A magical talisman that grants wishes at a price; a suicide pact that leaves a vengeful ghost and a graverobber who gets more than he bargained for - Li Han-hsiang's Return Of The Dead might not be the moralistic tale he had hoped for but the naked and the dead more than makes up for it. Stephen Tan reviews.


The DVD cover calls this 1979 movie Li Han-hsiang's sequel to the much-acclaimed Enchanted Shadow (1960) but with nudity and sex thrown in.

But anyone who has been watching Li's erotic Shaw movies would soon realise that the director has done much better work, most notably Crazy Sex (1976). And like many of his erotic movies, this is a three-hander.

Starring a feisty Ku Feng, who runs a small family business, the first segment is a Hong Kong re-telling of WW Jacob's classic Monkey Paw story. A friend leaves behind a talisman that grants its owner three wishes. However these wishes come at a price. As a Hong Kong movie, what else would a Chinese businessman wish for but more wealth? The day after making his wish, Ku Feng gets a visit from his son's manager. According to this manager, Ku Feng's son, who works in a factory, had an accident and died after falling into a vat of sulphuric acid. The manager had come to deliver the compensation money, which is exactly the amount Ku Feng had wished for!

The second story opens with an unconscious Yueh Hua on the beach, with Antonio Ho, who is found strangled, beside him. But Yueh Hua soon recovers to tell his tale. Yueh Hua, who enjoys boating at night, meets a strange woman, Chen Wei Ying, who swims in the nude. Chen has no problem displaying her nudity (but seems aversed to the cold of the night) while Yueh Hua seems unfazed by all that nudity that the two strike up a friendship that leads to Yueh Hua getting his friend, Antonio Ho, along for a boat ride. When the woman appears, Yueh Hua then learns that Chen and Ho were lovers and had planned a suicide pact. At the last minute Ho backs out but drowns Chen nonetheless. While viewers have no problem guessing the real identity of the mysterious woman - Chen is often bathe in a "ghostly" light - the more technically minded would have marvelled at the water-bound indoor set that houses the boating sequence.

The third segment, set during the Republican days, has rickshaw puller Tai Chun Te meeting a beautiful woman, Linda Chu, who resembles the wife of a rich man who had just died from sexual exhaustion. While Tai is a decent sort, he is not above peeping in on couples having sex [which is a another way of introducing more sex and nudity into the film]. Not having money to pay for the fare, Chu leaves with Tai a pearl necklace.

When they next meet, Chu brings Tai to a gambling house and helps him win at the tables. But it isn't long before Tai finds out that he had visited an abandoned house and is left holding a lot of paper money. There is a nice play on the word "ghost" when Tai visits the abandoned house with two policemen who chided him: "Yes, you were with kwei ('ghosts') - du kwei (gamblers) and jiu kwei (drunkards)." There is also the allusion that Tai is a su kwei (loser).

In a subplot, hearing that Chu was richly buried, graverobber Chan Shen decides to burrow into the tomb. Realising what a beauty the deceased was, Chan strips the clothes off the dead woman and attempts to have sex with the dead, only to find that it is the dead that wants him. What follows is a hilarious sequence of a naked woman with outstretched arms (in typical kyongsi - hopping vampire - fashion) chasing after the graverobber!

The tragic events so unhinged the respective men - Ku Feng, Yueh Hua and Tai Chun Te - that they end up in a mental hospital, sequences which bookend the movie.

As a Shaw erotic film, Return Of The Dead does deliver the goods. A female ghost who goes swimming in the nude, which makes this a real skinnydipping movie, and necrophilia, well, attempted necrophilia, and some intense tongue action with the dead - not totally a waste of a lazy afternoon.

Note: The Return Of The Dead (IVL/Celestial) DVD is banned in $ingapore.

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February 26, 2007


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