Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983)

After Harakiri I was in the mood for something a bit less heavy. Solution: dive back into the DVD library for some Hong Kong action, and a particularly wild example of same (also one not to be confused with Tsui Hark’s own remake from 2001). Ropey though some of the effects might… well, do look in this day and age, they were state of the art in 1983 and groundbreaking for a film industry not used to them. Tsui imported American technicians to show the Hong Kong crowd what to do, and the result was an extravaganza that’s still kind of staggering, especially in its self-evident and unswerving commitment to Doing All The Things. So determined is it to be a mind-melting explosion of sheer Stuff Happening that it almost succeeds in making you realise the actual plot doesn’t really kick in until over half an hour in; up to that point it’s a long introduction to our main characters, a pair of somewhat odd couples (a Buddhist monk and his disciple; a travelling scholar and a soldier escaping a battle who becomes his disciple). That plot is kind of a thin one; they have to destroy the Blood Demon before it reincarnates, said mission involving a quest to recover two magic swords. Complications ensue when the scholar becomes the embodiment of evil along the way. The simplicity of the good-vs-evil conflict is nice, and the “Chineseness” of some of the details (cf. Sammo Hung’s monstrous holy eyebrows) gives it an obvious flavour, but really it’s about pure spectacle; it’s a film that shouts at you to look at it, see the tricks it can do, marvel at the amount of business it crams into just over 90 minutes, and try not to worry too much about the abruptness of some of the storytelling. At times like this, that sort of thing is just about perfect.

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