Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film
reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong
An Eternal Combat
Cho Chun-sing. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
In olden times, the Chinese countryside is under siege from a murderous Japanese demon (Cho Chun-sing) and bumbling military officer Ma Sheung-fung (Shing Fui-on) is ordered to catch the undead killer within seven days...or hang himself on the 8th. A desperate Ma requests the aid of a powerful high priest (Lam Ching-ying) but balks when told that he must die before the priest can help him. Unfortunately for Ma, he does indeed perish later that night, while dallying with five prostitutes at the local whorehouse. Returning from the beyond as a fairy, the officer joins the Taoist and his obnoxious assistant, Tortoise (Gabriel Wong Yat-san), in battle against the demon and his equally formidable mistress, Cici (Joey Wang Tsu-hsien).
Joey Wang Tsu-hsien and Lam Ching-ying. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
The trio are able to vanquish their female quarry but their attempt to disperse the male creature inside a Taoist trap goes disastrously wrong and transports all four of them into the present day. The priest ends up at the Green Water Lunatic Asylum, which is run by Dr. Gigi Wong (also Wang), a dead ringer for Cici. After several demonstrations of his powers, the psychologist begins to believe her patient's fantastic stories and learns from him that she is a reincarnation of Cici, an innocent transformed by the demon into "Evil Woman." Reuniting with his lost pupils, the Taoist is destined to battle the demon once again in this strange new world but first Gigi must be saved from her deranged boyfriend (Anthony Wong Chau-sang).
Anthony Wong Chau-sang. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Yip Shing-hong's AN ETERNAL COMBAT is a disjointed but intermittently pleasing "something for everybody" production with a highly atmospheric opening reel. The tone becomes comedic soon afterwards and the expected fish-out-of-water gags dominate the middle third. Lam Ching-ying is his usual authoritative self (with occasional flashes of humor) and Gabriel Wong and Shing Fui-on make for an amusing pair of mismatching bookends. The photography and lighting are quite stunning (though cinematographer Eric Chu Kwok-fai's use of blue to generate ambience does not have quite the same impact anymore, now that every second picture uses this visual approach in excess) and there is some exhilarating wirework. The picture would have been quite entertaining had it been content to concentrate on the primary story and characters but the aggressively unpleasant subplot involving Anthony Wong's berserk suitor is needlessly shoehorned in, throwing everything out of step. Shots of the giant samurai warrior from Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL appear during a sequence where Lam believes that his Japanese nemesis is hiding inside the loony bin's "magic box." Phillip Ko Fei, Hui Shiu-hung, and Lau Siu-ming also appear.
Gabriel Wong Yat-san (left) and Shing Fui-on (right). Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Joey Wang. Image courtesy Mei Ah.