Mr. Vampire (1985) — July 15, 2013
Added January 15, 2022:
The first time I watched this, I remember thinking there wasn’t nearly enough Lam Ching-ying in it, that he was sidelined for a bunch of mediocre Ricky Hui hijinks. And I didn’t remember Moon Lee at all. But this time, I barely noticed Hui — Billy Lau is the annoying one, but he really isn’t on screen much either. Instead, Lam dominates the film, at least any scene that Moon Lee doesn’t steal. (Me describing the cast to my wife, who sat down in the middle of the movie for a bit: Lam Ching-ying was a great stunt man and martial artist, a close friend of Bruce Lee; Ricky Hui was part of a famous comedy family in the 70s; Moon Lee is, well, perfect). Far from detracting from the whole, the slapstick comedy bits are perfectly balanced with the action and horror elements. It really is an ideal combination of everything that made early 80s Hong Kong film so great.
I think the first time I saw it, I was expecting another Encounters of the Spooky Kind, and was disappointed that it didn’t have enough action and that the comedy was sillier and that it lacked Sammo’s hard edge. I had the same problem with The Dead and the Deadly when I first watched it. But rewatching clarified that film’s greatness, just as this rewatch has done for Mr. Vampire. Odds are I’ll rewatch Encounters and be disappointed by it.
Where’s Officer Tuba? (1986) — July 21, 2020
Sammo Hung in his meek, cowardly character is a cop in the police band who witnesses the dying words of supercop David Chiang and agrees to get revenge for him. But when he backtracks on his pledge, Chiang haunts him, mostly by screwing up his attempts to woo Joey Wong (inexplicably interested in Officer Tuba).
A pretty good fight sequence at the end (Yuen Wah is one of the bad guys, but doesn’t do much), and it's nice to see Chiang with a big role a decade or so after his Shaw Bros heyday. But this is mostly just gags that didn’t make it into a Winners & Sinners movie mapped onto a Happy Ghost plot.