Among the most oddball but beloved cult movies from Hong Kong, Crazy Safari is a double sequel to both Mr. Vampire (1985) and the South African satirical surprise hit The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). At an auction in South Africa, Sam (Chan Saan-Hiu) recruits Taoist priest Lam (Lam Ching Ying, reprising his stock role for the umpteenth time) to help buy back the mummified corpse of his ancestor. To seal the deal Sifu Lam works his magic to reanimate his ancestor as a hopping Chinese vampire (Peter Chan Lung)! En route to Hong Kong their plane goes haywire. Forced to bail out the pair strap a parachute onto the vampire. Whereupon it lands in the midst of an African tribe led by N!Xau (reprising his screen persona from The Gods Must Be Crazy). Despite having enough problems convincing skeptical tribal elders a Coca-Cola can is a mystical artifact and fighting off a husband-and-wife team of slave traders, N!Xau and his friends grow fascinated with the pasty-faced stranger. After misadventures involving mischievous monkeys, a rampaging rhino and a ravenous lion, Sifu Lam and his hapless ward reach N!Xau's village where they find the locals are quite taken with their new hopping vampire mascot.
Quite how Crazy Safari came to be remains a mystery for the ages but thank the cult movie gods something so off-the-wall made it to the screen! Although the credits list Jamie Uys, director of the original Gods Must Be Crazy, as production consultant the bulk of the movie was helmed by Billy Chan. Having worked his way up through a slew of bit-part roles in kung fu movies throughout the Seventies, Chan actually made his directorial debut with an unofficial sequel to Mr. Vampire somewhat cheekily titled New Mr. Vampire (1986). His other notable films include fan-favourite action-comedy License to Steal (1990), the Chow Yun-Fat gangster thriller Brotherhood (1987) and Skin Striperess (1992), a Category III soft-core porno horror opus wherein Lam Ching Ying once again reprised his stock Taoist priest persona. One unfortunate aspect of the region 3 DVD version of Crazy Safari is that it fails to provide English subtitles for a crucial facet of the film which is the wacky narration provided throughout by Cantonese comedy mega stars Stephen Chow Sing-Chi and Ng Man Tat. For while the film reprises the Coca-Cola can mistaken for a magic object sub-plot from the original Gods Must Be Crazy, the lack of translation leaves it hard for non-Cantonese speakers to discern whether Chow and Tat are indulging in a similar line in anti-Capitalist satire.
Nevertheless for the most part Chan styles the film like a live action cartoon foregrounding action and sight gags. Some of the culture clash humour skirts racism but the filmmakers still come across as sincere in their admiration for the Botswanan tribes-people and the jokes are never at N!Xau's expense. On the contrary, the film draws N!Xau as a clever, kindly, resourceful hero who adapts quickly to every outrageous situation whether driving a jeep towed by elephants or pasting a paper spell onto a Chinese hopping vampire. For once it is super-stoic Lam Ching Ying who is the fish out of water as his implacable, stubborn, frankly reactionary belief in the superiority of all things traditional and Chinese lands him in one mess after another. Lam's attempts to adapt his Taoist tricks to deal with the errant wildlife allow Chan to stage riotous animal antics involving giraffes, rhinos and baboons culminating in the unforgettable sight of Mr. Vampire himself riding an ostrich to save the day. Coupled with some spectacular scenery these scenes made Crazy Safari a real treat for young viewers in Hong Kong.
After the expected initial comical misunderstandings, the Chinese characters gradually grow to respect their African hosts. This culminates in Lam and his remote-controlled vampire intervening when the greedy slave traders (the film regrettably lacks any positive white characters) invade the village along with an evil witch doctor intent on stealing their valuable cache of diamonds. While the martial arts sequences are not as sharp as other entries in the hopping vampire series the film still delivers some memorable set-pieces. Lam pits the Chinese vampire against an African zombie in a fight to the finish, transplants a baboon's soul into Sam's body and, most spectacularly, infuses N!Xau with the spirit of Bruce Lee! Crazy Safari really is one of those movies that must be seen to be believed.