As a young person exploring the world of cinema, two of my first genre fetishes were Hammer gothic horror films and Shaw Bros. kungfu movies. For years I thought that "The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires" was the greatest movie ever made. I got goose-pimples watching David Chiang and Peter Cushing track the evil Dracula across the great sets of the Shaw Bros. back lot. My one lament was that Christopher Lee chose not to appear in the film, a minor flaw in an otherwise fantastic movie.
Nowadays I still love a good vampire story. "A Bite of Love" is such a story. This Hong Kong film combines European vampire lore with only a few elements of the Eastern folklore prevalent in the "hopping vampire" films of recent years. Played mostly for laughs, this is a modern-day story about the very elegant and refined Duke Lee who finds attacking human victims distasteful. He must rely on his manservant to supply him with sustenance from alternative sources, which is difficult considering the Duke's financial troubles. George Lam Chi-Cheung gives a wonderful performance in the role of the aging bloodsucker. He gives the character grace and dignity as well as viciousness and cunning, quite a charming fellow.
My favorite Hong Kong actress, Rosamund Kwan Chi-Lam, co-stars in "A Bite of Love". I cannot say enough about this wonderful performer whom most Western filmgoers know as "Aunt Yee" in Tsui Harks "Once Upon A Time in China" series. She stars here as the sister of a dying Triad boss who discovers the healing properties of the vampire's blood. A transfusion will make him well, but there is a catch. The Boss turns into a vampire as well. Kwan Chi-Lam's character was born at a special moment which makes her blood the most potent of all to the king of the vampires. This, of course, is the major plot device in the final sequence of the film. Her star quality shines through here.
Produced and directed by Stephen Shin, the vampire tale moves along with many funny bits of business thrown in. Shin is the producer who gave us "Black Cat", "Black Cat 2", and the great "Sam the Iron Bridge". One funny bit involves a young Chinese boy in distress who is ripped off by a twenty-something Englishman. Another very funny bit involves the Duke and his servant choosing wardrobe for an evening out, trying on various wigs and capes. There is one sequence involving Ms. Kwan and a "Van Helsing" type character as they try to determine if she has been infected by the vampires bite. Even the dreaded HIV is mentioned when the Duke has a bad reaction to some blood.
Not all tongue in cheek, Director Shin serves up some genuinely scary moments. Drawing from the Hammer horror films of the early 70's, Shin recreates the spooky atmosphere that pervades those great films. When the triad boss becomes a powerful vampire, his final battle with the Duke for ultimate evil power is really frightening.Copyright ©1995 J. Crawford