Review: ‘Deadful Melody’

Deadful Melody" is an enjoyable Hong Kong fantasy adventure of the increasingly old-school swirling-fog, trampoline-leaping stripe. Item was originally released to home territories in 1994. Brigitte Lin plays another of the androgynous, vengeful figures she first notably essayed in '92's "Swordsman II." Hyperbolic prologue has her Wong Suet Mui (played by a child actor) witnessing what is seemingly her entire family's slaughter by rival martial arts masters. Suet Mui alone escapes, carrying the all-powerful Magic Lyre they'd coveted.

Years later, she resurfaces with supernatural powers acquired from that lethal instrument, alternating boy/girl sartorial style, and plans to exact merciless revenge. To this end she lures Lui Lun (Yuen Biao) into escorting the “demonic strings” to his master — neither of them realizing yet that Lui Lun is actually her long-lost brother. By making the lyre’s whereabouts known, Suet Mui hopes to set the Six Cliques competing for domination, ensuring their mutual destruction.

Color-coded Clique leaders are a fanciful, variably malevolent bunch, the most striking being Ha Ching Fa the Hard-Hearted Witch (less politely referred to at times as “the nosy bitch of the world”), a flying, whip-wielding femme fatale. Director Ng Min-keng keeps the tone evenly balanced between frenzied action and comedy; Biao and Carina Lau (as the Fire Master’s main disciple) lead up the latter with their somewhat dim, blustery ingenues. While not a particularly large-scale production by genre standards, “Deadful Melody’s” solid stunt work and special effects, sharp lensing and dizzy editing pace will please jaded H.K. action fans. After expected fight to end all fights, conclusion seems a bit abrupt.

Distribs have recently given pic the improved English-language title “Deadly Melody,” but it’s otherwise been known since original release as the appealingly ungrammatical “Deadful.”

Deadful Melody

Hong Kong

Production

A Film City Distribution Ltd. presentation of a Superclass Production Ltd. production. Produced by Stephen Tsang. Directed by Ng Min-keng. Screenplay, Chan Man Keung, Lee Man Choi, Lee Yuk Tak.

Crew

Camera (color), Kwan Chi Kwan; editor, Chun Yue; music, James Wong, Lui Chung Tak; production design, Wu Ma; choreography, Man Hoi, Lee King Chu. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Jan. 14, 1997. (In Cinequest, San Jose Film Festival.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Yuen Biao, Brigitte Lin Chin-hsia, Carina Lau Kar-ling, David Lam Wai, Ng Ma, Elvis Tsui Kam-kong.
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