Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Linda Lin Dai Week: Madam White Snake (1962)

For more on Linda Lin Dai, check out duriandave's Soft Film blog. For a short biography of Linda Lin Dai, check out this site.

This 1962 film is based upon the same story that formed the basis for the 1993 Tsui Hark film, Green Snake. The difference being that Madam White Snake is a huangmeixi film and a bit more stagey.

Still, Linda Lin Dai and Margaret Tu Chuan are just as lovely in their own way as Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong are in the 1993 version.

It's an effort for a guy like me to get into huangmeixi films and I'm not ashamed to say that. And while English subtitles help, it's also the nature of a production like this that makes it difficult for me to thoroughly enjoy the film.

And I should add that unlike yesterday's review of Love Without End (1961) where I sounded like I couldn't make up my mind about the film, I can say that I didn't really enjoy this flick.

I liked Lin Dai -- as always -- but was a bit bored otherwise. Call me a philistine, if you will, but I'm just being honest.

Chao Lei plays the young scholar who the two fairies meet when they are on Earth. While the sets are impressive, there's not much use of them -- too many close-ups, for one thing, and too little camera movement; why bother building a working boat when you barely show it?

Margaret Tu Chuan and Linda Lin Dai are quite lovely -- all smiles and sparkling eyes as they charm the young man on the boat.

Some of the other huangmeixi films from this era bend the rules and have the songs serve as a sort of chorus to the action on screen but Madam White Snake does indeed have the characters sing at times.

Despite warnings from Margaret Tu Chuan, Linda Lin Dai marries the mortal in this flick and they are shown enjoying a happy marriage. A shot of Linda Lin Dai in bed is sort of surprising; the image is tame by modern standards but sexy for the actress.

So the married couple opens a traditional medicine shop and business is booming but the husband has his doubts.

He's been going to a local Taoist priest and the guy's hipped him to the fact that his wife is not human.

The guy drops dead upon seeing his wife turn into a big snake so it's up to his wife to fly to heaven to plead for the mortal's soul.

The film gets a lot more interesting as the story takes this turn as 1) Linda Lin Dai gets to act a bit and 2) the rickety special effects at least add some spark to the proceedings.

The rest of the plot will be familiar to most of the people who would even consider buying Madam White Snake (1962) on DVD so no point in recounting it here.

For Lin Dai -- or Margaret Tu Chuan -- completists only.

Unfortunately, Madam White Snake (1962) is out-of-print (OOP) on both VCD and DVD.