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Corpse Mania

Image // Unrated // October 7, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
While, he didn't start that way, director Kuei Chih Hung became one of the Shaw Brother's resident loveable crackpots. His early career at the studio features a number of comedies and musicals, the early to mid 70's brought some more flair with some genre films like the Women In Prison classic Bamboo House of Dolls, but the end of his career in the late 70's and early 80's was spent almost exclusively on horror-exploitation grinders like the Hex Trilogy, Killer Snakes, Bewitched, and the all time, off the wall classic Boxer's Omen. 1981's aptly titled Corpse Mania found Kuei delving into the slasher film with a necrophilia twist.

Residents sniff something rotting in the house of their new, mysterious neighbor. The decaying body of a young woman is discovered and forensics uncovers that she was violated post mortem. The officer assigned to the case, Inspector Zhang, recalls a similar crime in a nearby province so he goes to investigate. The crime is similar to that of a man, Li, who fell in love with a sickly prostitute at Madam Lan's bordello. Li bought the girl from Madam Lan and was later committed after it was discovered that after she passed away he preserved his new bride's body and had his way with her. Li was released from the asylum and now it seems is running around finding new victims to kill and defile.

Corpse Mania is the Shaw Brothers equivalent to the Italian giallo. The influence of Bava, Argento, and the like is strong. You've got a masked, sunglasses wearing, black-gloved, butcher knife-sporting killer, the muddy investigation, the moody stalking, and a big ol' twist ending. That said, it is more straightforward, slasher b-horror and fans of the giallo shouldn't expect a top notch entry with a funky score, labyrinthine plotting, chiseled protagonist, and lots of model babes disrobing every fifteen to twenty minutes. If it was ranked within the giallo genre, Corpse Mania would be considered less Deep Red or Don't Torture a Duckling and a little more The Scorpion with Two Tails or (Lamberto Bava's) Delirium.

Corpse Mania has a few lagging points in the script and technically was a quickie number on the lower (probably lowest) budget end of the Shaw studios output. There are certainly far, far better Shaw horror films, but I found it fun enough and there were enough good attributes to warrant a horror fans attention. While some might see it as a minus, I actually, in an almost guilty way, liked the stone-faced, Average Joe, understated appeal of lead actor Wang Jung. Usually a third tier Shaw player, as Inspector Zhang he almost has the "I'm really not trying", anti-charisma of a guy like Jack Webb. As far as the horror scenes, the necrophilia is effective, appropriately creepy and squeamish and the blade-flashing killings have a good amount of gusto.

The DVD: Image.

Picture: The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen. The image here is decent. First, bear in mind it isn't a lavishly budgeted film. The print is in okay shape, relatively clean, but lacking finer details because it is quite soft and gauzy. Technically the transfer suffers from some ghosting issues that will be especially apparent the more in tune/high end your system.

Sound: The sole audio track is the original Cantonese mono with English and Spanish language subtitle options. Well, it is a limited, serviceable score, and the mix is low key. Scoring especially, I found to be completely forgettable. Subs appeared well-timed/translated and go the extra mile via translating text.

Extras: The only extras are a gallery of trailers for more Shaw Brothers titles. Unfortunately these trailers are the mundane Celestial remix trailers and not the original theatrical trailers.

Conclusion: Corpse Mania was a VCD only release in HK and thankfully this exploitation-horror number gets better treatment stateside with a DVD release. Likewise the promo trailer gallery on the DVD features Lost Souls another grim Shaw that was VCD only in HK that Image plans on DVD releasing stateside.

If you are a Shaw/HK horror fanatic, I would say the film is weak but worth a purchase. Yes, the lack of extras is disappointing but, as I said above, we're at least getting a DVD release-period. Casual horror fans, on the other hand, will want to check it out as a rental first and then consider a purchase.

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