Starring Yuen Biao, Adam Cheng, Meng Hoi, Sammo Hung, Moon Lee, Brigitte Lin, and Tsui Siu-Keung. Directed by Tsui Hark, produced by Raymond Chow, with action by Corey Yuen, Meng Hoi, Yuen Biao and Fung Hark-On.
This fine fantasy flick, based on a 1932 book called ‘The Legend of the Swordsman of the Mountains of Shu’ by Huanzhulouzhu (the pen name of Li Shoumin), is so fast, frantic, absurdly action-gorged, fantastical and odd that it makes pretty much any film made in the west look snail-paced in comparison to it.
Set in a region called Zu, the film tells the tall tale of Ming (Biao), an army private, who becomes disillusioned with the civil war ravaging his land. He escapes to the Magic Mountains, which is a grim area plagued by demons and evil disciples. Meeting up with some magical warriors, Ming attempts to prevent the Blood Monster from ending the world.
By far the best portion of this movie, for me, is Ming’s initial venture into the mountainous region, a zone of misty boulders and temples, where the private encounters virgin-sacrificing cult members and demons that resemble blue-eyed Jawas with stretching bodies!
After teaming-up with three good monk-fighters, Ming confronts the Blood Monster, which first appears as a cascade of blood, then becomes a red sheet-covered entity. To the aid of the heroic foursome comes Long Brows (Hung): a grey-haired mystic who manages to keep the Blood Monster in check by clasping it with his magically extending eyebrows and beard! The Blood Monster protects its soul, though, by surrounding itself with the skulls of sacrificial virgins and tusks!
Ming and his three companions go in search of two powerful swords capable of finally destroying the Blood Monster before it grows too powerful to be restrained by Long Brows.
Tsui Hark adds so many fights, mystics, flying skirmishes, animated magic effects, arguments, twisting Buddha statues and multiple scene-changes that the cumulative effect of this non-stop, energetic assault to the senses is that you feel like your head might explode!
By the time the heroes are flying through red, swirling skyscapes, armed with glowing, magic swords, you wonder if you’re hallucinating it all!
Hark maybe tries to cram just too many optical effects into the finale and the end results are often less effective than, say, the mainly practical special effects seen in A CHINESE GHOST STORY, but there’s so, so much to enjoy here, why bother to quibble? And, let’s face it, what other movie contains a fight between a man and a woman zooming about on levitating large elephant statues and a stone griffin?!
Note: The English dubbed version starts off in the modern day, and is edited to suit a more western market.
Frenetic, funny, bizarre, wacky, magical and mad as a box of frogs.