Good old-fashioned gore

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 May, 1994, 12:00am

WHEN director Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead was released in England in 1980 it was prosecuted for being unsuitable for public showing. Labelling a film unsuitable is the best form of publicity it can get and so The Evil Dead instantly gained a cult following.

It was shot on 16mm film (and blown up to grainy 35mm) and set new standards in outlandish screen gore. Raimi and his college friends made it for a mere US$400,000 (HK$3 million). It was released on video in a cut version and Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn followed in 1987.

The third film in this semi-professional horror trilogy is Army Of Darkness (Pearl, 9.30pm).

The gore continues, as does the hamming it up. Bruce Campbell returns to take on the forces of evil, which come in many guises. There are skeletons dressed up as Roman legionnaires and midgets armed with giant cutlery. The only weapon Campbell has is a good old-fashioned chainsaw. As the advertising slogan says: ''Trapped in Time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.'' Army Of Darkness is less a horror film and more of a no-holds-barred parody.

Other forces of evil include animals spewing blood and bodies in various stages of decomposition.

When Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 were released in the territory audiences lapped them up. The two films took HK$4 million here and Army Of Darkness was snapped up so quickly by Hong Kong distributors that there was no time for Raimi to slap on the Universal Studios-sanctioned upbeat ending.

Hong Kong audiences, said Raimi at the time, were the only audiences to see the original finale.

THE full-blooded television soap opera The Vampyr (World, 12.50am) is also as camp as a field of boy scouts.

It comes from the BBC and was directed by Nigel Finch, also responsible for The Lost Language Of Cranes, which was shown on Hong Kong television two years ago to the bemusement of many. It was produced by Janet Street-Porter, reviled in Britain for her pivotal role in introducing that strange medium known as youth television, in which content is nil and neck-breaking camera angles are all.

The Vampyr is not for children. Many adults might be alarmed and confused by it.

Omar Ebrahim, who served his performing apprenticeship with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at Glyndebourne, is the contemporary Dracula. But The Vampyr is not conventional horror with a touch of Grand Guignol. It is Grand Guignol with a touch of conventional horror and plenty of opera. Bass baritone Richard Van Allen and soprano Fiona O'Neill are among the many accomplished singers who take part.

WHICH all makes The Dead Pool (World, 9.30pm) seems as predictable as a ham sandwich. This is the fifth and perhaps the worst of the Dirty Harry series.

Clint Eastwood is once again detective Dirty Harry Callahan. This time he is investigating a murder and the game of Dead Pool, in which people bet on certain celebrities dying within a specified time. His own name is on their list.

Watch out for a particularly bad performance from Liam Neeson as a rock singer on drugs.

THE Aussies have a knack of successfully poking fun at themselves. Strictly Ballroom did it and so does Starstruck (Pearl, 12.45am), a tongue-in-cheek musical about a reluctant barmaid (Jackie Mullens) who wants to be a star.

THE Ruth Rendell mystery The Speaker Of Mandarin (STAR Plus, 3.30am) is the kind of tosh best saved for the first typhoon of the season.

Detective chief inspector Reg Wexford is invited to China by the Chinese Government to talk about Western policing methods. The job done, he joins a package tour to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. He is haunted by strange images, of an old woman with bound feet and the Marquise of Lai, dead for more than 2,000 years. When he eventually returns to England a woman is murdered - a woman who was in China with him.

What does it all mean? I have seen this twice and have absolutely no idea.