A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 04/04/2006
Summary: Uneven but excellent

The first half is very confusing and jumps around all over the place in a sometimes irritating and jarring manner. But it's well worth sticking with. The main love scene occurs smack-bang in the middle, and is the place where the story very suddenly changes from disorienting to utterly magical. This is my favourite love scene in ANY Hong Kong film (even better than the climax of the wonderful Love_And_The_City), and is foregrounded by the best version of my all-time favourite HK love song ("Let the Dawn Never Come" by cantopop icon and actor Sally Yeh/Yip Sin-Man , this film also made me a big fan of both her and of the Er Hu, the featured instrument in the tune).

Memorably beautiful images and scenes flow past at an incredible rate. For instance, the scene where good ghost Sian (Joey Wong, never lovelier) protects poor scholar Ning (Leslie Cheung) from detection by her demon-enslaver, by hiding him in her bath, is pure cinematic poetry. There's also some great comic (and at times scarifying) horror, especially where the righteous guys go into hell to rescue Sian's soul.

Overall : I'd recommend you watch CGS II first, as it helps make a bit more sense of the first half, but definitely see this one !

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 09/08/2005
Summary: A classic horror/love story...

One of the most popular films ever to come out of Hong Kong, A Chinese Ghost
Story tells the tale of the love between a lonely tax collector named Ning Tsai
(Leslie Cheung) and a good-hearted but enslaved ghost (Joey Wong). Ning,
traveling through a small town, runs out of money and must stay in an abandoned
temple for shelter. The surrounding area is teeming with ghosts, one of which
is a beautiful young girl named Hsiao Tsing, who died a year earlier.
Unfortunately, she was buried near a tree that contained an evil spirit, and in
the afterlife she is used by this spirit to entice young men to be captured and
sapped of their essence. Ning falls in love with Hsiao, and although she has
lured many men to their death before, she decides to take mercy on him. We find
that Hsiao is betrothed to a lord of the underworld, and she begs Ning to help
her escape. With the help of a disillusioned warrior named Swordsman Yen (Wo
Ma), Ning performs a series of tasks that will free Hsiao from the control of
the evil spirit, and eventually leads them to a final battle with the lord in
hell itself.

A Chinese Ghost Story is an entertaining film with an excellent plot, good
acting and interesting characters. The movie is genuinely creepy in some parts
as well, which adds to the story. All three leads are very good, and the
chemistry between Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong adds to the film's story. Tsui
Hark (director of Once Upon a Time in China, Peking Opera Blues) produced this
film, and his influence can be seen in the fast-moving action scenes and the
fantastic tone of the movie. The popularity of this film also spawned 2
sequels, both of which are directed by Ching Siu-tung.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/19/2003

A down-on-his-luck tax collector (Cheung), trying to find a place to stay, goes into an old church. During the night, he meets a beautiful woman (Wong) who holds a deadly secret -- she's actually a ghost who feeds off the souls of men. Pursued both by a wily old ghost hunter and some treacherous demons, will the romance survive?

One of the most popular HK movies of all time, A Chinese Ghost Story is a blend of action, romance, comedy and musical. Those new to HK cinema may be off put by the rapid genre changing, but anyone who likes movies in general should be pleased by the stunning visuals of the film. Even if you are not a huge fan of wu xia ("fantasy swordplay/romance") films, A Chinese Ghost Story is so striking that you should still had a good time watching it. While it does fall into some of the cliché trappings of the genre (such as the mandatory musical flashback), most of the movie (particularly the final sequence in Hell) is quite inventive and fun to watch.

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 05/02/2003
Summary: Great!

Charming and entertaining, this flick doesn't even suffer from it's dated special effects. The cast are superb and the atmosphere is absorbing. Fantastic!

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/26/2003

Inspired by the Shaw Brothers ghost picture "The Enchanting Shadow" (1960) Ching Siu-tung's "A Chinese Ghost Story" is a dark, fast-paced, goofy, sultry supernatural wuxia pian. The performances are spot-on and include what we assume is veteran actor Wu Ma's only rap solo. Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" (1981) likely inspired the impressive special effects that lend to an assortment of things that go bump in the night.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: kurama_tengu
Date: 06/16/2002
Summary: One of Tsui Hark's Best!....Beautiful!

"A Chinese Ghost Story" is one of Tsui Hark's finest productions, combining beautiful cinematography, great special effects, comedy, action, and a great soundtrack to boot. What results is a landmark film that set the standard for all Hong Kong fantasy/ghost films to follow.

Leslie Cheung is wonderful as the bumbling tax collector who falls in love with a beautiful ghost(Joey Wong Cho-Yin). His character is kind of an underdog-type who seems to be set up for failure, but manages to escape each time.

As good as Cheung is, he is upstaged by Wu Ma's Swordsman Yin who assists Cheung through his quest to free Wong's ghost from an impending marriage to a Tree-God. It is Yin who must convince the tax collector that the girl he has fallen in love with is a ghost. He plays an Obi-Wan Kenobi to Chueng's not-so-Luke Skywalker.

Wong is simply beautiful and mesmerizing as the ghost held captive. Although she does have enough speaking time, it is not necessary as she embodies the part of a ghost caught between love and a doomed destiny with just her facial expressions.

This is one of the films that caused critics to praise Tsui Hark as a visionary. I understand this film brought a new dimension to the Chinese horror film and spawned not only two sequels, but a number of knock-offs and films influenced by this masterpiece. This is a must-see film and a great picture to introduce fans to the Hong Kong film genre. [10/10]

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 03/13/2002
Summary: Wu Ma at his best !

I finally got to see the original tonight. I got it from Tai Seng on VHS with english subtitles. Big Ones! This is an excellent movie to show new HK novices. Having seen Parts 2 & 3 numerous times I was excited to see what all the fuss was about so long ago.This is so good ! Better late than never eh?

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: VERY GOOD

First of all, there are some reviewers that said this was a comedy and funny, but that's not right, there might be some humour, but deep down it's drama and action.

A very good film though, and it's sequels are not bad either (unusual in HK cinema). Joey Wong looks as stunning and beautiful as ever, but her acting role is rather limited, though good. Leslie Cheung also plays he part perfectly, and he has made a lot of mistakes in the past I think, but this one stands out.

The special effects would look dated now for sure, but they are used well, and not used over the top like certain other movies these days (Shaolin Soccer for one!). On another note, the songs used in the movie are better than most of Leslie Cheungs songs put together, and are enjoyable if you like Cantonese music.

Still, if you like ghost and martial arts movies, this is a must.

NOTE, if you want to get this movie, and you DON'T understand Cantonese, then you will have to search for the DVD, because the VCD and VHS releases are non-subtitles, or at least the official distributor (Mega Star) didn't provide them, but there may be bootleg releases out there somewhere.

Rating: 4/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Trigger
Date: 06/15/2001
Summary: Didn't like it as much as most people did...

I wasn't as impressed with this film as most people seem to be. It seemed pretty mediocre compared to other films I had seen. I suppose if it was the first HK film I had ever seen, I'd probably have more of a fondness for it. I'll elaborate another time

Movie Rating: 5.1/10

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: Great Fun

My first HK film; terrible bootleg VHS version - and it still remains my favorite. Funny, exciting, spectacular mood setting film with great visuals and swordsplay. It set the standard and is a must see. 10/10

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: The best of this GENRE!!

This is a funny movie with great action!!
You'll laugh your head off!!
I was very entertained with the comedy and fighting in this movie.
A must see if you like this GENRE!!


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: alienlord
Date: 04/29/2001

A Chinese Ghost Story was the first HK film I ever saw. It's high quality of acting, special effects, and mythical plot, resulted in two sequels (which are surprisingly good), and gained it's stars some international recognition. The entire cast are at their best, each starring in the role they were born to play. Simply stunning photography makes this even better. ****/4

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/04/2001
Summary: Not one of my favorite-favorite, but

Good enough to be placed in my top 30 and a 4/5 stars. This movie would be considered "above average" compared to even an average ghost/kung fu Chinese TV series in the early 90s, but taking into account when this film was made, you can at least appreciate the incredible effects and the all-powerful love story, which has since been borrowed over and over and almost turned into a cliche. Very touching, very moving, and every bit of it makes you wanna see more. The final scene where "satan" wants to capture Joey Wong and dead spirit with Leslie Cheung the tax collector and Wu Ma and old swordsman coming to rescue is perhaps the highlight of the entire film. Great! [9/10]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ElectraWoman
Date: 10/12/2000
Summary: 9/10-This is a classic film

Definitely my favourite Chinese film :) This film started the "mortal meets ghost" trend in the late 80s, and as we all know, originals are the best.

The plot in a nutshell-a tax collector screws up during a collection run, and with nowhere to stay, decides he'll take his chances and stay in the deserted monastary (oops, sp?) on the outskirts of town. He meets a beautiful woman and a mad Taoist swordsman. When he discovers the woman is a ghost trapped by the Tree Demon he enlists the help of the Taoist in order to save her.

There are great performances from Leslie Cheung and Wu Ma-they both seemed to be born to play their roles. Joey Wong, thankfully, doesn't really have to act, so we don't have to cringe at her rather...limited...acting range :) This film is beautifully filmed, with some etheral scenes, such as the underwater kissing scene, and the special effects compliment, rather than detract, from the storyline. The characters are well-formed and I could definitely sympathize with the lover's plight. Well-written and highly recommended.

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Based on the famous "Strange Tales" (Liao2 Zhai1 Zhi4 Yi4).

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A naive young tax collector stumbles into a spooky castle,where he falls in love with a beautiful woman who, unfortunately, is dead. Their supernatural affair is further complicated by the evil Tree Demon. Aided by a fierce swordsman, our trusty tax man descends into hell to fight for the spirit he loves.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Story-telling cinema at it's best. It's such a popular story that people seem to overlook their usual predjudices over 'arty' cinema. Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong are perfect in the leads and who dares not worship at the feet of 'Swordsman Yen'. Again, amazing defiance of the chains of 'genre' ...at one point it just bursts into a musical style song about Taoism for no definable reason ...Great! - it just goes ahead and tells the story with no regard for if it's following the unwritten rules of film editing and genre etc. The director gives us some great set-peices too, especially the scene in Hell, and the soundtrack is also perfectly judged. The greatest credit to the film is that you are genuinely moved by the plight of the lovers and that, like all classily told storys ...it gets better with every veiwing.

[Reviewed by Andrew Best]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

This okay supernatural romance-comedy stars dorky Leslie Cheung as a tax collector who chances upon a haunted villa and falls in love with a dead woman's ghost (Joey Wong). Contrived special effects and swordfights follow, including a duel with a tree's tongue.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6