky Lau cut a lot of Yuen's footage from the finish film, feeling that too much vampire hopping would slow dow the pace.
Near the end of shooting Mr. Vampire, the cast and crew under came pressure to work faster, as the movies screening was around the corner.
Moon Lee recalls the Mr. Vampire shoot as largely enjoyable experience, Lam Ching Ying always looked serious when filming. He was dedicated professional, though friends have mentioned his sense of humour.
It is long been rumoured that Hung effectively directed Mr Vampire on his own with the inexperienced Ricky Lau serving as his assistant. Hung has always denied the story and Chin Siu Ho has confirmed Ricky Lau as the true director of Mr. Vampire.
Mr. Vampire is credited as the very first film directed by Hong Kong director Ricky Lau. Lau had previously worked with Hung (the producer) as a camera operator.
At different parts of the movie wires were used, the production staff had to take care of the wires and not to show them on screen, they would spray wires the same colour as the set background. If the wires were show, they would have to take it overseas to fix which was not popular at that time. Although for the scene where actor Chin Siu-ho performed a back-flip up the door no wires were used.
Most of Mr. Vampire's atmospheric scores that were both spooky and humorous was mainly supplied by Anders Nelsson's music production company The Melody Bank. Jade's theme song, Gwai San Noeng (鬼新娘; Ghost Bride), was performed by the Jie'er Choir (傑兒合唱團). The music was written by Lee On-Tat and lyrics were written by Cheng Kwok-Kong.
Mr. Vampire was originally given a budget of HKD 4.5 million as budget, Yet halfway of production, it was all already spent. The director then had to ask for more money and he was give a further HKD 1 million to finish the film, after one week the money was also spent. When the film was finally finish it had cost HKD 8.5 million. Sammo estimated the film would cost HKD 2 to 3 million lost to Golden Harvest
Mr. Vampire was nominated for thirteen awards, including two for Best Supporting Actor (Billy Lau and Lam Ching-ying). Out of the thirteen nominations the film only received one award for Best Original Film Score.
|5th Hong Kong Film Awards||Best Film||N/A||Nominated|
|Best Original Film Score||Lo Ta-yu||Nominated|
|Best Director||Ricky Lau||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Wong Ying, Barry Wong, Sze-to Cheuk-hon||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Billy Lau||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Lam Ching-ying||Nominated|
|Best New Performer||Billy Lau||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Peter Ngor||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Peter Cheung||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Lam Sai-lok||Nominated|
|Best Action Direction||Sammo Hung Stunt Team||Nominated|
|Best Original Film Score||Melody Bank||Won|
|Best Original Film Song||鬼新娘||Nominated|
Mr, Vampire ran in cinemas from 7 November 1985 to 4 December 1985 and grossed a total of HK$20,092,129. This was the same year that Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan's movies were at the box office, with My Lucky Stars, Police Story and Heart of Dragon all exceeding Mr. Vampire's considerable takings.
Mr. Vampire was given a midnight premier at Grand Ocean (Hong Kong). The director was so worried about the success of this movie as well as his directing career, he stood outside during the screening, greeting guests until he heard the audience starting to laugh.
Distribution rights and classification
Sino Cine Co Ltd bought the UK distribution rights to Mr. Vampire and the BBFC classified the film as '15' without any cuts and then it was released March 1986. The following year Chinatown Cinema bought the Australia distribution rights and the movie was classified 'M'(mature no one under the age of 15) it was classified 1 January 1986
In Canada the Manitoba Film Classification Board classified the film as 14 for Festival Cinema, Ontario Film Review Board classified Mr. Vampire 1 April 1986 as Restricted(18 years of age or older) and Régie du cinéma du Québec was classified 1986 as 14 and then reclassified 9 September 2004 as Visa général (General Rating, all ages)
The film was featured as part of Channel 4's Chinese Ghost Story season in 1990 introduced by Johnathan Ross being played alongside some similar movies in the genre including Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, Esprit d'amour, Spiritual Love and Rouge.
LoveHKFilm described it as "quite possibly the seminal entry in HK's famous horror-comedy genre" and "a fun movie that showcases Lam Ching-Ying at his best."
The English language soundtrack made for Mr vampire is low quality, redubbing the characters with bland mid American accents. The sound effects are in acquit, clomping footsteps are added as a distracting effect. This version of the film is not widely circulated.
Spin off media
Golden Harvest attempted to make an English-language version of Mr. Vampire under the title Demon Hunters. The film was produced by David Chan. However, the team could not get Lam Ching-ying to reprise his role because the latter was busy with another film overseas. Yuen Wah, who worked on the original Mr. Vampire, replaced Lam and handled the action sequences as well. American actor Jack Scalia, who acted in the 1978 television series Dallas, was also recruited into the cast.
Initially Tanya Roberts from Charlie's Angels and Sheena: Queen of the Jungle was chosen but it did not work out so she was replaced by Michelle Phillips, a singer from the vocal group The Mamas & the Papas. They all flew out to Hong Kong to start filming at Golden Harvest studios. After several weeks filming was abandoned because Yuen Wah could not speak English very well. Raymond Chow pulled the plug, saying "we started but we need not finish". The Demon Hunters filmed footage still exists and is kept in Golden Harvest's archives.
Highly successful at the time, both in Hong Kong and as a cult film favourite with overseas enthusiasts of Hong Kong cinema, It inspired numerous parodies and homage films. The film launched Lam Ching-ying's character, the unibrowed Taoist exorcist, whom he would portray not only in the Mr. Vampire sequels, but also in many other films, including unrelated ones.
Mr. Vampire sequels, included Mr. Vampire II, Mr. Vampire III and Mr. Vampire IV. However, most do not relate to the first film, simply being set on the same themes. There is in fact only one canonical sequel, Ricky Lau's own Mr. Vampire 1992. Confusion regarding the sequels has been compounded not only by the names of the films, but also that the films share some cast members, though often recast in different roles. They are also other films of the Chinese vampire genre starring Lam Ching-ying, such as Encounters of the Spooky Kind II (1990) and Magic Cop (1990), or directed by Lam himself, such as Vampire Vs. Vampire (1989), which are all separate from the Mr. Vampire franchise. In addition, Lam uses his real name for his character in some of the films he acted in.
A related television series titled Vampire Expert (殭屍道長) starring Lam Ching-ying was broadcast from 1996 to 1997. However, during the filming of the third season, Lam developed liver cancer and died before the project was completed. The first season of My Date with a Vampire, a television series produced by ATV, was specially dedicated to Lam, and the story was based on future events in Vampire Expert.
Mr. Vampire was adapted into a theatrical play and was performed at the Cultural Centre's Studio Theatre in Hong Kong from 29 to 31 October 2010 as part of a Halloween theme and New Vision Arts Festival. Tang Lok-yin is the music director/composer for this play with Pun Siu-fai as the choreographer.
The inspiration for this play was that of the music directors in an interview he said that when he was a child he watch a lot of Lam Ching-Ying's movies with his younger brother. She also mentioned Lam had played a Taoist priest in the Mr. Vampire series and that is the inspiration behind the director's contemporary musical dance theatre. She also said she was sort of forced into watching the movies because her parents are big fans.
On the stage it is decorated with six coffins and a large moon on top, Mr. Vampire the play begins with a the suicide of a grief-stricken woman. The play shows the audience the popular understanding of qi (breath) and the mythical consequences if it does not leave the body of a person who dies in grudge, The play then portray love and hate with the use of animalistic dancers alternating between kissing and biting each other. The show then transforms into a performance of similar to that of Michael Jackson's music videos Thriller and Beat It before turning into the rage of the grudging beings.
Mr. Vampire was made into a Japanese video game entitled Reigen Doushi (霊幻道士) it was published by Pony Canyon and certain scenes in the game were taken from the movie. The video game was released on Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan 16 September 1988 and in the United States 1 April 1990 under the title Phantom Fighter by the publisher FCI Inc and the Developer Marionette. 
A number Japanese board games that relate to Mr. Vampire were released in Japan.
Mr. Vampire has been screened numerous times in since its release screening include:
- Hong Kong Film Archive (3 November 2012)
- Broadway Cinematheque (11 November 2012)
- Tokyo International Film Festival (20 October 2012)
- University of Bath
- University of Chicago
|Unknown||United States||Unknown||Rainbow Audio and Video Incorporation||NTSC||Cantonese||English|||
|21 September 1988||Japan||Unknown||Pony Video||NTSC||Japanese(Dubbed)||None|||
|19 June 1998||United States||Unknown||Tai Seng Entertainment||NTSC||Cantonese||English|||
|19 October 1999||France||Unknown||HK Video||NTSC||Cantonese||English|||
|24 January 2000||United Kingdom||15||Made in Hong Kong||PAL||Cantonese||English|||
|1988||Japan||N/A||Pony Video LaserVision||G88F0112||CLV / NTSC||Cantonese||Japanese||Audio Mono|||
|Unknown||Hong Kong||N/A||Megastar (HK)||NTSC||Cantonese||English, Chinese||2VCDs|||
|Unknown||Hong Kong||N/A||Deltamac (HK)||NTSC||Cantonese||English, Traditional Chinese||2VCDs|||
|5 December 2003||China||N/A||Jiang Xi Wen Hua Yin Xiang Chu Ban She||NTSC||Mandarin||English, Traditional Chinese||2VCDs|||
|7 October 2005||Taiwan||N/A||Xin Sheng Dai (TW)||NTSC||Mandarin||Traditional Chinese||2VCDs|||
|25 February 2009||Hong Kong||N/A||Joy Sales (HK)||NTSC||Cantonese||English, Traditional Chinese||2VCDs Digitally Remastered|||
|Unknown||Hong Kong||N/A||Deltamac (HK)||NTSC||ALL||Cantonese, Mandarin (Dubbed)||Dolby Digital 2.0||English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese|||
|2001||Hong Kong||N/A||Mega Star||NTSC||ALL||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1||Cantonese, English, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish|||
|22 April 2002||United Kingdom||15||Hong Kong Legends||PAL||2||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1||English||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|19 February 2004||France||N/A||HK Video||PAL||2||Cantonese||Dolby Digital||French||Box-set|||
|7 September 2004||United States||PG-13||20th Century Fox||NTSC||1||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1||English||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|26 June 2005||Hong Kong||N/A||Joy Sales (HK)||NTSC||ALL||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Digital Surround||English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|5 December 2007||Australia/
|Dolby Digital 5.1||English||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|11 October 2007||Japan||N/A||Universal Pictures Japan||NTSC||2||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital Mono||Japanese||Digitally Re-mastered Box-set|||
|8 July 2011||Japan||N/A||Paramount Home
|NTSC||2||Cantonese||Dolby Digital||Japanese||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|23 November 2011||United States||PG-13||20th Century Fox||NTSC||1||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Digital Surround||English||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|15 October 2012||United Kingdom||15||Cine-Asia||PAL||2||Cantonese,
|Dolby Digital 5.1||English||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|21 December 2012||Japan||N/A||Paramount Home
|NTSC||2||Cantonese, Japanese||Dolby Digital||Japanese||Digitally Re-mastered|||
|21 December 2012||Japan||N/A||Paramount Home Entertainment, Japan||NTSC||A||Cantonese, Japanese||Japanese||Digitally Re-mastered|||
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