Sunday, 13 November 2016



Stop me if you've heard this one: the one about the two women and the abusive husband whom they kill but then it looks like he's a ghost come back for revenge except that it's all a plot and he's only pretending... Yes, it's Les Diaboliques (which I used to write phonetically as Lady Abba Leaks), Henri-George Clouzot's classic French thriller from 1955 that eventually got Hollywoodised forty years later as the bland but watchable Diabolique. (The original book has also been adapted a couple of times for American TV.) Well, there's a Hong Kong version as well, uncredited, finally getting a UK home release and surprisingly well done.

Mrs Chan, heiress to the family businesses which have failed, has a bullying, drunken and cheating husband, Yeung, whose behaviour drives their last servant from the house in terror. A family friend shows up to look after Mrs Chan - but in one of Yeung's violent tirades they end up drowning him in a water butt and dumping the body in the local pond so it looks like he fell in while drunk. But then the body disappears and it looks like Yeung's ghost is haunting the two women. Or was it all a plot? Soon Mrs Chan is terrified to death in her own bed - but her ghost in turn seems to be seeking revenge...

Made by Shaw Brothers, and probably on the same sets as their numerous martial arts pictures, Hex suffers from a final act reveal that breaks at least one of the most celebrated rules of writing crime fiction. It's also stuck with the curious, though not unusual for Hong Kong films of that vintage, practise of needle-dropping existing Hollywood soundtracks into proceedings. In this instance they've pasted parts of Jerry Goldsmith's score to Alien over any of the scary bits - a distraction for anyone who knows that soundtrack (one wonders what credited composer Eddie H Wang originally did, or would have done, with those scenes). Still, it's a good looking film, and it does boast an entirely irrelevant exorcism sequence involving a young woman gyrating naked about the room for a whole reel. Not that I'm complaining, but it feels genuinely out of place. An enjoyable, if occasionally silly, diversion.


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