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  Golden Nun Nun of your business
Year: 1977
Director: Tyrone Hsu
Stars: Lam Dai, Lee Tao Hung, Hu Chin, Tien Feng, Lor Tok
Genre: Musical, Martial Arts, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sing Wei-a (Lee Tao Hung) joins a group of friends gambling to pass the time while they keep vigil over a recently deceased neighbour, as per Chinese tradition. Meanwhile a black cat leaps over the corpse. One by one the gamblers notice the corpse stirring as a malevolent zombie, make their excuses and leave, until only Sing Wei-a remains. Scared witless he flees the scene to seek refuge at a house next door full of sexy women. Until the women reveal they are ghosts too with stretchy serpentine necks that stretch and bend in eerie fashion. Out of nowhere a bald Buddhist nun with gold-painted skin (Lam Dai) floats down to banish the ghosts back to the netherworld. Still reeling from this strange event the next day, Sing Wei-a confides in his seamstress wife Shiu Jiu-wa (Hu Chin) who has problems of her own to deal with seeing as every man she meets seems intent on molesting her. However these lecherous men all have a habit of winding up dead, drained of all their vital fluids. The local Taoist Priest (Tien Feng) seems to think all of this is connected to Sing Wei-a including the Golden Nun who is a literal ghost from his past.

What on the surface seems like another entry in late Seventies kung fu cinema’s strange obsession with characters daubed in metallic body-paint a la 18 Bronzemen (1976) actually proves even weirder. The plot, with its initial focus on a hapless doofus at the centre of all manner of supernatural shenanigans, prefigures the knockabout Hong Kong horror-comedies of the Eighties: e.g. Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980), The Fake Ghost Catchers (1982), Ghosts Galore (1983), the Mr. Vampire series, etc. However Golden Nun features something those other films lack and that is characters that burst into song! Yes, in addition to being a ghost story-cum-martial arts romp, this is also a musical. Laden with scenes where characters trill traditional opera ballads in a style likely challenge less adventurous or non-Chinese viewers.

Director Tyrone Hsu, best known for fantasies The Demons of Flame Mountain (1978) and Immortal Warriors (1979) although his filmography also includes such intriguing titles as The Rising Feminism (1974), I Fell in Love with a Little Lover (1980) and The Horrible Honeymoon Tour (1980), fashions a creaky old fashioned ghost story not far removed from the Shaw Brothers production The Ghost Story (1978) (which also stars doll-faced Hu Chin) only minus the eroticism and delirious third act. For all its charming eccentricities (primitive optical effects, a plot laced with some genuinely unexpected twists including big reveals about both Shiu Jiu-wa and the Golden Nun, a soundtrack mixing ghostly wails with farting synths and karaoke crooning) the film is marred by an excess of goofy, unappealing comedy, soporific pacing and needlessly convoluted plotting. The setup is engaging enough but once the film reveals its titular golden nun is not even a nun after all it devolves into a lot of blather about reincarnation, transcendental meditation and star-crossed romance. It does not help that lead actress Lam Dai gives a vapid performance as an uninteresting character while male lead Lee Tao Hung is just as unappealing as the ungrateful doofus non-hero who inadvertently dooms the would-be tragic heroine twice. That's just careless.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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