John Woo directed this
frenetic HK horror/comedy, which boasts a premise reminiscent of the
Peter Cook/Dudley Moore vehicle, BEDAZZLED (1967), but owes most of
its creative inspiration to vintage Warner Brothers cartoons. Ricky
Hui Koon-ying plays Bruce Lee (!), unsuccessful composer and hopeless
schlub, who has finally bottomed out after a very long slide. Materializing
to change his life is Flit (Stanley Fung Shui-fan), a minion of The
Devil (played by an almost unrecognizable Chung Fat, dubbed with a
female voice), who prompts Lee to sell his soul, in exchange for fulfilling
his dreams of being a rock star and having Peggy (Hsu Jie), a Mandarin-speaking
dancer, for his own. Naturally, things don't work out as planned and,
when Lee tries to renege on the deal, Flit comes to collect the soul
he is owed. Fortunately, the spirit of a deceased priest (Paul Chun
Pui) is in Lee's corner, leading to a frenzied battle between the
forces of good and evil, while Lee desperately tries to find and tear
up his contract.
A large degree of patience is required
to derive much pleasure from TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL. During the opening
two-thirds, the humor ranges from mildly enjoyable (faithful recreations
of horror parody standards) to downright excruciating (in particular,
a lame soap opera parody that drags on and on), and Woo's frantic
staging of virtually every sequence eventually becomes onerous. The
energy does not let up in the final third, but the comedy sharpens
appreciably, with the finale centering around a genuinely hysterical,
live-action parody of the old "Space Invaders" and "Galaga"
video games, complete with sound FX! While all of Woo's dramatic projects
include perceptive uses of humor (sometimes of the darkest variety),
full-length satire is just not his forte (Wong Jing and Chu Yen-ping
are almost masters of tact in comparison). By the time he helmed the
all-but-unbearable RUN TIGER, RUN (1985), his fortunes had deteriorated
almost to the point of no return and he was brought back from the
brink only by the astronomical success of A BETTER TOMORROW (1986).
Nat Chan Pak-cheung and John Sham Kin-fun also appear.