Hung's early films have the earthy feel of Chinese folklore, bawdy tales told around a campfire after too much rice wine. On the bill as well is Encounter of the Spooky Kind (also 1981), perhaps his earthiest. Hung didn't invent the Hong Kong supernatural movie, but he can be credited with reinventing it with Encounter, mixing up kung fu, B-movie horror, and Three Stooges-esque poke-in-the-eye slapstick. Hung plays the village chump, the only person in town unaware that his wife is having an affair with a local bigwig, Master Tam. Tam hires a greedy magician to call up a few zombies to kill Cheung. The assassin's magician brother objects to this evil use of his skills, and so a battle of the magicians begins, using spells, talismans, voodoo, and, of course, kung fu, with Cheung caught in the middle. It's full of rowdy humor, surprisingly creepy scares, and some uproariously inventive action. One of the '80s' great unsung directors, Hung's been away from the director's chair for a few years. He's just recently made a distressingly lame comeback, directing his old friend Jackie Chan in the truly awful Mr. Nice Guy. Skip that one, and check these out instead.
-- Tod Booth
Prodigal Son screens Thursday, April 2, at 2:50 and 7:05 p.m. (with Encounter of the Spooky Kind at 5 and 9:15 p.m.) at the UC Theater, 2036 University (at Shattuck) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6.50; call (510) 843-3456.