Wednesday, May 23, 2007

super gambling robo cop III: revenge of the vampire cops

I was just thinking the other day that it's been a long time since I've seen a Chinese movie. Not one of these artsy Chinese movies that everyone loves now, like "Chung King Express" or "In the Mood for Love." I'm talking about the really cheesy, formulaic Hong Kong movies that I used to watch in the 80s with my parents. There were a number of single-screen movie theaters in Chinatown (my favorite of which was located directly across the street from a candy shop, for obvious reasons), and a couple of times a month, we would go down and watch some crappy Hong Kong cinema. It was win-win. My parents got to watch the movies, I got to eat candy and stay up late and brush up on my Chinese colloquialisms, and the roaches in the theater got the spoils. Seriously, these theaters were nasty. Also, they let people smoke inside, which was gross. But the movies were good.

Thinking back, I think that I can remember five basic types of Hong Kong movies.

The Cop Movie

This is one of the most popular kinds of Chinese movies. Usually they are titled something like "Supercop III" or "Where is Officer Tuba?". Sometimes they are dramatic and involve a lot of subterfuge and betrayal and shooting two guns at the same time while jumping through a pane of glass in slow motion. And sometimes they are comedies, wherein there is a bungler cop and a straight-laced cop and a police chief that's always yelling at his underlings, and everyone runs around calling each other "Ah Sir" (which is apparently how people in Hong Kong address policemen).

The Gambling Movie

Chinese people like gambling. So there are lots of gambling movies, and they are called things like "God of Gambling" and "Return of God of Gambling." Typically in gambling movies, the final climactic scene always involves the protagonist playing in the Ultimate Super World Series of Poker or some such. Everyone always gets really good cards and they always have a briefcase full of money that they spill out onto the table at a critical moment. Also, sometimes there are guns, which must be held and shot sideways to be appropriately cool.

The Buddy Comedy

These are the same in any language, and usually stupid. There are two buddies. Sometimes one of them is retarded. They engage in shenanigans. There may be fighting, and sometimes a parting of ways. But near the end, the buddies realize that even though they hate each other, they really love each other. And then the jump into the air laughing, and--freeze frame!--the credits roll.

Ye Olden Days Kung Fu Movie

Most people have probably seen movies like this, due to the popularization of movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and that other one with the chick who knows Kung Fu but is blind. These always have lots of costumes and there is always some scene with the unfurling of long swaths of silk brocade and such. Since it is the olden days, the guys have shaved heads up front and wear braids in the back, but sometimes the superhero guy either just has really long hair all over, maybe because the actor didn't want to shave his head. Also, for some reason, people are always flying around in these movies, even while brandishing swords or cudgels or their their dead father's lost honor. It is never explained how come people knew how to fly in the olden days, but we can't do it now.

The Chinese Vampire Movie

OK, so now I have to come clean and admit that the real reason I'm talking about Chinese movies is so that I have an excuse to talk about the BEST kind of Chinese movie, which is the Chinese vampire movie. Have you ever seen a Chinese vampire movie? You should. Because they are awesome. Chinese vampires are not like western vampires. I think they're just, like, these reanimated corpses that try to kill you. But you can tame them! The way you tame them is that you put a yellow Post-It note on their forehead with red writing on it. I know! Easy, right? Once you have the Post-It note, you can made them do whatever you want by ringing a bell. Then they will follow you. But for some reason, instead of walking, they jump around everywhere. I know, it makes total sense.

But Michelle, you must be thinking, that sounds great! Where can I get me one of these Chinese vampires? Oh, but it's not all fun and games. Because sometimes the Post-It falls off and then the vampires go berserk and try to strangle you. Only they can't see for some reason, so they find you by smelling your breath. So don't breathe.

Also, if they are really trying to kill you, you can stop them with a number of handy tools that I'm sure you have just lying around your house, including the octagonal mirror and the sword made of coins. Or you could just get a new Post-It note and stick it on the Vampire's forehead, and that will calm them down right quick.

(Thanks to Hong Kong Cinema UK for all the movie stills!)

I'm sure I left out a couple of movie genres (The Very Tragic Tragedy comes to mind, wherein, similar to "Legends of the Fall," unspeakable ills befall one person all throughout the course of the movie, and just when you think it can't get any worse, their dog gets run over by the motorcycle of their ex-boyfriend's new wife) but I think that the above five covers most of the movies I saw as a kid. How about you? What are your Hong Kong movie experiences?


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