Thanks to the explosion of the DVD market oodles and oodles of really great Asian films have finally been made available for American and European audiences. Just recently released in a digitally remastered format is Ricky Lau's "Mr. Vampire," which first appeared in 1983 to capitalize on the success and popularity of "Ghostbusters". Featuring an oddball ensemble of comedic actors, some zany early 80's special effects and a plot line that mixes up ghosts and vampires, this is one of the funniest and most enjoyable offerings from the entire catalog of asian cinema.
Set in British-Colonial China, the film features Lam Ching Ying as the straight man, a feung-shui master whose specialty is looking after the well-being of deceased spirits. He's the man that families call when a disturbed ghost or hopping vampire is on the loose. Unfortunately, the master has two addle-headed disciples whose prank-playing rivalry always gets them in over their heads. First a powerful vampire begins claiming corpses, and then a beautiful siren-like ghost enchants one of the disciples. Chaos ensues and the hilarity piles up like football players at center field. The film relies on a clever blend of physical comedy and Noel Coward-like situational comdey to keep the laughs coming, and the result is worthy even of Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin. This is one zany movie, and there's no almost no lengths the filmmakers won't go to get your laughs.
In addition, the remastered look is excellent. The picture is super-sharp and the sound is crystal clear. I had previously only seen this film as an Asian release, and the improvements are hard to exaggerate. For what its worth, I can guarantee that this is one of those films you can purchase sight-unseen and feel confident that you are going to be pleased with it. Even the subtitles are well done, with no mis-spellings, misworded idioms or other bothersome distractors. With only a few exceptions, this is the kind of film that almost anyone will enjoy, yourself included.