The "fox demon" (wu li jing) is often used to describe "the other woman." In Li Han-hsiang's The Ghost Story, these demons will drain the life out of any man who is unlucky enough to think they have stumbled upon a good thing. Stephen Tan reviews.


When it comes to name calling, among the Chinese a common name ascribed to a man's mistress is the "fox demoness" (wu li jing). The fox or vixen "fairy" has also been used though "fairy" seems to have a positive connotation and it is such demonesses that take centrestage in Li Han-hsiang's The Ghost Story (1978).

Whoever decided to title the film The Ghost Story must have done so as a last resort as the Chinese title better reflected the movie. Literally, the film is called Ghost Calls For Spring. Loosely translated, this means Ghost In Search Of A Mate. Just as the modern-day zombies (courtesy of George Romero) required human parts for sustenance (a wild concept since when did dead things need food?), olden days' demonesses required, presumably, the living person's energy (chi) to continue existing. Since this is a Shaw erotic movie, the demonesses use sex to drain their victims off their precious energy, not to mention bodily fluids.

As in many Li Han-hsiang erotic movies, The Ghost Story contains two separate segments. In the first, Yueh Hua stars as an army general who leads his men into town for some rest and recreation. They chance upon an inn run by vivacious Hu Chin who is aided by Shirley Yu.

The women are not aversed to removing their clothes while working in the kitchen where they put magical herbs into their cakes. Any soldier who partakes of the cakes and then have sex with the women (which they freely give) will turn into an ox which the women, who are actually demons, sell in the market.

In the second segment, scholar Yueh Hua is studying for the imperial exams. While he lives alone, away from a doting wife (Chiao Chiao), he is not immuned to the charms of a demoness in the form of Hu Chin. Discovering that her husband is under a spell, Chiao Chiao seeks the help of a Taoist priest who puts her through a nauseating trial - she has to eat some food he had just spit out - to test her sincerity. The second story also features action star Kara Hui Ying Hung (My Young Auntie) in a supporting role while Li Kun provides comedy relief as a petty magician who drugs young girls before raping them and who tries to take on Hu Chin.

While director Li Han-hsiang is noted for his classical epics, here he puts his eye for framing - and the widescreen format - to good use. The first segment, for example, features picturesque scenes of a fornicating couple in a kitchen that is dominated by a large miller's wheel, with the animal stable next to the kitchen - a sign of things to come.

Li might have lofty ideas such as reincarnation and how one's life affects one's karma and vice versa but it is the indiscreet charms of the Shaw starlets that viewers go for.

While Hu Chin has appeared in many of Shaw's erotic movies, this is one where she is truly a star, where she stands bare chested among the best of them. While Shirley Yu, who is no less willing to disrobe, comes across as kind of goofy, this seems more in keeping with her onscreen character.

The Ghost Story may not rate high among Li Han-hsiang's movies but it certainly is far more entertaining than many other movies of such ilk. While this is no Postman Often Rings Twice, still, when was the last time you saw couples having sex in a Chinese kitchen, one after another?

Note: The Ghost Story DVD (IVL/Celestial) is banned in $ingapore.

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February 12, 2007


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