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Out Of The Dark (1995) Directed by: Jeff Lau

Jeff Lau plants himself in familiar territory with this horror-comedy effort. From what I've seen, Jeff has never been a director of great storytelling but instead one that will entertain you, sometimes greatly. He's got his 'comical' interludes in between the horror interludes but sadly the energy seen before in the latter is not really present. It's a good thing that this is a Stephen Chow movie then.

Playing mental patient Leon (casual film fans will instantly know which character Leon is modeled after) he has to teach a group of apartment complex security guard to battle ghosts. The movie gets off to a slow start but Stephen shows up and we get the usual comedy we expect of him. When I say usual I mean silly and when I say silly I mean funny. Take comedy and mix it with moderate gory horror and you've got yourself some winning Stephen Chow scenes in Out Of The Dark. I say scenes because without him in the frame the horror is dull even by Jeff Lau's standards. It wasn't a hit upon it's release in 1995. Possibly because of it's slightly darker tone. A subbed Taiwan dvd release is on the market but only with a Mandarin dub. The Cantonese language vcd is also out of print. Thanks to reader Doug Sulpy for the dvd info.

Outside the Window (1973) Directed by: Sung Chuen Sau & Yuq Jeng Chuen

This Taiwanese 1973 melodrama marked a successful debut by arguably one of the most beautiful Asian women to grace a movie screen, Brigitte Lin. The young Lin is quite astonishing for a newcomer and conveys many melodramatic traits of the character of Chiang well.

Chiang is part of a tragic love story about the struggling romance between her and elder teacher Kang Nan (Woo Kei). She comes from a broken home where the father figure is seemingly gone in her view. You might see her falling for Kang Nan as a way of getting that male figure into her life but a theme also touched upon is that of the ignorance of the struggling couple as they know society aren't about to embrace them. It may be true love but life truths overpower. All told in heavy handed melodramatic style and in the end, going only decent places emotionally. Pace is slow and this isn't exactly exciting filmmaking but a story that involves slightly in combination with the young Brigitte Lin makes for highly recommended viewing for fans of the ageless beauty. She would continue to enjoy great success in Taiwan before she conquered Hong Kong cinema through effort such as Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain, Police Story and The Bride With White Hair. Outside The Window also sees Chin Han (Lin's real life husband at one point) and Sun Yueh (City On Fire) in supporting roles.

The success of Outside The Window reportedly and strangely enough did not happen in Taiwan but in Hong Kong since the author of the autobiographical book it was based on requested it to not be released in Taiwanese theatres to avoid further shame to be put on the family.

Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt (1994) Directed by: Joe Ma

Dubbed the "Banana Ripening" series, Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt is the direct, slightly inferior sequel to Samson Chiu's wonderful Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday. Still designed to be just like The Wonder Years, this Lau Ching Wan narrated continuation of Bo's (John Tang) development towards adulthood needs to replicate the original vision. However, director Joe Ma does not feel like he's being saddled with a lazy task and he comes through in spades as the new head of the series, from a career point where he had not yet become way too comfortable in his industry position. We still get very direct and frank views when with Bo's trains of thoughts, usually concerning sex but at center is Bo's very fragmented character still in development. Possessing hints of being a bully, a homophobic, he equally learns from his past wrongdoings and appreciates what he has; a true on and off love with Ting (Ellen Lo) and a family to look up to. The poster art with Eileen Tung's character alongside a kid is very telling as Bo is quite far behind everyone else. Anyone who wants to become a man, can. Bo's love affair with the university student played by Tung is one of many stepping stones towards that, all wrapped in an off-beat and sweat atmosphere by Joe Ma. Samson Chiu simply had a better grasp on all issues and emotions but slightly inferior is nothing to be ashamed of. Aside from Fung Bo Bo, who is replaced by May Law, most key cast returns in addition to Leslie Cheung and Clifton Ko making cameos as themselves.

Buy the VCD at:
Yesasia.com

The Owl Vs Bumbo (1984) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Bumbo (Sammo Hung) is a thief having gotten away with robbing a bank with blanks ammo in his weapon. Owl (George Lam) is a swindler and both have subsequently retired (Bumbo working as an aerobics instructor) but an anonymous letter says someone is on to the duo's past wrongdoings and forces them to perform two tasks. One to work as career advisors for disillusioned youths and the other to take part in a bidding for a piece of land...

Quite lighthearted coming from Sammo and mostly we get a semi-enjoyable, only half-sincere comedy spiced with an enjoyable, trademark Sammo cake of action. The key banter between Sammo and Lam is hit and miss but in particular during the auction the pair are in sync with each other and silly humour finds a valid place in the package. Less successful when trying to strike a meaningful chord when focusing on the kids (whose teacher is played by Michelle Yeoh), it's well-meaning what Sammo is doing but also very half baked. No, the true delights come in the form of Sammo's dance number with Deannie Yip and it's not out of place to make the action feel powerful. It's suitably enough not violent though. Also with Season Ma, Stanley Fung, Phillip Chan, Tai Bo, Dick Wei and Ronald Wong.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

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