Spiritual Boxer II ★★★½

Not really a sequel to The Spiritual Boxer, the English title on the DVD I rented is "The Shadow Boxing" which is grammatically awkward and doesn't make much more sense. What it is is a precursor to kung fu comedies like Encounters of the Spooky Kind, The Dead and the Deadly and the Mr. Vampire series.

Wang Yue plays an apprentice corpse herder (they reanimate dead bodies to transport them back to their home villages to be buried before they rot, a distinct problem for a heavily migrant population to be sure), his master is played by Lau Kar-wing (Lau Kar-leung's younger brother) as the kind of degenerate drunken gambler master common in this period (pioneered in the first Spiritual Boxer and really run with in films by Yuen Wo-Ping and Sammo Hung). As they set out with a batch of fresh corpses, one of the vampires is acting strange: it's Gordon Liu, and of course, he isn't really dead.

There's a rote thriller plot as an excuse for some fight scenes, which are all very solid. Liu shows off some Eagle Claws and Wang displays the Zombie Fist. It isn't nearly as impressive as the group fights in Dirty Ho, which came out this same year with this same stars, but in every way this is a less ambitious movie than that one. The fights do have the funny twist that Wang can't ever remember what to do, so he has to have someone call out the moves to him ("Vampire Wakes Up" "Vampire Greets the Moon" and so on) before he can fight.

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