[aka The Seventh Curse]

Synopsis: After helping the police to defeat a band of terrorists, the heroic Dr Yuan (Chin Siu Ho) is pursued by a determined reporter, Tsai Hung (Maggie Chung). At his apartment, Yuan is attacked by a mysterious stranger (Dick Wei), and after a violent struggle is overpowered. The stranger tells him that he must return to Thailand to save his own life and that of Ba Chu (Chui Sau Lai), and reveals that his name is Heh Lung. Heh Lung further warns Yuan to stay away from women, but Yuan ignores this, retiring to the bedroom with his girlfriend. Suddenly, however, the veins in Yuan’s left leg swell and burst, spraying blood around the room. Yuan goes to see his friend, Wisely (Chow Yun Fat), who tells him that he is under a blood curse. Yuan relates the story of an expedition to northern Thailand undertaken a year earlier…. Yuan encounters a beautiful girl, Ba Chu, while she is swimming. Telling the expedition leader of his experience, Yuan is warned by the Professor (Ken Boyle) that the local tribe are practitioners of black magic, and that the drums mean that there will be a sacrifice to the tribe’s Ancestral God. Intrigued, Yuan and some of his colleagues decide to observe secretly, and Yuan is horrified to see that Ba Chu is one of the victims chosen by the sorcerer, Aquala (Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong). One of the tribesmen objects to Ba Chu’s selection, and Aquala releases from beneath his robe a Blood Imp, which tears out the man’s throat, buries into his body, and rips his heart out with its teeth. There are no further objections…. Yuan decides that he will try to rescue Ba Chu, and sends his colleagues for more help. Inside the temple, the sorcerer pours blood over a stone sarcophagus, then leaves. The lid of the sarcophagus flies off, and Ancestral God, a living skeleton with glowing eyes, climbs out. It attacks Ba Chu, but Yuan manages to fight it off. The second sacrificial victim is not so lucky: Ancestral God rips off his head and sucks out his spinal cord. As Yuan frees Ba Chu, a strange wind whips through the temple, and a reptilian monster tears its way out of Ancestral God…. Yuan and Ba Chu flee, but are pursued by the tribesmen. Most of the expeditionary party and some of the tribesmen are killed, while Yuan and the Professor are captured. Aquala pours a strange substance over the Professor’s head. Screaming, the Professor rips open his own face and stomach, and a stream of maggots pours forth…. Aquala then pulls a bullet from the body of a dead tribesman and forces Yuan to swallow it. The veins in Yuan’s body begin to swell and burst. Yuan manages to escape and staggers towards the lake, where he collapses, bleeding dangerously. He is found by Ba Chu, who cuts a protective charm from out of her own body and gives it to Yuan to swallow. She then tries to warn him of something, but Yuan loses consciousness without hearing what she says….

Comments: During the climax of The Seventh Curse, in which a Blood Imp that looks like a cross between Minya and one of the little alien dudes from Inseminoid is released from a pouch made of cow placenta in order to disembowel a distinctly Alien-esque reptilian monster which itself had just torn its way out of a living skeleton after that skeleton devoured the spinal cord of an evil sorcerer, I was moved to turn to my companion and observe, "Now there’s something you don’t see every day."

Which of course sums up in a sentence the attraction of the Hong Kong cinema of the eighties. Whether a film was good, bad or indifferent – and The Seventh Curse is mostly good, thankfully – you were pretty much guaranteed to see something that you’d never seen before.

And even by the anything-goes standards of that era, The Seventh Curse is one of the most bizarre and unpredictable movies I’ve ever seen. The amount of incident crammed into its brisk seventy-eight minute running time is simply staggering, and keeps you enthralled even through the parts of the film that don’t work so well, namely – yes, you guessed it! - the Comic Relief. (I swear, when I get through this batch of films, I am going to lock myself in my room and work my way through the collected oeuvres of Ingmar Bergman and Andre Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson.) This is not, perhaps, as Odious as in the past two weeks, but it is Odious all the same, and none the less so for being provided by one of my favourite people, Maggie Cheung. Alas, at this point in her career Maggie almost always was unbearable, playing either Incredibly Annoying Heroine, as here, or Whiny Girlfriend, as in the Police Story movies. Thank God for everyone concerned – not least Ms Cheung herself – that someone finally figured out that she could act.

On the other hand, one of the film’s (inadvertent) pleasures is a supporting performance from a just-on-the-brink-of-superstardom Chow Yun Fat (sigh). Chow does not himself play the hero, but rather the hero’s "best friend and mentor". Aptly named "Wisely", he’s the Keeper Of The Arcane Knowledge; the kind of guy who, when you run to him wailing, "A Blood Imp is trying to kill me!" or "My veins are exploding!" will reply with a serene smile that a cow’s placenta will fix that little problem, or that you’ve got five days to live. The disturbing thing about Chow’s presence in this film is not the brevity of his screentime, but his wardrobe. While he does make a fleeting appearance early on wearing a tux (sigh), he goes through most of the film clad in a lemon yellow V-neck sweater and white golf shoes, and chomps incessantly upon a pipe (‘cos, you know, he’s wise). The miracle is that despite this, there are times when he almost manages to look cool anyway – and that’s Chow Yun Fat level cool I’m talking about, remember! The Seventh Curse has earned itself a special place in my heart, as it is one of only two Chow Yun Fat films I’ve seen so far where he’s still alive when the credits roll. You kind of get the feeling that his producers finally offered him a choice: he could look and act like a total badass, only he’d have to die in a horribly bloody way at the end of the film; or he could wear lemon yellow sweaters and white golf shoes and make it out alive. And I guess we all know how the estimable Mr Chow responded to that ultimatum. Sigh.

The Seventh Curse opens at a party, where a writer – surrounded by women who pretty much define the expression "set dressing" – explains that he gets his ideas simply by talking to his friends. As it turns out, very few of his friends are accountants, or stockbrokers, or those guys who put cling wrap around newspapers on rainy days. (The writer is referred to as "Mr Ngai". I initially assumed that this was director Lam Ngai Kai, cameoing, but apparently the writer is actually played by Ni Kuang, real-life author of the "Yuan and Wisely" stories from which the screenplay was derived.) Mr Ngai then invites Yuan and Wisely to recount their most recent adventure. The two pause only to slip in a plug for Napoleon Brandy, and then we are hurled into an opening action sequence involving a bloody battle between the police and some terrorists that has nothing to do with anything in the long run, but it looks cool, so what the heck? The terrorists’ hostage has suffered a heart attack, and the police take the opportunity to summon Dr Yuan, whose "courage and exploits are legendary". Yuan agrees to carry in a stun grenade, which he will set off to coincide with a full-scale police raid. He heads into the building accompanied by a woman he thinks is a police officer, but who we know is reporter Tsai Hung, who has knocked out the policewoman and taken her place, disguising the imposture with a surgical mask. Tsai Hung’s bungling gives the game away, but Yuan manages to set off the grenade anyway, and a hugely bloody gunfight follows – in the middle of which, both Yuan and the head terrorist drop their weapons and go mano-a-mano. Naturally. The terrorists are finally defeated, and after brushing off Tsai Hung, Yuan dons a tux and attends a swanky party. Naturally. (At the party, cameoing writer-producer Wong Jing gives us an unnervingly Steven Seagal-esque moment, as his character says admiringly of Yuan, "That guy’s so cool!") Tsai Hung pursues Yuan to and from the party, and he eventually shakes her by jacking up her car’s back wheels with an inflatable device designed precisely for such occasions. At his apartment, Yuan starts fooling around with his girlfriend (another cameo, this time from Joyce Godenzi) until he is suddenly attacked by the proverbial Mysterious Stranger. The two battle each other all around the apartment, and in the process we discover that – to no-one’s surprise – Yuan owns a lot of glass-topped tables. Yuan is finally overpowered, and the stranger warns him that it’s been a year, and that he must return to Thailand if he wants to save his own life and that of a woman named Ba Chu. He further reveals himself to be called Heh Lung, and tells Yuan that he must stay away from women. To which Yuan responds by carting his girlfriend off to the bedroom.

Which is a tad difficult to understand. I mean, if I were a devil-may-care doctor/anthropologist/adventurer who’d gone through what Yuan had, seems to me that I’d at least think about that kind of warning. But then, I also don’t understand why the Mysterious Stranger had to break into Yuan’s apartment and beat him up before talking to him, rather than just knocking on the door and introducing himself. Except that---well, I guess those glass-topped tables weren’t going to smash themselves.

Anyway, Yuan and his floozy are rolling around on the bed when Yuan’s moans take on a slightly different timbre. He sits up clutching his left leg, where the veins swell up and burst open, spewing gushers of blood into the air. This, of course, sends Yuan to his friend, Wisely (everyone should have a friend called "Wisely"!), who tells him cheerfully that he’s under a blood curse that will probably kill him. He then invites Yuan to tell the story of his ordeal in Thailand.

Flashback. Yuan is part of an expedition to the wilds of northern Thailand, where one day he sees a beautiful woman swimming in a lake. She’s not quite naked – rather, this is one of those "more naked than naked" moments. It’s a little known anthropological fact that in the remote areas of northern Thailand, cheesecloth is the favoured tribal garb (and check out the G-string mark on Ba Chu’s body a little later on!). The woman makes small talk with the salivating Yuan until a whistle sounds, and she scurries off into the jungle. Yuan recounts the incident to the expedition leader, who tells him that the local tribe practises black magic and that night will be making a sacrifice to their Ancestral God. The Professor warns Yuan to steer well clear of the area, to which he responds by rounding up a few colleagues and sneaking in to spy on the ceremony. Naturally. We then meet our Bad Guy, the sorcerer Aquala, who comes complete with a cape, a red headband, kabuki make-up and a disturbingly effeminate laugh ("Hee hee hee hee hee!"). Aquala is first seen putting the hard word on Ba Chu, who rejects him scornfully, accusing him of taking advantage of Heh Lung’s absence. After this, it is no surprise when Ba Chu is chosen as one of the two sacrifices to the Ancestral God. (We never find out what the other poor schmuck did. Maybe--- Nah….) One of the gathered villagers asks for Ba Chu to be spared, as she is the daughter of the former Chief. Aquala’s response is swift and to the point: he flicks back his robe, revealing his constant companion – the Blood Imp! This big-eyed, bulb-headed, toothy little beast flies at the interjector, ripping open his throat, chewing its way into his body, down the oesophagus, then back out through the abdominal wall, with the villager’s heart clenched in its teeth. The Imp then flies back to Aquala, retiring beneath his cape with a sound like a baby crying. (At the time this is just an odd detail; it later proves to have an astonishingly gruesome significance.) Aquala inquires whether there are any more objections to Ba Chu’s sacrifice? We listen to crickets chirping, and watch a tumbleweed rolling by, and then Ba Chu and her co-victim are taken into the temple.

Of course, Yuan – being Yuan – decides to do something heroic (and to get a bunch of other people killed in the process; he’s good at that), and starts off to the rescue. Inside the temple, the bound Ba Chu (and her companion, Sacrificial Schmuck) watch helplessly as Aquala pours blood all over a stone sarcophagus. He leaves, and then the lid explodes off the sarcophagus, revealing – the Ancestral God! – a mummified skeleton wearing tribal robes and a metallic headband, and with glowing blue eyes. This being a Hong Kong movie, Sacrificial Schmuck screams, wets himself, and faints. Having made its startling appearance, Ancestral God just stands there motionless, prompting the lurking Yuan to do what idiots apparently always do: walk up and poke it. To the surprise of no-one except Yuan himself, Ancestral God bursts into life again; and Skeleton Fu ensues, as Yuan and Ancestral God beat the tar out of one another. (This scene is not only goofier than you can possibly imagine, it is unexpectedly convincing: Ancestral God is clearly a life-sized rod puppet, yet it is so cleverly manipulated that it remains a believable threat at all times, particularly when Yuan is trying to shield himself from its savagely gnashing jaws.) Yuan manages to keep Ancestral God away from Ba Chu, but Sacrificial Schmuck is not so lucky. The bloodthirsty skeleton snaps his head almost completely off, then sucks out his spinal cord with a disgusting ssslurrrrp noise. This triggers a transformation, as the closest thing to the creature from Alien that the effects department could manage bursts from within Ancestral God’s bony form.

Yuan, by this time, has freed Ba Chu, and the two of them flee with Aquala and most of the tribe in pursuit. Unfortunately, the rest of the expeditionary party has felt compelled to come to the aid of the "hero", and they are swiftly killed. Nice one, Yuan. Yuan and the Professor are captured, and find themselves facing Aquala’s tender mercies. Tittering wildly ("Hee hee hee hee hee!"), Aquala dumps sludge on the Professor’s head, whose face and body are soon swelling and writhing. Screaming, the Professor claws himself open, and a hail of maggots pours from his innards. "Those maggots multiply very rapidly!" observes Aquala gleefully. "Hee hee hee hee hee!" The bodies of the tribesmen killed during the fight with the expedition members lie nearby. Aquala pulls seven bullets from the corpses, and forces Yuan to swallow them, tittering all the while. The vein in Yuan’s left leg explodes in a shower of blood. Then, because he’s a Bad Guy, and this is what Bad Guys do, Aquala departs without seeing Yuan die. ("Hee hee hee hee hee!") Of course, Yuan manages to free himself, and staggers away, veins a-poppin’. He collapses near the lake, where he is found by Ba Chu. As it happens, she knows a way to help Yuan, and naturally, it involves taking all of her clothes off. Yuan, who was on the brink of death, suddenly perks up and takes an interest in life again. Ba Chu draws a knife and – eww! – cuts a gland from within her own breast, which she makes Yuan swallow. She then tries to warn him of something, but he loses consciousness….

Back in Hong Kong, Yuan’s recitation comes to a dramatic end when the vein in his right leg explodes. Nodding sagely and chomping on his pipe stem, Wisely pronounces that Ba Chu’s charm only lasted a year, and that Yuan will suffer one rupture a day for another five days, when his aorta will explode and he will die. He advises Yuan to return to Thailand. At this point, Tsai Hung suddenly bursts into the room, and it is revealed that she is Wisely’s cousin. Tsai Hung demands to go with Yuan, but Wisely tells her the situation is too dangerous, and that she should stay out of it (yeah, right). He then sends his blood-cursed best friend on his way with a casual, "I’m busy tomorrow, but I’ll join you later."

In Thailand, Yuan is collected at the airport and soon finds himself in a hotel room with a stash of heavy weaponry – and Tsai Hung. When he demands to know how she could have afforded the guns, she announces cheerfully that she is the daughter of a famous billionaire industrialist, which proves to be news to Yuan. I dunno. You’d think that between two such good friends as Yuan and Wisely, the subject would have cropped up earlier; but I guess they lead such exciting lives that little details like billionaire industrialist uncles don’t rate a mention. Anyway, Tsai Hung announces that she is going with Yuan and he can’t stop her. Cut to Tsai Hung trussed up like a roll of pork and lying on the bed. Yuan meets up with Heh Lung, who warns him that Aquala has put the local Mafia on their trail. On cue, these colourfully garbed gentlemen explode into the house, and much chop-socky follows (note to self: the Thai Mafia doesn’t use guns), during which Yuan suffers his daily rupture. Yuan and Heh Lung are about to be overpowered when a sudden burst of automatic weaponry and a grenade explosion wipes out the bad guys. It’s Tsai Hung! Next thing we know, she, Yuan and Heh Lung are on their way, and so swiftly that we barely have time to wonder how a girl who in the opening sequence could barely tell the difference between a stun grenade and her own backside, is suddenly an ordnance expert. Oh, well. I guess you don’t watch Hong Kong cinema for its internal consistency.

The three adventurers end up in the village of "a peaceful tribe of farmers", who we instantly recognise as the next bunch of unfortunates that Yuan will manage to get killed in the pursuit of his own ends. The head of the tribe breaks some worrying news to Heh Lung: the village children have vanished. Heh Lung explains to Yuan that Aquala’s Blood Imps only last three years, and that to make one, he needs "the blood of eight children". Heh Lung, Yuan and Tsai Hung, plus some mercenaries hired by the latter, instantly set out through the jungle, which proves to be rife with booby-traps (naturally, they only get the mercenaries). Tsai Hung again proves useful, disarming the devices (we hear that while she was in the States, she "read about Viet Cong booby-traps"!). Nevertheless, Yuan, who has developed an inexplicable affection for the girl, orders her back to the village. Tsai Hung responds with a massive hissy fit, then falls through a trapdoor. Yuan only notices that she’s missing, and assumes she’s done what he told her. (Although why she’d pick this of all moments to do so, or why he’d think she would, is beyond me.) Meanwhile, Heh Lung has scouted ahead, and returns with the grim news that the missing children are in a cage under guard in Aquala’s village. Despite this, these "heroes" decide to help Ba Chu first. They find her by the lake, hiding the right side of her face under a veil. She, too, is under a curse: her face is badly scarred. (Which I guess for a woman, is a fate worse than exploding arteries, right??) Recalling tales told by her father, Ba Chu tells the men of "sacred plums" kept "inside an inaccessible Buddha" (!); these alone can lift the curses.

Back at the "good" village, it is discovered that Tsai Hung is missing; Heh Lung correctly guesses that she has been captured and taken to Aquala. The two men then try to out-noble each other by both insisting that they help the other’s girlfriend first. (Neither of them, you notice, suggests helping the children first.) Eventually, Tsai Hung wins the vote. Heh Lung and Yuan arm themselves to the teeth, jump into their 4-wheel drive, and practically demolish Aquala’s village. (This is the sequence containing the infamous moment when a stuntman didn’t manage to get out of the way of the car in time. Ouch!) The two men storm the temple, where the unconscious Tsai Hung is bound to a pillar. Aquala, meanwhile, is busy – and the viewer is once again reminded of the yawning gulf that lies between Asian films and most others. Hang onto your hats, folks – and your stomachs – because Aquala is making another Blood Imp; and the kidnapped children, naked and shrieking, are being lowered one by one into a huge crushing device….

Okay, okay, it’s not at all explicit; but – Jeez Lou-ise!!

Yuan and Heh Lung rescue Tsai Hung. Aquala sees them go, but only smirks. We soon find out why. Just as Yuan is pronouncing Tsai Hung "fine except for a temperature", the girl Nosferatu-s herself bolt upright, and goes completely berserk with a machete, almost killing Yuan, and demolishing most of the village. (So now they’re childless and homeless. Nice.) Fortunately, that master of exquisite timing, Wisely, chooses this precise moment to arrive, and he decks his cousin with one expert manoeuvre. While Tsai Hung is being restrained, Wisely’s wife, Su (who is just as All-Knowing as The Man Himself), sedates the girl. Then Ba Chu shows up, announcing that Tsai Hung can be helped, and requesting "the blood of seven black-coloured animals: a goat, a cow, a dog, a cat, a snake, an eagle and a lizard". Given what I’d just witnessed with the children, this shopping list had me grabbing desperately for a cushion that I could hide my face in; but no. The mass murder of small children might be gruesomely, if discreetly, rendered on-camera in this film, but all animal killing is kept strictly offscreen. Obviously, The Seventh Curse was made by my kind of people.

The blood-bath is prepared as per Ba Chu’s instructions, and Tsai Hung lowered into it. When she wakes the next morning, the blood has turned a pure milky white. Despite this, Tsai Hung (back to her normal irritating self; I preferred her possessed) freaks out and leaps from the bath. This wakes Ba Chu, who spent the night watching over the girl. Tsai Hung gets a look at Ba Chu’s supposed "hideous" disfigurement and goes into shrieking hysterics. Everyone else comes running, and Ba Chu explains apologetically (she’s apologising!?), "She saw my face." Su manages to calm Tsai Hung down, telling the ungrateful brat that Ba Chu saved her life.

Yuan tells Wisely that he has suffered his sixth rupture. Wisely replies that the next one will kill him, then gives him a big smile and a consoling speech about willpower being stronger than destiny. Yuan looks distinctly unconsoled. Wisely then questions Heh Lung about Aquala, revealing that he once befriended another Aquala (I guess it’s a rank, not a name), who told him how Blood Imps might be controlled. He tells Heh Lung to "kill an expectant cow, but keep the placenta – and bring me the blood of a black dog!" (Criminy, another one!?) Meanwhile, our Aquala is busy creating his new Imp, which bounces up out of the vat of children’s blood. Aquala orders it to "kill Yuan and all his followers! Hee hee hee hee hee!" Unfortunately for the Imp, it arrives at the village to find Wisely waiting for it. While The Man Himself declines to soil his hands, his companions close in on the Imp, armed with sheets made of (ick!) cow placenta….

Yuan and Heh Lung have set out to find the "sacred plums". What they find first is a huge stone Buddha which has the plums "in its eyes" (?). The two men remind each other cheerfully that no-one else has ever attempted this and lived, then start their climb. It begins badly: Yuan snaps off first a stone finger, then a whole hand. He narrowly avoids being crushed, and then is almost impaled, as rows of spikes shoot out of the stone. Yuan and Heh Lung give each other "Phew!" looks – then recoil in amazement when they realise that they are surrounded by dozens of monks, who are lounging all over the Buddha, having appeared literally out of nowhere. Monk Fu follows, big time; until Yuan – ooh, that cheat! – he pulls out a gun! (Hey, c’mon! – that’s not in the freaking rules!! Grrr!!) Anyway, Yuan plugs a few monks, then makes it to the top of the head, from where he and two more monks plunge to their seeming deaths. Yuan, however, fires off one of those arrow-rope dealies. The arrowhead slams into the Buddha, and Yuan’s fall is broken – although not, miraculously, his back. He hauls himself back up to Heh Lung’s side. The latter disposes of a few more monks, then announces loudly that he and Yuan want the plums "to stop evil and save the good". This, apparently, makes all the difference (hmm….pity he didn’t make his little speech about two dozen monks ago, but whaddya gunna do?). The Buddha starts to "cry", a violent electrical disturbance occurs, and the monks (what’s left of them) – simply vanish…. Heh Lung and Yuan both make an obeisance, then climb up to the head. They pry out the statue’s eyes and take the plums, but manage, in the process, to detach the head. All of a sudden, something – blood? plum juice? – bursts forth from the Buddha’s eye sockets, and its head rolls off; and immediately, we’re in the middle of one of the better executed Indiana Jones rip-offs I’ve ever seen – and one of the most naked. Heh Lung manages to leap out of the way of the rolling stone head, but Yuan has nowhere to go except up against the wall. The head slams into the rock – but Yuan has ducked, and missed being crushed by – oh, a good inch or so. Heh Lung pulls him out, just as Yuan feels his final rupture beginning. He swiftly swallows a plum, and all is well – for him, anyway. Heh Lung points out that they have only two hours in which to lift the curse from Ba Chu.

Back at the village, the Evil Villagers are locked in a full-scale battle with the Good Villagers, Tsai Hung’s mercenaries (remember them?) and of course, Wisely. Yuan and Heh Lung arrive just as Tsai Hung and Ba Chu are being carried away. "Save them!" cries Wisely. "I’ll join you later!"

(You know, if I were a cynic, I might suggest that Wisely’s wisdom consists mainly of letting other people do his dirty work for him….)

Up at the temple, the women are bound to the inevitable pillars, while Aquala begins raising Ancestral God, hee-hee-hee-ing the while. Yuan and Heh Lung burst in, and Aquala pulls on a clawed glove before battling the latter. It soon transpires, however, that he has hee-hee-hee’d his last hee-hee-hee: a blow from Heh Lung lands him on the sarcophagus. Ancestral God reaches out a bony arm, drags him in, and – ssslurrrrp!

Meanwhile, Yuan has freed the women, and just as well. The sarcophagus suddenly comes to life and pursues the intruders down a tunnel. It crashes in the main temple chamber and the lid flies off, releasing Ancestral God, who swiftly disgorges Alien Guy. (You getting all this?) Yuan and Heh Lung rush in to fight the creature, but are on the verge of ignominious defeat when – Su suddenly appears, blasting away with an automatic weapon! She then sends in the mercenaries; but because these guys aren’t "heroes" or anything, they are summarily slaughtered by Alien Guy; wetly slaughtered, if you know what I mean. Su then switches to Plan B: "Release the Imp!" And yes, it’s time for – Monster Fu!! The Alien Guy flies around the room, backflipping and roaring, while Good Guy Imp waves its rudimentary arms back and forth, making distinct, "Ya wanna piece of me? Huh? Ya wanna piece of me!?" gestures. At first it seems that the Imp will triumph, ripping chunks off its much larger adversary; but then Alien Guy gets the upper hand, and the Imp is soon Imp Purée.

And then--- Well, we’ve waited seventy-five minutes, but it finally happens: Chow Yun Fat does something recognisably Chow Yun Fat-ian! YES!!

And Wisely bursts in, carrying – a rocket launcher!! – and with it, he proceeds to distribute Alien Guy over a grotesquely wide area. At this point in the film, you can just imagine John Woo sitting bolt upright in his cinema seat, whistling loudly and saying to himself, "Damn but that guy looks cool packing heavy artillery!" – before whisking his soon-to-be star away to a better tomorrow. Literally.

But alas – all of this has eaten up the time left for lifting the curse from Ba Chu, and she is disfigured forever. But never mind. Heh Lung assures her that he loves her anyway; while Wisely makes yet another sage pronouncement: "True beauty comes from within. It’s not in one’s looks." Of course, this particular piece of wisdom might have been a bit easier to swallow had Wisely not been addressing his own immaculately beautiful wife at the time, but what the hey?

And with that we cut back to the party, where there’s just time for one more gratuitous plug for Napoleon Brandy as the credits roll. The End.

Footnote: The Seventh Curse was screened on the world’s best TV station, SBS, and was, as always, shown in the correct ratio and carefully subtitled. Which is a pity, in a way. I knew all about The Seventh Curse well before I ever saw it: the commercially available print is one of the most notoriously mis-subtitled films ever released, boasting such gems as: "I’ll be flexible, bring weapons!", "She goes berserk and is Herculean!", "These are toes chopped down by spacemen" and everyone’s favourite, "Take my advice or I’ll spank you without pants!" Now, I love SBS and the care they put into the films they show; but--- But, but, but….

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