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  • THE SHADOW BOXING (1979) is also known as SPIRITUAL BOXER 2 but is not exactly a sequel to THE SPIRITUAL BOXER (1975). It's by the same director, Lau Kar Leung, and features some of the same actors, including the star, Wang Yu (sometimes spelled Wong Yu and not to be confused with One-Armed Swordsman Jimmy Wang Yu), but has little in common with the earlier film, which was a wry treatment of Chinese folk superstitions and told the story of a conman who used villagers' beliefs in traditional gods to run various scams. There were no supernatural elements in that film. In this one, however, the main characters are a pair of "corpse herders," played by Wang Yu and Lau Kar Wing—the director's brother—whose job is to deliver corpses for burial in their home villages. They do this by putting hand-inked paper spells on the corpses (called "vampires" in the subtitles here) and making them hop from town to town on their journey at night. It's a far-fetched supernatural premise based on Chinese folklore that's treated in a matter-of-fact fashion that is completely at odds with the director's treatment of folk gods in the earlier film. Such treatment also means that the supernatural elements are never given the kind of free rein we would later see in such over-the-top horror/martial arts/action comedies as Sammo Hung's SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS (aka ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND, 1980) and Ricky Lau's MR. VAMPIRE (1985). As a result, things get pretty tedious by the time the already slim plot kicks into gear late in the film. This plot involves the use of the "corpse herd" by a fugitive seeking to pass through checkpoints and avoid capture by pursuing soldiers. A lot of comic possibilities are offered up by this plot twist, few of which are adequately exploited.

    The cast includes Gordon Liu (as the fugitive), Wilson Tong as an army officer, and Lee Hoi San as a crime boss working in collusion with corrupt army officers. Wang Yu's female sidekick is played by Huang Hsin-Hsiu, who's cute and spunky and may be familiar to fans from her earlier starring role for the director in SHAOLIN MANTIS (1978), also reviewed on this site.

    There are few fights in the film. There is one spectacular brawl in a gambling house about halfway through and then a big fight at the end. The unconvincing gimmick here is that Wang Yu can only fight to win when "vampire chants" are called out to him (e.g. "Vampire rises from the dead"), similar to THE SPIRITUAL BOXER in which Wang Yu could only win by having someone invoke various gods to inspire the necessary maneuvers. This is easily one of Lau Kar Leung's weakest films (along with LADY IS THE BOSS) and I'd recommend this only to the director's most ardent fans. The rest of you should simply seek out the Celestial Pictures' remastered Shaw Bros. DVDs of Lau's masterpieces, CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS, EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, SHAOLIN MANTIS, LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF KUNG FU and 8-DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE SHADOW BOXING is a follow up to THE SPIRITUAL BOXER and sees Wong Yue once again playing the title role, although this time it's a very different unconnected story. Now, I had no idea before watching that Shaw had put out a hopping vampire movie, not least a hopping vampire movie that predates Sammo's ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND, which I always assumed invented the genre. It comes at little surprise that Shaw got there first, as they did so many times.

    The story sees Wong Yue and his master (played by the wily Liu Chia Yung, who I best remember as the Silver Fox in KNOCKABOUT) working as corpse escorts, by which they transport hopping vampires around the countryside and return them to their loved ones. There's some back story about various cruel villains and the like and the manhunt for an escaped criminal who has been wrongfully accused of murder by the baddies. Cecilia Wong plays Wong Yue's friend who becomes caught up in the corpse transportation business.

    Although the lack of a big budget is sometimes apparent, THE SHADOW BOXING is a lot of fun and for a sequel, highly imaginative. The only fault I can find with it is a dearth of action, although the impressive finale sees good old Gordon Liu doing what he does best, i.e. stripping to the waist and beating up various nefarious bad guys. Wong Yue is a likable and funny hero in this and every scene involving the hopping vampires is a delight. Liu's role is an unusual one and he runs away with it, giving the best performance of the film. Fans of ghoulish humour will be in their element with this sequel, which is superior to the original in every way.