• Eastern Horror: Tales From The East/Return Of The Evil Fox (BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment
    Released on: April 25th, 2006.
    Director Manfred Wong/George Leung
    Cast: Billy Lau, Joey Wong, David Ng, Amy Yip/Fui-On Shing, Cha-Lei Cho, Chan Kai Ling
    Year: 1990/1989
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    Eastern Horror: Tales From The East/Return Of The Evil Fox – Movie Review:

    Two Asian horror oddities on DVD!


    A brother and sister arrive at a masked campout, unaware that it is the night of "Gathering Of The Sun And The Moon Five Stars Chain", a once-every-200 year phenomenon in which Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn appear on one side of the Earth at a 45-degree angle, causing the awakening of three figures of the Qin Dynasty of late 18th century China: The Little Princess (possessor of an extremely rare and magical Jade amulet), her sworn protector Huang Zhin (possessor of an extremely powerful magical sword and on a mission to find the Princess and the amulet, as well as the missing center pearl that will restore it's awesome magical power) and the evil Shea Hi aka The Blood Devil (possessor of some extremely nasty 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRE looks and attitude, and on a mission to collect the pearl and destroy the other two). All three are weak from their 200 year journey, and Shea Hi quickly self-medicates by tearing into some hapless Sammo Hung/Weng Weng coiff-wearing schlub's throat, ripping his head off, and stashing it in the guy's fridge amongst his melons.

    This is discovered by two bumbling electrician brothers on a routine outage call, who soon after also discover the Little Princess, who they take in for the night before they can figure out where to take her the next day. At the same time, the bro and sis campfire duo meet Huang Zhin, take him home, groom him, and get him drunk in an attempt to figure out his story. Through a set of circumstances far more entertaining to watch than to read about (suffice to say that they involve the filming of a period action film), these two groups meet and the story kicks into gear, with their enlisting the help of a sci-fi writer that just happens to quite up on his Qin Dynasty history. Together they hatch a plan to thwart the efforts of the Blood Devil, which culminates an entertaining showdown in an amusement park.

    While more of a wholesome adventure/comedy than its origins as an early 90's Hong Kong horror film might suggest (albeit one with chicken killing and casually tossed off mentions of rape and AIDS), A TALE FROM THE EAST is a pretty enjoyable time-waster nonetheless. What keeps the fun in high gear is it's unending litany of nods to other films (can you mention anther picture that references THE EVIL DEAD, BACK TO THE FUTURE, SOMEWHER IN TIME, PSYCHO, GHOSTBUSTERS and the FLYING GUILLOTINE films? You can? I wanna see it!), not to mention a cameo from Amy Yip (SEX AND ZEN, ROBOTRIX) as "Miss Ip, The Big Bust Queen" (big stretch there!). Though the action is fun, it's these elements that make the film memorable.


    After a flashback showing how the spirit of Chiang Su Su (a holy and powerful member of the clan Mao San) was imprisoned inside a jade pagoda by the evil Fox Elf as revenge for Su Su's deceased father's lessening of her power, we are taken three hundred years into the future (1991, according to the subs) where we meet Chiang Wu, a shop keeper that also happens to be a Taoist priest of the 37th generation of Mao San. Instead of being the dedicated holy man you might expect, he is basically scamming rich people by doing ceremonies to straighten out the Feng Shui of their dwellings for an exorbitant fee.

    He is helped by one of his two daughters, Yu, basically because her sister Yi is too busy getting dolled up and tempting men to be bothered with details the "family business". Yu is a bratty yet powerful girl who has learned a few things from her father, but is frustrated by his lack of financial compensation (she later makes up for this by forming a sort of "super trio" of exorcists in shiny costumes, but I digress). Into all of this walks Hwa Fu Chun, the now-grown foster son to Wu, who has become a successful business man, but also appears to have some magical powers of his own, which Wu is quick to exploit in a gambling scheme, running afoul of the local Triad in the process. This causes him to enlist the muscle of Big Rope, a scary former boss that apparently found Christianity in the big house! Also arriving in town is a Buddhist Lama in search of the sacred child he believes to be the proclaimed "Saint Of Three Religions".

    Would you believe that at the same time as all of this, the spirit of the dreaded Evil Fox has settled in an office building, where she possesses young women in order to seduce and kill men in an attempt to reach the magical number of 108 kills, which will restore her power to it's former "Super Evil Fox" status. What she didn't count on was overturning the jade Pagoda that had imprisoned Su Su for all this time (and the same pagoda that Yu had been helping pops lug to all of his ceremonies), thus allowing her to inhabit the body of Yi. Hwa is already crushing hard on Yi, but the Su Su deal totally clinches it!

    Now realizing that they all must combine their powers to form a super Mao San fighting team to battle the now- fully Super Evil Fox, the film climaxes in a totally wacky and entertaining battle of magical powers in the office building.

    Like it's co-feature, RETURN OF THE EVIL FOX isn't much of an out-and-out horror film (there's even less bloodshed than there is in TALES FROM THE EAST), but it is completely successful as an over-the-top fantasy/action/comedy. Lots of cool and cartoon-like visuals add spice to the fight scenes (including some neat in-camera editing effects, along with the usual wire and trampoline work), the art direction is pretty crazy, and the costumes are also pretty appealing, especially Yu's silver industrial superhero garb and the Fox's insane oversized claws. Clocking in at just over 90m, RETURN is a total blast that would please just about any fan of the lighter-hearted side of HK weirdness. Recommended.

    Eastern Horror: Tales From The East/Return Of The Evil Fox – DVD Review:

    Both films are presented full-screen in a pretty shoddy crop job that seems to favor the left hand of the screen, made obvious by the fact that a lot of the subs on the right hand disappear! Colors are smeary, (TALES suffers more from this than RETURN, which looks ok) and while there are only a couple of instances of motion artifacting or excessive visual noise, the whole thing screams "tape master". The films don't look necessarily worse than they would on a decent ex-rental tape, but it would be nice to see them in their OAR and with nice bold colors and readable subs. At least they're not crammed onto one disc.

    No great shakes here, just the original Chinese tracks in mono, but the sound is pretty clear and balanced, and perfectly acceptable given the standards at their time of production. Sure, it would be nice to hear some wicked stereo placement and booming music and effects tracks, but given the visual quality, the point would be moot.

    Bah! I suppose getting two films on two separate discs for a low price could be considered an extra, but not really. Besides minimal menu screens and chapter stops (eight per film), you get bupkiss.

    Eastern Horror: Tales From The East/Return Of The Evil Fox – The Final Word:

    Two decent (but not mind-blowing) late 80's/early 90's Hong Kong horror comedies get middling treatment as part of Deimos/BCI Eclipse's EASTERN HORROR two-fer series. Worth a look for the jaded fan, but not essential for newcomers.