There’s little I find more satisfying than a successful blind buy. On my way to Tokyo earlier this year, we had a 24 hour stopover in Hong Kong. My only goal for this brief period of time was to visit Hong Kong Records and grab a bunch of cheap DVDs. After buying a few familiar titles for absurdly low prices, my eyes darted about looking for DVDs with exciting cover art. Vampire’s Breakfast, with its hilarious title and cast of familiar actors, was an easy purchase. Still, I expected it to be terrible. It was not.
original title: Ling chen wan can
Hong Kong, 1987, Chung Wang
Vampire’s Breakfast is not a great movie, but, despite its flaws, it’s fun and never outstays its welcome. Its plot is a tangled mess as characters appear and disappear, and the finale goes one scene too long. However, a solid cast of Hong Kong mainstays distract from these imperfections. Kent Cheng is always entertaining, whether he’s starring in a sleazy CAT III like Run and Kill (1993), or a classier affair along the lines of Once Upon a Time in China (1991). Here he plays against type in a heroic and intelligent role. Emily Chu, of A Better Tomorrow (1986) fame, has little to do in Vampire’s Breakfast, but her presence is welcome and she’s allowed to join in the action during the film’s final showdown. Also of note is the appearance of Ma Wu, a familiar face for those that enjoy Hong Kong cinema.
Another enjoyable aspect of Vampire’s Breakfast, and one likely unintentional from director Chung Wang (side note: if you write his name in the traditional Chinese way of last name first, then his name is Wang Chung – yes!), is the total lack of background information we’re given on the film’s monster. The vampire is simply a killing machine. He doesn’t transform humans into vampires, he only murders them. We never find out where he came from or what he wants, outside blood, of course. With his slimy make up, the vampire is closer in spirit to a mindless zombie or a flesh hungry demon than a smooth-talking vampire. The vampire hardly shows up in the film’s first half, but this is made up for in the film’s final act, which is gory and exciting. (I posted the film’s final battle last week.)
Horror-comedy is not a genre with a solid success rate, but in Vampire’s Breakfast the comedy is, quite surprisingly, placed on the back burner with the film remaining oddly focused on its lead character’s plight. In fact, films like the nasty The Untold Story (1993) are heavier on the cringe-inducing humour. That’s not to say its not totally free from the usual cheese. Keith Kwan hams it up something rotten, and the film ends on a painfully goofy note. But hey, that’s part of the charm of Hong Kong’s schizophrenic cinema of the 80s and early 90s. It wouldn’t be the same without it.
Vampire’s Breakfast is perhaps not the best place to start for those new to Hong Kong cinema. There are far better films to be seen before this even appears on the radar. But for those that feel that they’ve come close to draining the well, Vampire’s Breakfast is a welcome surprise.
Vampire’s Breakfast has a decent enough release from Fortune Star. I can’t imagine it will ever get an upgrade and with the price of Hong Kong DVDs so low, you don’t have much to lose. I’d recommend grabbing it from DDDHouse.com. Seems to be the cheapest option.