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Hong Kong Horror Cinema$
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Gary Bettinson and Daniel Martin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474424592

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474424592.001.0001

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What Can a Neoi Gwei Teach Us? Adaptation as Reincarnation in Hong Kong Horror of the 1950s

What Can a Neoi Gwei Teach Us? Adaptation as Reincarnation in Hong Kong Horror of the 1950s

(p.19) Chapter 1 What Can a Neoi Gwei Teach Us? Adaptation as Reincarnation in Hong Kong Horror of the 1950s
Hong Kong Horror Cinema

Raymond Tsang

Edinburgh University Press

Many Hong Kong horror films of the 1950s were pedagogical in nature, and subsequently had a great influence on the Hong Kong New Wave (1980–90). Without examining these earlier films, we cannot fully understand the practice of adaptation and the depiction of the neoi gwei (female ghost) in New Wave horror. Because of the criticism from both intellectuals and cultural elites, earlier Cantonese filmmakers had tried to elevate Cantonese cinema since the 1930s, by the means of making films with ‘healthy’ themes of nationalism and anti-superstition. In the 1950s one of the means was adaptation of classic literary novels and folk tales. Interestingly, mainly dominated by stories of female ghosts, horror films – forbidden subjects in promoting ‘healthy’ Cantonese films – were often used so as to mount social and cultural interventions. This chapter predominantly focuses on two Cantonese horror films, Beauty Raised from the Dead (1956) and Nightly Cry of the Ghost (1957), in order to examine the reincarnation of neoi gwei. I argue that the little-studied Hong Kong horror films of the 1950s can be understood as a site of political and cultural intervention and dialogue. Most of these films are about reincarnation. The production of these films can also been understood as a process of ‘reincarnation’. The practice and choice of adaptation are always a matter of politics. These filmmakers not only gave new life to various literary sources, but also created social interventions in the 1950s, exploring women’s liberation, the enlightenment of science and revolutionary potentiality.

Keywords:   Adaptation, Hong Kong horror, New Wave Horror, Reincarnation, nü gui, Chun Kim, Lee Sun-Fung, zhong lian, guang yi

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