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Ye Ban Ge Sheng

Song at Midnight

China 1937
produced by
Zhang Shankun for Hsin Hwa Motion Picture Company
directed by Ma-Xu Weibang
starring Jin Shan, Hu Ping, Gu Menghe, Shi Chao, Xiu Manli, Wang Weiyi, Liu Shangwen, Zhou Wenzhu, Chen Yun, Xiao Ying, Li Junpan, Chen Baoqi, Wang Yingying, Zong You, Liang Xin, Cai Juefei
screenplay by Ma-Xu Weibang, based on The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, music by Tian Han, Xian Xinghai

Phantom of the Opera

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A small theatre group puts up shop in a haunted theatre to perform a series of operas. Leading man Xiao Ou (Shi Chao) though seems not quite up to the task to sing the first of the series, so he spends a night alone at the theatre to practice ... and runs across Song Danping (Jin Shan), a legendary opera singer who's believed dead. Song though is very much alive, even if he hides his face, and he halps Xiao Ou master his part, and also tells him his tragic story: Years ago, Song was a revolutionary, and at the same time very much in love with Xia (Hu Ping), a girl the theatre's landlord Tang (Gu Menghe) also longed for - and to get his rival out of the way, Tang poured nitric acid into Song's face, acid that disfigured Song to a point where he had himself declared dead rather than ever be seen by Xia again. Since then, Xia has lived across the street from the theatre, while Song, hiding out in the theatre, has sung her songs every night.

Back in the now, Song asks Xiao Ou to meet Xia posing as Song and be her mate in his stead ... but unfortunately, Xiao Ou is already engaged to Liu Die (Xu Manli). So Song asks for another favour, that one of his revolutionary operas is performed by the theatre troupe, to which Xiao Ou agrees, since the troupe is doing bad business anyways ...

As it turns out, the theatre's landlord Tang, who has disfigured Song's face all those years back, is now lusting after Xiao Ou's girlfriend Liu Die, and when she refuses him because of Xiao Ou he tries to shoot Xiao Ou in the unrest following the premiere of Song's revolutionary opera, but Liu Die catches the bullet meant for him and dies saving his life. Upon this, Song leashes an all-out attack on Tang and kills him, but now the authorities see him as the culprit and chase him to his death, a chase that also causes the theatre to catch fire.

Xiao Ou in the meantime meets up with Xia, and it seems according to Song's wishes they are about to become a couple ...


An early horror/monster movie from China (it's actually said to be the first Chinese horror film) that definitely has its creepy moments and nice ideas, and it's carried by a gothic romance-like plot in front of a series of atmospheric sets. And it's really interesting to see how the film takes many influences from Western horror movies, including of course the silent Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, Universal's Frankenstein movies and the like, but adds an unmistakably Chinese touch to them. That all said, the film is not perfect though, the directorial effort for the most part is way too theatrical to really convince, and the pacing might be deliberately slow, but in all the story (clocking in at roughly two hours) could have done with a bit of trimming to keep things moving smoother. That all said, the film is still rather impressive as a not all that different counterpiece to horror films from the West, and definitely worth a look at least.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD