Ghost Of The Mirror (1974)
GHOST OF THE MIRROR is based on the same set of stories that later inspired Legend Of The Mountain and A Chinese Ghost Story. Indeed the plot is essentially the same as ACGS, minus the liberties that Tsui Hark took such as introducing singing Taoists and giant tongued monsters to the proceedings.
The movie begins with the seemingly omnipresent Shih Jun as a scholar who needs to find a quiet place to copy out some Buddhist scriptures (exactly as he would do 4 years later in LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN). The place he chooses is a run-down old house with a bad reputation. A number of people have fallen into the well out back and died - yet their bodies have never been recovered. Ghostly activity is presumed.
It's not long before this is confirmed, and the ghost in the well turns out to be none other than a very young Brigitte Lin. Everybody else flees, but Shih Jun will not be deterred - and soon finds that she's not a bad ghost after all (all the killing aside). They become friends. This does not please the 'poisonous dragon' that was responsible for her plight.
I don't know if this was the first movie to address the ghost stories of Pu Songling, but probably not. Sad to say that, whilst a worthy attempt, it doesn't come close to the efforts of King Hu or Tsui Hark. Not a bad movie, just not a classic. There's some nice locations, and occasional nice shots... but nothing with the eye for composition of King Hu. Brigitte is certainly a beautiful ghost here, but not a terribly ghostly one. She doesn't fly, doesn't slide into view with hair whipping around her face... she does do a bit of silk twirling, but most of the time she just does the cooking and cleaning - proving that gender stereotypes live on even after death. She is quite charming and sweet though - it's strange seeing her being so 'girly' after the later roles she would become best known for though.
Shih Jun seems to have been born to play his role - at least it's the only role he seems to get anyway. He does a decent job, I like him.
The movie is a nice glimpse at some early HK (or Taiwanese) movies that don't feature kung fu, and a pleasant enough watch. Anybody expecting something with the grandeur of a King Hu movie will be let down though.
Winson do us proud by releasing such a movie at all, but it must be said that the source print they used is abysmal. Unlike their Legend Of The Mountain disc, it starts bad and stays bad. I'm sure that Hong Kong Legends could take the same source materials and make us believe that it was just filmed last week, but Winson just put them on a disc. Definitely one of the worst prints I've seen, but I doubt that there are going to be pristine prints of this movie found any time soon.
Worth a look, and an essential purchase for Brigitte fans.