Golden Swallow

(GAM YIN JI) 1988

Director: Sing Pui O

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Golden Swallow (Gam yin ji, 1988) was one of the first clones of in the internationally successful Chinese Ghost Story (Sinnui yauwan, 1987). It is pure hokum start to finish. Some visually attractive sequences are spoilt by the insistence on sustained high camp. Chinese Ghost Story was an awfully fun film despite its corniness. This imitation is even sillier but with a comparatively inferior cast & no originality.

Two taoist warrior spirits undertake a decades-long swordfight to see whether Left Hand Sword or Right Hand Sword is more skilled. They dwell in a region of demons but their Taoism protects them from harm, as does their mutual swordsmanship. They are brothers who cannot stop quarrelling for more than moments at a time, but they are so evenly matched they could never successfully harm one another.

A scholar (Anthony Wong) saves the life of a golden swallow which as shown is actually a canary. The bird turns out to be a ghost or demoness (Cherie Chung), & she in consequence of having been saved becomes his protector. He wanders into the haunted region where the warrior spirits want him to accompany them, so as to judge which one of them is more skillful. He strives always to assess them as equals whether in good looks or swordplay.

An old demoness (Ivy Ling) & her two beautiful ghost-assistants go about the haunted region killing people. The ghost of Golden Swallow has only been killing bad people & the queen demoness is getting angry that she hasn't had any pure tasting blood lately, like from a scholar. Soon Golden Swallow has no choice but to disobey her mistress in order to protect the wandering scholar she loves.

For some while Golden Swallow & the scholar are permitted to live as mortal & fairy wife, & they even have a child together. But eventually the evil demoness springs back into troubling action. Since Golden Swallow has never killed anyone good, it is not too late for her to be reborn into a new life, though it will be sad even so as she & the scholar would no longer be together.

The final player is a heroic swordsman who is not quite strong enough to defeat the chief demoness, but who will eventually acquire a magic sword which is the product of Left Hand Spirit & Right Hand Spirit draining their mutual skill into one weapon. With this sword victory against evil will be possible, the scholar & his child saved from harm, & the "good" demoness lliberated to her next life.

Imitations of Chinese Ghost Story inevitably fail to take any part of their fantasy universe seriously. A film like Golden Swallow has to be enjoyed for the slapstick value, but the slapstick undermines any impression of heroism or tragedy or romance.. I continue to lament the serious approach to fantasy that King Hu stood for the 1960s. This insistence that fantasy is only good for laughs underestimates the possibilities of such filmic literature.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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