This film is a stone cold classic that does not get brought up very often. So I’ll bring it up.
Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain is a film made in Hong Kong that normally gets included in the Chinese Ghost Story genre. It is set in ancient China during a time of civil war in the country and follows an army scout who gets separated from his company and ends up in the magic mountains of Zu. He, naturally, gets caught up in a titanic battle between good and evil with the fate of the world in the balance.
It is directed by Tsui Hark, who would go on to work with John Woo with some of his early films and also direct the imperious Once Upon A Time In China series. With a huge budget (for the time), he throws everything at the screen. Miniatures, wire work, effects work that was (at the time) state of the art. It has an impressive cast with two thirds of the Three Brothers, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. Sammo has a cameo in a couple of roles whereas Yuen plays the army scout thrust into this magical world.
And very magical it is too. Yuen hooks up with a warrior priest with flying swords who does battle with the evil demons that roam the Zu mountains. People fly through the air, fire leaps from the hands of demons, gigantic rocks are thrown like tennis balls. It is a visual feast. Alright, some parts haven’t aged that well so you can see the joins but that doesn’t matter. The world is so cohesive and interesting that it sweeps you along with a stirring soundtrack and a pace that some modern blockbusters could do well with copying.
It was a film that heralded change in Hong Kong cinema; the production was enormously complex for the period with Hark shipping in Hollywood special effects artists. Boom years followed with the rise of Jackie Chan, John Woo which began a cult following that would grow in the West.
It will be, I’ll admit, an acquired taste. The plot skips all over the place and some of the performances are, to put it mildly, a bit melodramatic. Yes, you need to watch it in the original language with subtitles and if you have a problem with that you are banned from this website.
None of that should matter. It remains a highly enjoyable film that captures a lot of what is great about Asian cinema; the spectacle, the passion, the energy.
A final note to this piece; the DVD is a bit tricky to get hold of as it’s out of print on the UK. Used copies are available on Amazon and eBay but, if you want to be one of the cool kids like myself, you could get hold of a Region 3 copy which comes in a pretty nice slipcase. Just saying.