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Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain
Zu Time Warrior

Hong Kong 1983
produced by
Raymond Chow for Paragon Films/Golden Harvest
directed by Tsui Hark
starring Yuen Biao, Mang Hoi, Adam Cheng, Moon Lee, Brigitte Lin, Damian Lau, Sammo Hung, Judy Ongg, Norman Chu, Yung Ching-Yuk, Chung Faat, Dick Wei, Corey Yuen, Tsui Hark, Fung Hark-On, Shen Kwan-Li
written by Shui Chung-Yuet, Sze-To Cheuk-Hon, music by Gwaan Sing-Yau, Tang Siu-Lam, action choreography by Corey Yuen

Zu

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Having grown wary of going to war against whoever there is, Dik Ming Kei (Yuen Biao) hides from his army as well as the enemies in a cavern - where he stumbles upon hero Ding Yan (Adam Cheng), who fights against the Blood Demon, and impressed by his courage and determination, Dik Ming Kei decides to stay with him, to try to persuade him to become his teacher. Soon Ding Yan runs into reverend Hiu Yu (Damian Lau) and his student Yat Jan (Mang Hoi), who also fight the Blood Demon ... but to Dik Ming Kei's disappointment, Ding Yan and the reverend soon start to fight each other as well.

Before you know it though, Dik Ming Kei meets Chang Mei (Sammo Hung), an old master who keeps the Blood Demon contained for now, but who tells him he has only power to hold him for 49 more days, and now it's upon Dik Ming Kei to get the Twin Swords from Lady Li I-Chi (Yung Ching-Yuk) to stop the Blood Demon from conquering the world as such. But as if that wasn't enough, Hiu Yu has meanwhile been possessed by the Blood Demon, and Ding Yan, Dik Ming Kei and Yat Jan have to take him to the palace of the Ice Queen (Brigitte Lin) to save him. But the Ice Queen is not easily persuaded to save anyone, and wouldn't she have fallen in love with Ding Yan she would not even bother at all. However, her rescuing Hiu Yu goes somewhat wrong when instead Ding Yan gets possessed, and to contain him she has to deepfreeze her whole palace, with only Dik Ming Kei, Yat Jan and one of the Ice Queen's guards (Moon Lee) managing to escape ... oh, and Ding Yan escapes as well, despite all of the Ice Queen's efforts.

In a special effects-laden finale however, our heroes find Lady Li I-Chi, and with her help they defeat the Blood Demon for good. And in the end, Yat Jan gets the girl - the Ice Queen's guard that is - while Dik Ming Kei vows to do good from now on and try to stop all wars.

Sammo Hung has a dual role in this film, he plays not only Chang Mei but also a soldier who just like Dik Ming Kei has grown wary of fighting, and the two of them team up despite being from opposing armies. However, Hung's character is soon removed from the proceedings.

 


Flix.com

Perhaps not Tsui Hark's best film, Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain is nevertheless a light-hearted and extremely entertaining combination of martial arts and Chinese folklore and Western-style special effects on a scale unheard of in Hong Kong cinema back then (which is why the film was often compared to Star Wars, usually favourbly). But actually, it's not so much the special effects that carry the film but its over-the-top story which is held together by a fine directorial effort, its great ensemble cast, and its many small but charming scenes (like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao pretending to fight each other only to not have to fight anyone else, or a battleground covered with soldiers who pretend to be dead so they don#t have to fight another futile war). Excellent action choreography doesn't hurt one bit either, of course.

Definitely worth a look.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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