The Seventh Curse (1986)

Directed by Simon Nam Ngai Choi

Produced by Wong Jing

Starring Chin Siu Ho, Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Dick Wei, Chui Sau Lai, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Chow Yun Fat, Sibelle Hu Wai Chung, Ngai Hong, Chui Suk Woon, Ken Boyle Cameo appearances by Yasuaki Kurata, Chor Yuen, Wong Jing, Wong Yu, Johnny Wang Lung Wai, Kara Hui Ying Hung, and Derek Yee Ting Sing

The Seventh Curse

Firstly, let's give the title character a little introduction. Professor Wisely is the Chinese equivalent of Spielberg's Indiana Jones character, his origins more steeped in Eastern mythology and his film exploits far wilder than Harrison Ford's adventurous archaeologist. Throughout feature films, and an eventual spin-off TV series in the early nineties, he has been portrayed by everyone from Chow Yun Fat (Seventh Curse), Sam Hui (Legend Of Wisely), Chin Kar Lok (Bury Me High), Waise Lee (The Cat) to popular Asian VJ David Ng (Young Wisely 1 & 2). Third theatrical installment "Bury Me High" actually performed better at the Hong Kong box office in 14 days than Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" did in 85! However, possibly through the stigma of being a "subtitled feature", Wisely's first cinematic adventure has only just recently begun to garner the acclaim of the cult classic it deserves to be. Thus, this is where I step in and do the hard sell on you all! J

Director Simon Nam should be no stranger to readers of this site, as his "Story Of Ricky" boasts the novelty of being one of the bloodiest Hong Kong action films committed to screen, and his "Her Vengeance" (1988) was a brutal reworking of Meir Zarchi's "I Spit On Your Grave". Hopefully, with the kind permission of my editor, more of his genre output (namely "Erotic Ghost Story", "Peacock King" and "Saga Of The Phoenix") may get a look-in on these pages soon.

Coming on like "Indiana Jones" meets "The Evil Dead", "Curse" opens in grandiose style with a jaw-droppingly-choreographed hostage siege. Doctor Yuan (Chin) is called in to aid a hostage who has suffered a heart attack, and the SDU capitalise on his renowned fearless nature to plant a bomb amidst the terrorists. With the siege resolved, Yuan retreats to an extravagant social function, then back to the seclusion of his home and the waiting arms of a Western lass. Without warning, a Thai native, Hak Lung (Wei), breaks into his house, engages a furious kung fu duel, then requests him to assist his village against evil sorcerer Aquala (Tsui) before departing with the words "stay away from sex". With the kettle on the boil, Yuan pays little heed to Hak's words, until a bullet bursting forth from his leg punctuates his excited state!

A quick visit to his sagely, pipe-smoking friend, and expert on the occult, Professor Wisely (Chow), casts his memory back to a year prior and an adventure in Northern Thailand. While seeking out a herbal cure for the AIDS virus, he happened across the Worm Tribe of Yunnan Miao, Thai natives steeping in witchcraft. When he rescued beautiful village girl Betsy (Chui) from ritual sacrifice to the tribe's Old Ancestor (a skeletal mummy who can transform into a winged Giger-esque beast at will), Aquala struck him with a Blood Curse for his troubles. The curse of the English title is drawn from seven swallowed bullets, each more deadly than the last with the final bullet set to rupture his heart. Wisely surmises that Yuan must return to Thailand to find a cure for said curse before it kills him. So off he goes, with Wisely's rambunctious reporter cousin Tsui Hung (Cheung) in tow.

Once back in Thailand, Yuan must track down Hak, who has a vested interest in his quest for the Holy Ashes, as it will restore Betsy's now scarred visage to its original beauty. Armed to the teeth with every firearm imaginably, Yuan and Hak venture forth to face Aquala, his demonic minion Little Ghost (created from the blood of 100 children), the Worm Tribe militia, and ultimately the Old Ancestor in its demon form. It's a wild, wild ride to the unbelievable climax from there!

At a snappy 81 minutes, Nam doesn't allow his film the excess fat of a dull moment in its exhilarating quest to top one mind-blowing setpiece with the next. From the frantic pace of the opening siege, to the occult steeped jungle of Thailand the pace never lets up to allow the viewer the luxury of taking a breath! This is the adventure-horror-action film that has something for everyone, be it gratuitous nudity (Chui skinning out of her sacrificial robes to cut a gland from her breast to save Chin's life), graphic gore (Old Ancestor sucking the spinal column out of a victim, or Little Ghost burrowing through another amidst geysers of blood), to incredible action (Chin & Wei fighting an endless stream of Buddhist monks atop a huge Buddha statue). No matter where I could start amidst the seemingly endless show of amazing setpieces, there could rarely be justice done short of witnessing its over the top excesses for yourself. Right down to naked children being dropped into a huge stone crusher to be ground down to demon producing paste, there's precious few moments that won't leave prospective viewers in a state of slack-jawed disbelief.

For a PAL master to NTSC disc transfer, "Curse" looks mighty good for its age. Motion artifacting is minimal, although there is a noticeable amount of grain apparent in some of the night, and darker, scenes. Generally though this is a pretty pleasing edition of a film that demands rediscovery. There is also some instances of over-saturated colour, and colour bleed present but these are not really distracting enough to destroy the viewing experience. Audio is a newly remixed Dolby 5.1 track and when it gets going by God does it thump! Some one at Universe seems to have turned the kicks & punches in the fight scenes up to eleven (as was also apparent in Sammo Hung's "Eastern Condors" disc), which actually manages to add to the cartoon flavour of the film! The score is largely library cues, and this tends to work against the mix a tad in the long run. However, picture-wise there's lots of reds in here, and they all come up looking surprisingly good. Extras are of the standard Chinese variety, being Cast Biographies, Cinema trailer, and Attractions trailers (by and large other Chow Yun Fat titles in Universe's catalogue).

"The Seventh Curse" has "cult classic" stamped all over it, and has to be seen to be believed, and even then I doubt you will! It is a delirious cocktail of kung fu, horror, "Indiana Jones" styled adventure, and special effects madness from an era before the advent of CGI. It's a thrilling ride of splashy gore effects, rubbery creature effects, and insanely dangerous action that only Hong Kong stuntmen would attempt (keep an eye out for an extra who is struck, for real, by a speeding four-wheel drive! You'll wince in pain!). A must see in anybody's books, and a fine precursor to Nam's later works. Go grab it now, as Hong Kong cinema rarely comes any crazier than this!

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Universe Laser & Video
Category II - Region 0
Audio - Dolby 5.1
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85
Running time : approx 78 mins (PAL speed)
Extras :
Star files; Trailer; Attractions trailers

� 2001, Icon In Black Media