The Gambling Ghost (1991)

Directed by
Three times the Sammo fun!
Reviewed by Simon on 2020-07-02

Sammo Hung plays a lazy loser who dreams of making easy money at the gambling table or with a scam. His father (Sammo Hung) exhorts him to just try and earn an honest living, lest he end up like his Grandfather, known as the Gambling King - a famous cheat who came to a sticky end.

The younger Hung looks like he might be heading the same way until a freak accident summons the ghost of that very grandfather (Sammo Hung), who agrees to use his supernatural powers to help his Grandson make money if he'll promise in return to take revenge on the man that killed him.

You may have noticed that all three generations of the family are played by the mighty Sammo Hung, and this is very much the movie's main hook. Sammo plays the huckster son, the earnest father and the cocky grandfather with equal amounts of charm. There are quite a few scenes where at least two generations share the screen, and given that this was 1991 and long before Hong Kong had access to CGI they do a remarkable job. Split screens, doubles and clever editing are surprisingly effective at making you forget there aren't really 2 or 3 Sammo Hungs in the world.

Or maybe there are ... it would certainly explain how he managed to make so many classic films if he had clones.

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The Gambling Ghost is an action comedy in the classic Hong Kong style, featuring Mahjong, con men, con women and some good old fashioned beatdowns. It starts with a parody of All For The Winner, passes through delightful cameos from Wu Ma and Lam Ching-Ying sending up their characters from A Chinese Ghost Story and Mr. Vampire, takes numerous diversions where Sammo and Mang Hoi pursue some daft scheme and/or Nina Li, and ends with a showdown against Billy Chow (and Robert Samuels, who is very impressive here).

The film is rather reminiscent of Where's Officer Tuba? - an earlier film that also featured Sammo being haunted by a ghost who wants him to take revenge, but which missed the trick of having the ghost also be Sammo (as far as I can remember!).

There are only a handful of fight scenes in the film, but they are all very good. Apparently Mang Hoi gets the Action Director credit, but the style is very much following the style that Sammo and Jackie Chan initiated in the 80's.

This film was hard to find for the longest time, but finally got a bluray release in Hong Kong this year. The film seems to have been well enough preserved and looks great, but the subtitles are atrocious. They were so bad I ended up ripping them and doing a clean up pass ... which turned into rewriting almost every line. Download them here, they are still far from perfect but they should at least make sense now.

I really enjoyed THE GAMBLING GHOST, it's such a treat to come across a film from the golden era that I haven't seen before and for it to be one of such high quality. The film is effortlessly entertaining and Sammo is in great form as actor, comedian and fighter - another reminder of his remarkable talent, should one be needed.

Now if My Flying Wife gets a bluray release this year as well, 2020 might just be able to redeem itself!