The Dead and the Deadly
AKA: The Dead & The Deadly
Year of release: 1982
Director: Wu Ma
Action directors: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-Ying, Billy Chan
Producers: Raymond Chow, Sammo Hung
Writers: Sammo Hung, Barry Wong
Cinematography: Ricky Lau
Editor: Yau-Tong Lee
Music: Michael Lai
Stars: Sammo Hung, Wu Ma, Lam Ching-Ying, Cherie Chung, Hui Leung-Mei, Chin Yuet-Sang, Chung Faat
Rated IIA for crude humor and mild violence
DVD available for purchase at www.sensasian.com
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The Dead and the Deadly, like many Hong Kong films, is a mash-up of genres. This time out, we have the combination of action, comedy, and Chinese ghost stories. The trouble is, none of the elements are used all that well. The Dead and the Deadly isn't a bad picture by any means -- it does everything competently enough -- but it's pretty disappointing considering some of the cast and crew that were involved with its' production.
The film revolves around Chu (Sammo Hung), who is an assistant in a funeral home run by his uncle, Ko (Lam Ching-Ying). After Chu's friend Cheung (Wu Ma) dies suddenly, Chu begins to suspect foul play, and he's right to an extent. Cheung has teamed up with a hooker and her brother to fake his death, so that he can get into his family's tomb to steal some precious antiques. However, when the hooker finds out that the antiques in the tomb are actually worthless, she sends her brother to kill Cheung, so she can collect Cheung's estate via the baby she is about to give birth to.
Now a ghost for real, Cheung tries to get Chu to help by "donating" his body, so Cheung can take revenge. Chu reluctantly agrees, since Ko says he can put his soul back into his body if they are reunited soon enough. However, the plan goes awry, and Chu's body and soul cannot be put back together. Enlisting the aid of Chu's wife (Cherie Cheung), Ko comes up with a desperate plan to bring Chu back to life.
The above plot might seem goofy to some, but for those well-versed in Hong Kong films, it's not really all that strange, and actually might have provided the means to producing a solid movie. That is, if the film-makers didn't seem intent on squandering the talent they had to work with. Way too much time is spent on dopey comedy, most notably an over-long scene where Chu takes an aphrodisiac in a brothel and walks around with an erection. Sammo looks painfully embarrassed doing this type of toilet humor, and that sort of feeling certainly doesn't translate into laughs for the viewer.
Things do solidify in the last half-hour or so, which is kicked off by a very good fight sequence, and finished off with Cherie's confrontation with three demons (who strangely look like E.T.) guarding Sammo's soul. These scenes show off some great moves from the actors -- it's the sort of action that long-time Hong Kong film fans have come to know and love from movies of this period. If there was more emphasis on this kind of stuff versus lame dick jokes, The Dead and the Deadly could have been something really special, instead of the relatively minor entry in Sammo Hung's filmography it ends up being.