I’ve seen Mr. Vampire parts 1-5, and I have to say that #3 is my second favorite. It’s the only one that matches the spirit of the original one. Although much of the humor depends on slapstick, there’s also a good dose of absurdity. Most of all, I’m fascinated with the pace at which the film throws out solutions to the various supernatural problems it presents. It’s like watching a magic show, but the magician is doing kung fu while he performs his tricks.
Our story begins as a charlatan of a Taoist priest called Uncle Ming (Richard Ng) pretends to rid a wealthy family’s house of ghosts. He actually removes some ghosts, but the ghosts are pets of his who work with him, like a cuddlier version of the ghosts in The Frighteners. It is not clear what the two ghosts get out of the arrangement. Maybe they just love him and want to follow him wherever he goes.
Eventually, the actual evil spirits in the house unceremoniously send Uncle Ming and his ghosts away, and our real story begins. Ming happens upon a group of men headed by our eternal hero the infinitely patient One Eyebrow Priest (Lam Ching Ying), here called Uncle Nine. Uncle Nine’s posse is trying to catch an evil witch (Pauline Wong) and her band of undead horse thieves. Uncle Ming joins forces with Uncle Nine and learns how to really handle ghosts, eventually becoming an honest guy. Billy Lau plays the same putz he plays in every Mr. Vampire film; he’s a captain, as in part 1, but this time he works for One Eyebrow so it’s not really clear what he’s the captain of. And that’s pretty much the whole plot.
Like I said, the humor works on two levels. You have your bare butt, fart noises, forced ass grabbing by possession, comedic dancing, and a guy in a giant chicken suit. But what really impresses and amuses me is the neverending monster fighting arsenal. Need to exorcise a house? Well, ghosts hate umbrellas so you can throw one at them. Can’t kill a vampire with a bloody sword? Use your magic urine, duh! Ghosts can see you? Coat your entire body in tar. Ghost you’re keeping in a jar is too evil to allow to reincarnate? Well, boil him in oil, dummy! Also, a possessed person can be temporarily restrained with a paintbrush dipped in red paint held to the forehead. And that’s just the high points. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I promise you that you are in for a treat. And I ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie, because I’m not very good at whistling.
As you may or may not have guessed, August is vampire comedy month. Most of the vampires will probably be of the more traditional kind, but I couldn’t resist featuring this movie because it’s from one of my favorite series of all time. Also, there are so many vampire comedies out there to watch and talk about that I may go through September as well. Fangs for reading!