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新蜀山劍俠 (1983)
Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/07/2010
Summary: Landmark film

Zu was one of the first Hong Kong films I saw, and still remains one of my favourite. Its relentless invention and insanity typifies what, for me, made HK films so appealing in comparison to the Hollywood stuff that we were all supposed to like at the time. The film seems to be in top gear from start to finish, a non-stop assault on the senses, a barrage of ideas and imagination.

There are times when it doesn't work - towards the end it gets a bit trite and dull, for instance, but it moves so quickly for most of the running time you don't have time to dwell on its failings, because another "wow, cool!" will likely be along moments later.

The story is not so complicated it can't be followed, and the characters are interesting and memorable. The hubris & petty pride of the immortals whilst the common man suffers could be read as pointed social criticism, or (as it was more likely intended) a not particularly profound meditation on the human condition. It's not really a film that invites deep thought though, more sitting there going "coo" a lot then going to eat a nice snack when its over.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders why Tsui Hark can't or won't make films this _fun_ anymore.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/02/2006
Summary: Bonkers

In the fifth century, China is in turmoil. Many warring factions vie for supremacy, with much confusion amongst the armies as to who belongs to which side! Dik Ming-Kei (Yuen Biao) – a warrior from the Western army, escapes from the bloodshed into a mysterious cave where he encounters the misty underworld where good is in an eternal struggle against an evil force headed by the Blood Demon and its clan. Chung Mei (Sammo Hung) can hold the Blood Demon for 49 days until the stars shift. But then Dik Ming-Kei must return and reunite the purple sword of Heaven with the green sword of the Earth, or mankind will be destroyed forever…

Fans in the UK will doubtless remember this film being shown as part of the “Chinese Ghost Stories” mini-season on Channel Four in the early nineties. I’d seen clips of it in the Golden Harvest showcase “Best of Martial Arts” sampler (helmed by John Saxon, no less – no expense spared!). It looked great, and I’d already half decided it was going to be the greatest film in the world EVER. What I actually ended up seeing, though, left me scratching my head in bewilderment.

Make no bones about it, Zu is positively bonkers. It plays like an acid trip, and doesn’t pause for breath for a single second. It is almost entirely special effects driven, which is where the first problem lies: some of the effects are indeed great and inventive, but for the most part they just don’t work. Considering that Hong Kong had made an industry out of hauling people around by wires, it’s depressing that almost half the time you can actually SEE the wires in shot.

The second and more troubling problem is that you really do need some knowledge of Chinese folklore (or be taking some non-prescription medication) to really follow what’s going on most of the time. It’s no exaggeration that you could probably talk for hours about what goes on in this film scene by scene. It sometimes feels as if Tsui Hark bundled a whole TVB series into a 94-minute movie. Like another of his major works, PEKING OPERA BLUES, this has many layers, but it feels as if he bit off more than he could chew with this one.

On the plus side, the Blood Demon is great and very mysterious – Hollywood probably would have just used a man in a monster suit, but Zu is far more inventive than that. It has no fixed physical form, but shifts its appearance constantly. Also, the first fifteen minutes are sheer class – Yuen Biao meets a soldier from the Eastern army (Sammo Hung) and they decide to put their differences aside in order to survive a battle raging in the forest. This scene, and the scene following it where Yuen Biao first enters the cave and battles the ghosts are real highlights. Flashes of humour are scattered through the whole film (such as the laughing fish) and this also raises the entertainment value.

The supporting cast consist of some high profile stars in the Hong Kong industry. Sammo Hung plays two unrelated characters but oddly enough both of them are more memorable than some of the leads. Brigitte Lin flies in and out of the plot seemingly at random – and I’m still at a loss exactly what she’s doing there. Elsewhere, the lovely Moon Lee plays a kind of henchwoman to Brigitte Lin, Adam Cheng plays a hero and would-be master to Dik Ming-Kei (until he gets poisoned), and Mang Hoi is a student who reluctantly ascends to mastery himself.

We can kind of identify with the Yuen Biao character because he starts the film as a normal person who happens to stumble upon the struggle between good and evil. He seems as bewildered by the whole spectacle as the audience.

There is an “International” version of this called Zu: Time Warriors, which has a few extra scenes and beefs up the Moon Lee role and tries to make their relationship more romantic in nature. The extra scenes are set in the modern era (with lots of product placement!) with Yuen Biao as a fencer and scholar. He becomes fixated with a girl in a tenth century painting in the local museum (it’s Moon Lee, of course), and later finds she exists in real life when he finds her being harassed by a gang of westerners. He sees a fortuneteller who gives him a vague series of ill-boding predictions, beats up a few gwailos, and is then in a car accident. We then cut to his coma-induced dream and then launch into Zu proper (but without the Sammo/Yuen scene in the forest, sadly). In the end, he wakes up in his hospital bed and is reunited with the modern day Moon Lee. They profess their love for each other and that’s the end of that. It’s interesting that it is so reminiscent of the future Yuen Biao film ICEMAN COMETH, but it’s not terribly convincing and will only be of novelty value.

This film cemented Yuen Biao’s reputation in Japan, where they really dig this kind of thing, and pretty much every film he made during the 80’s without Sammo and Jackie had varying degrees of fantasy/science fiction.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 05/28/2006
Summary: i'd forgotten...

yep, i'd forgotten, just how much i love this film. tsui hark presents us with a fantasy adventure that kicks into action immediately and doesn't let up until the credits role. yuen biao is excellent as dik ming kei, a young solider who stumbles into a haunted temple whilst fleeing from enemy forces. yuen is then rescued by a sword-fighting monk (adam cheng) and the pair team up with two other monks (damian lau and yat jan), before running into more trouble and a setting off on a quest to find the twin blades in order to save the world from evil. along the way, they run into bridgette lin, norman chu and sammo hung...

this really is a great film; it's exciting, funny and, even though the special effects may seem dated, they never detract from the film and still work to create a unique look and feel.

excellent.


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/29/2005
Summary: An adventure story for eveyone

“Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain” is a rollicking good time. It has just about everything an adventure story needs: a well defined line between good and evil (some of the action takes place at the boundary good forces and bad forces); a hero who goes through a series of trials that test both his ability and commitment to righteousness, and with whom the audience can easily identify; enough interplay between the characters so that they are human and not just allegorical symbols; supernatural beings, like the countess who can either cure a person infected by the Blood Demon or just freeze him in his tracks and excellent story telling throughout.

Yeun Biao is wonderful as Dik Ming Kei, a brave scout who runs afoul of bureaucratic infighting among the commanders of the West Zu army and who barely escapes with his life. In his journey he goes from being a crass and unsophisticated youth to a mature young leader who is prepared to accept the mantle of defending humanity against the forces of evil. This journey is the structure upon which the rest of the story hangs. While Yeun’s kung fu prowess isn’t on exhibit here, his athleticism and agility is—while there is plenty of wire work and other special effects he does a lot of leaping, tumbling and diving.

The special effects themselves hold up remarkably well and serve the story—very little is done just to show the effect, so one can easily forget that he is watching lightning from a thunderstorm light up the interior of a cave or that Sammo Hung’s eyebrows, all that is stopping ultimate evil from destroying the world look as if they couldn’t keep a chicken from crossing the road. Actually the thing that contains all this destructive power looks like a big rock that has sprouted shark fins—it isn’t very scary at all. The entire Long Brow versus the clump of villainy may have been played for laughs. Whatever the case, Tsui Hark makes sure that the effects fill the screen. Along with the almost frenetic editing that is part of his screen trademark the wall to wall effects keep things moving.

The plight of Dik Ming Kei who begins the movie as a scout for one of the several warring clans in 5th century China, becomes Ding Yan’s eager pupil and ends as one of the men who have temporarily conquered great evil, runs throughout the movie and helps to hold it together. In a very early scene Dik returns from a perilous intelligence mission against the enemy only to find that the two leaders of his army are at odds with each other and use his report as a pretense to turn against each other—and decide to kill Dik. Later after Ding Yan has consented to become Dik’s sifu Ding and Heaven’s Blade, his sometime colleague, sometime opponent repeat the contradictory instructions Dik got from the military clan leaders, one telling him to go, the other to stay.

Armed struggle by rival political factions, whether called clans or not, has been an unfortunate part of Chinese history. “Zu” may be commenting on that dolorous past—including as recently as the years long clash between the Kuomintang Army and the Peoples’ Liberation Army after World War II. That rock full of evil that Long Brows is keeping in check could be the Asian equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the horror that is visited on a country during civil war.

Bridgette Lin is excellent as the Princess who can cure just about anything. She was a young veteran of Hong Kong film, with credits for six movies a year for ten years before the cameras rolled on “Zu”. She still hadn’t completely developed the LOOK which he displayed to such frightening effect in movies like “Swordsman 2”, “Dragon Inn” and “The Bride with White Hair, but the beginnings were obviously there. Lin imbued her character with tremendous strength, intensity and righteousness. Moon Lee, in her second movie, played the chief guard of the Princess with audacity and verve. She was more than a match for the bumbling Dik and Yat Jan when they were trying to get to the Princess and was quite winning in her embarrassment when they surprised her and the rest of the female guards by dropping their trousers.

While some have correctly compared “Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain with the Star Wars saga, I think it is also akin to some of the great 19th century adventure novels that I found enthralling as a child. “Treasure Island”, “Kidnapped”, “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” were great stories—pirates, swordfights, treachery, bravery—that appealed to children but also packed a significant political and allegorical punch. Dik Ming Kei could be Jim Hawkins, David Balfour or D'Artagnan—his story is universal.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 07/22/2005
Summary: Epic storytelling...

Although it's plot is very complicated, Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain is a fabulously fun movie that represents some of the best of what Hong Kong movies bring to the screen. China is in the midst of a massive war, with multiple factions fighting for control. Ti Ming-chi (Yuen Biao) is a messenger for West Zu Army, but in the midst of a battle flees... only to find himself lost in the dark woods and haunted caves of the surrounding area. While being attacked by vengeful ghosts, he is saved by Ting Yin (Adam Cheng), a mystical warrior equipped with swords of serious spirit-busting power. Owing his life, Ming-chi vows to follow Yin forever, begging to become his student. Yin eventually gives in and they are joined by Abbot Hsiao Yu (Damian Lau) and his student Yi Chen (Mang Hoi). Although it's never fully explained how they come to be involved in the quest, their mission becomes to save humankind from the Blood Demon, a supremely evil spirit determined to rule the land. After their first encounter with the Blood Demon results in Abbot Yu becoming poisoned, Yin and the other two bring him to the Countess of Jade Pond, hoping she will cure him, allowing them to continue their quest. However, his sickness (more like a possession) is too strong, and the Countess (an excellent Brigitte Lin) is forced to seal her fortress to keep him enclosed. With demonic ferocity, Abbot Yu bursts from the stronghold, forcing Yin, Ming-chi, Chen and one of the Countesses guards (Moon Lee) on a final quest to Heaven's Blade Peak. There they hope to find the mysterious Twin Swords... giving them the power to defeat the Blood Demon and save Abbot Yu's life.

Tsui Hark does a great job imbuing a sense of wonder and reality-bending fun to Zu, making it completely enjoyable to watch from start to finish. Not your typical martial arts movie with tons of choreographed one on one battles, Zu is a fantastic adventure with interesting characters, funny writing and an intricate plot. Adam Cheng and Damian Lau do wonderful jobs portraying the two powerful leaders of the group, but the real stars are Yuen Biao and Mang Hoi. They are hilarious as the apprentices and play off each other to perfection, creating perfectly timed, hilarious scenes. Probably one of the most under rated performers in Hong Kong cinema, Yuen Biao is especially good in this film, creating a witty, lovable character that you enjoy watching in every scene. Look as well for Sammo Hung, playing two different roles in this star-studded epic. Z also represented one of the first times Hollywood special effects experts were brought in on a Hong Kong film, and although they are raw compared to modern movies, they are enjoyable in the sense that movies such as Clash of the Titans and Superman are fun to watch... even though the effects are admittedly cheesy. Pop in the DVD and sit back for a couple hours, suspend your disbelief and take pleasure in Tsui Hark's groundbreaking film.
8/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/04/2005

A young soldier (Yuen) grows tired of fighting and retreats into a cave, which happens to be a vortex between the land of the living and the dead. Eventually, the reluctant soldier embarks on a quest to obtain two magical swords needed to destroy the evil forces that have building up in the vortex and are threatening to destroy the world.

Zu is widely noted as Tsui Hark's first major film and one of the first modern Hong Kong movies to garner international intention (Evil Dead director Sam Raimi has noted in interviews that Zu was a major influence on his work). Some went so far as to dub Tsui the "Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong" and Zu an "Asian Star Wars." This is an interesting comparison, to be sure -- and it's not without some merit. Both films feature a reluctant hero, stories deeply rooted in their respective culture's mythology and, most importantly, there's a child-like feel to the movies.

That may sound a bit strange, but both Star Wars and Zu presnt their stories in such a wide-eyed way, one gets a certain kind of feeling from them that most other films can't match. Zu especially stands out in the world of Hong Kong films, where most characters are composed of shades of gray. The battle in Zu is simplistic -- good versus evil. When Yuen begins to get confused as to what's going on, another character simply says, "We're the good guys, they're the bad guys, understand?" Perhaps that's why Zu remains a fan favorite in Hong Kong, and why a sequel could be released almost twenty years after the original film.

However, like Star Wars, when one takes a critical eye to Zu, some flaws are revealed, especially after almost twenty years. The acting isn't that great, the plot -- dense with Chinese mythology -- may tend to lose Western viewers. Also, the special effects (some of which were done by some of the same people who worked on Star Wars) look dated and can seem a bit cheesy to modern viewers weaned on special effects-heavy films such as The Storm Riders. It also seems to show in Zu that Tsui didn't have the high level of control over all aspects of mise-en-scene that Tsui would later show on movies such as Once Upon a Time in China. Some parts suffer from somewhat choppy camerawork and editing. It's nothing horrible, but it is noticeable.

Nevertheless, Zu marks a milestone in the history of Hong Kong film history that any serious fan should watch at least once. The fact that it's a very enjoyable movie with some of the most inventive ideas put to celluoid doesn't hurt matters either.

Note: after the HK premiere of Zu, Tsui found that the script was changed without his permission and omitted some 50 shots he originally intended. Tsui was dissatisfied with the HK version and so he sought out some investors so he could film additional footage for the movie's international release, Zu: Time Warriors. The new footage comes in the forms of bookends for the film, where Yuen Biao is a modern-day fencer, with the bulk of the movie being a dream sequence after he is knocked out during a competition. The dubbed dialogue changes the story line somewhat from a "good versus evil" story to more of a romance, with Yuen pursuing Moon Lee's character. Tai Seng's VHS version of Zu is actually this version, even though it is titled Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]


Reviewed by: 5elementninja
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Genre defining yet aged

Zu is probably one of the most influential films in HK film history. Also considered by many to be the Star Wars of Hong Kong, this movie spawned an entire genre today known as "Martial Arts/Fantasy". Zu is a basic plot about good versus evil. A young warrior leaves his army b/c he cannot stand fighting anymore and transported to the realm of Zu where he encounters all sorts of fantastic people with extraordinary abilities. He finds himself right in the middle of a battle between good and evil and must unite the legendary purple and green swords to restore balance to both Heaven and Earth. Sound outrageous? Well it is. I personally found this movie's storyline to be way too cheesy for my tastes and like other older films the special effects are a little less than special but definitely groundbreaking for its time.

[8.0/10] mainly for its influences

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/07/2002
Summary: Cult classic

I recently bought this on DVD before reviewing it here to see it again hoping for much better quality. Luckily, the DVD (Universe release) has been worked on considerably, with both sound and picture quality immensely improved.

Zu is one of the cult classics more than anything, a film that probably most Hong Kong movie viewers would have seen before. I remember first seeing this in the mid eighties, and at the time I remember thinking it was really cool. However, after giving it a fresh look, it really does look dated. The special effects for this movie look horrible now, but considering this was 1983, and using a low-ish budget, it was quite an achievement at the time. There are enough reviews to understand the story, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth it…if anything, just because it’s a movie that meant so much to so many people. Like the US Star Wars story is.

Yuen Biao is great at the most of times, and I liked him a lot in this film. Sammo Hung, although not in it most of the time is not really doing much as he does in most films, so I can’t really comment on him. Brigitte Lin as well as Adam Cheng, is great though. After seeing it again all these years later, I found Mang Hoi in it, which I didn’t realise until now. He is someone I’ve liked too, although he has not appeared in many of the better-known films. He’s actually always reminded me of Yuen Biao in a way too. Considering you have such people as Tsui Hark, Leonard Ho, Corey Yuen and Raymond Chow on the film making side of things, it’s well put together.

Another point, I actually realised this time that a lot of the comedy is actually supposed to be there, as before I only remembered it as a lot of unintentional humour. It’s nothing great all in all compared to other movies, but for this genre at the time, it’s certainly not bad.

Rating: 3/5


Reviewed by: nomoretitanic
Date: 03/11/2001
Summary: Great Beginning

I liked the first half of the movie immensely, the battle scene with Yuen Biao and Samo running away from guys in different color uniforms was great, as was the Yuen Biao scene where he was fleeing from this ghost in an old shack, but then Hark Tsui started going crazy with the characters the monsters and lights and everything, which were a lot more than he could handle and hoaky stuff started to appear more and more frequently until the end it became really confusing. It was definitely a breakthrough, very ambitious and succeeded at times, but not as a whole. I really wanted to like this movie and I did end up liking it but it was because I knew all the efforts that were put into this movie, I'm not sure if I would have the same feelings if it were just a random find on the video shelf.


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/18/2001
Summary: VEry Good

The special effects of this movie are dated now but in it's time, it was great!! i remember watching this when i was a kid and enjoyed it immensely!! I watched it again many years after that and it still has the same effect!!

Great plot, with lots of well known actors but i did feel the ending was a little bit of a disappointment!!

A must see!!

8.5/10


Reviewed by: hellboy
Date: 09/13/2000

Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain is a frenetic epic about the struggle between good and evil. Zu's roots are firmly grounded in Chinese mythology with all the cast doing very well playing "large" characters. The special effects people from Star Wars were imported to HK by Tsui Hark himself to oversee the effects for Zu. While not as polished or flashy as today's CGI the abundant visual effects from Zu are a work of art, pushing the envelope of the technology of the early 80's by using wires and animation. Zu requires more than one viewing to take it all in. 8.5/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/27/1999
Summary: A groundbreaking fantasy epic.....

Tsui Hark directed this groundbreaking special effects extravaganza which is a favorite among fans of Hong Kong's fantay genre. Features an all-star cast with names such as Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Meng Hoi, Brigitte Lin, Moon Lee, and Adam Cheng being the most memorable of the bunch. Although the special effects might seem amateurish by today's standards, they are still impressive considering the budget, and the sheer imagination that the film possesses makes it an exhilirating thrillride until the end. A must for any Hong Kong Cinema enthusiast.


Reviewed by: Brad.Daniels
Date: 12/09/1999

One of Hark's earlier efforts. Kind of fun, but the visuals are abit choppy. If you're into Tsui Hark, this one's good to see because the special effects are not done as smoothly as his later stuff, so you can see how the shots are made up.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Director Tsui Hark has brought to the screen all the richness and power of Chinese mythology. Set in the distant past when the Earth is divided by war, the evil inhabitants of the nether world stir and prepare to break their bonds and control Earth. A young conscript escapes and hides on the Magic Mountain where he begins a perilous quest through the fantastic, magical world of mythology to find the two celestial swords which, when brought together, is the only weapon powerful enough to defeat the monstrous beings now poised to destroy the mortal world.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]


Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

A densely plotted sword and sorcery yarn that incorporates Chinese mythology into a film that incorporates imaginative special effects, antic martial arts fights, and early Brigitte Lin. The visuals are outstanding, as well.

(3.5/4)



[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 8