Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Return of Judge Dee

It's not really, technically, a "return" - but it is a "return" for me: an old TV movie that I thought I would never see again...

I was up late one night surfing the web when I came across the blog of 屋根裏の散歩者.

On it, I found Ho Ling's review of "Judge Dee and The Monastery Murders." (aka "Judge Dee and the Haunted Monastery")  I recall watching the movie when it was first broadcast, and was very impressed with it and with the all-Asian cast, at the time. I became curious to know if I would still find it so.

As if by magick, a copy came into my hands - on disc, a transfer from VHS. While some of the colour had washed out due to tape oxidation, the sound remained crisp and the story as fascinating as I remembered!

Most interesting is the main character, Judge Dee, played by Khigh Alx Dhiegh, whose real name was Kenneth Dickerson. His son, Ken Dickkerson was a lottery numbers picking expert, often a guest on my groundbreaking "Dave Lucas Worldwide" radio program, which aired in the late 1990's all across the internet via WROW 590am in Albany. It was one of the first radio shows to transmit via the internet - we regularly filled up two IRC chatrooms every Friday and Saturday night (for those of you who recall the days of IRC!) But I digress...

Ken the Elder was an American television and motion picture actor of mixed North African ancestry, noted for portraying Asian roles. Indeed, he looks very Asian, and his voice carries that particular "Asian English" tone as many of the other actors in "Judge Dee" picture also exhibit.

Ho Ling describes the film in a nutshell ::: "...the story starts off very Scooby Doo-like. Judge Dee, his three wives and Tao Gan (and other servants) are forced to spend a night at a Taoist monastery because the axle of the Mystery Machine their coach broke down during a dreadful storm. That night also happens to be the anniversary night of the monastery and the judge, despite having caught a cold, naturally has to join the monks in their celebrations because of his rank. But there is more than meets the eye to his monastery, or else it would make for a rather boring story. A window that disappears before the very eyes of the judge, the murky past of the monastery that involves the death of no less than three girls that once stayed here and even the previous abbot and more. Dee has a busy, busy night trying to solve all the mysteries that lurk in this dark place."

It's a very well-executed motion picture - like one of the better Charlie Chan mysteries, with little if any comedy interwoven into the plot. If you can procure a copy, do so. I would be willing to share my copy, so get in touch if you like. There are many VHS movies that never made it to DVD, and I am also certain there are many TV movies (and even films that played in movie houses at one time or another) that never made it to either VHS or DVD.

Judge Dee is a great movie to watch on a dark and/or stormy night...

Ken the Elder was quite an accomplished fellow - the following is from WikiPedia ::: In 1965, Dhiegh, recorded and released an album on Folkways Records, entitled St. John of the Cross: Volume II, a collection of poems of St. John.
Besides his acting endeavors, Dhiegh was active in Taoist philosophy, writing a number of books on the subject, including The Eleventh Wing (ISBN 0-385-28371-7). He founded the Taoist Sanctuary (now the Taoist Institute) inHollywoodCalifornia. Dhiegh also had a doctorate in theology and in his later years was the rector for a Taoist sanctuary in Tempe, Arizona called 'Inner Truth Looking Place.' He held weekly services and sponsored many 'Tea Ceremonies' in the Phoenix metro area. One of his last interviews was on One World in 1990, where he presented the concept of World Citizenry and its benefit to mankind.

REFERENCE ::: ^ Komjathy, Louis. "Daoist teachers in North America" (pdf). Pacific Lutheran University via Centre for Daoist Studies. Retrieved 2008-03-07.[dead link] Includes short biographical summary of Khigh Dhiegh.

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