Even crazier than the gods

African bushmen meet hopping vampires in Crazy Safari

Crazy Safari (1991) takes the premise, setting and main character from the charming South African comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy (1981) and literally drops a Chinese hopping vampire on them. This just might be the most ridiculous cross-cultural mash-up ever filmed.

You can’t just plunge right into Crazy Safari unprepared — first you must watch The Gods Must Be Crazy (a delightful task), and then familiarize yourself with the Hong Kong cinematic tradition of hopping vampires, preferably by watching the splendid Mr. Vampire (1985). Now if The Gods Must Be Crazy and Mr. Vampire got drunk and fucked, Crazy Safari would be their twisted mutant offspring.

We start off in London (?!?) where the Brits are auctioning off a genuine Chinese hopping vampire, complete with the traditional slip of yellow paper stuck to its forehead to keep it from waking up and hopping after human prey like a homicidal sleepwalker. Present at the auction are none other than Lam Ching Ying, the ghost-busting Taoist priest from Mr. Vampire, together with his bumbling nephew (Sam Christopher Chow). Sam wants to buy the ghoul because it’s his great-great-great-grandfather who needs to be transported to China for proper burial. The duo convinces the other bidders to back off by reanimating the vampire right in front of them, and then they use a bell to guide the creature outside to their vehicle. The trouble is, they’re right in the middle of the Notting Hill Carnivale, and while the vampire blends in nicely with all the garish costumes being worn in the streets, there are plenty of other ringing bells to distract the vampire, and he goes astray.

Finally the creature is bundled onto a charter airplane and off to China, or at least that’s the plan. Instead the plane goes off course (way way waaaaaaayyyyy off course) and crashes in Africa, right in the midst of the Kalahari bush tribe from The Gods Must Be Crazy. At this point, we get reintroduced to N!xau, the serene bushman who had the task of dealing with a completely alien object (a discarded Coke bottle) in Gods.

The tribe is astonished when a Coke bottle falls from the sky, just like in the previous film. Then an entire case of Coca Cola drops on them, followed by a Chinese hopping vampire. The children of the tribe take a liking to the creature, and when they discover that it will follow the sound of a bell, they play with the beast like they’re throwing sticks to a happy dog. This particular hopping vampire has his leaps and bounds augmented with traditional wirework effects, so he long-jumps across the African veldt like an astronaut on the moon.

Meanwhile, the Taoist priest and his nephew have landed some distance away after a parachute mishap, and it takes them a while to locate their missing ancestor. When they do find him, the tribe is reluctant to part with their new undead plaything, and much comic silliness ensues. Meanwhile, an evil blond Anglo woman in a funny hat is causing trouble for the natives by taking slaves and using her gang of Zulu warriors to bully the bushmen into revealing the location of a hidden diamond mine. The tribe, of course, has a Taoist priest and a hopping vampire on their side, but the woman reveals an undead warrior of her own. Can the bushmen and the Taoists prevail against these villains? Well, yes, but only after Lam Ching Ying uses his mystical powers to imbue N!xau with the undead spirit of Bruce Lee! Yep, we actually get to see the little guy use his fists of fury to beat down a pack of Zulu warriors while images from The Chinese Connection flash across the screen. Haaiiiyaaaaaa!

Crazy Safari was never properly released in North America, and most copies of it lack English subtitles for long stretches. Still, for fans of N!xau and Lam Ching Ying, this baffling oddity is a must-see. I mean, who needs to understand the dialogue when you’ve got a fast-motion rubber rhinoceros, baboon kung fu, a guy riding an emu and an entire tribe pushing buildings out of the path of a bouncing vampire?

 



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