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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983)


Starring: Yuen Biao, Adam Cheng, Brigitte Lin, Mang Hoi and Moon Lee
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £22.99


Certificate: 12
Release Date: 20 April 2020

For its worldwide Blu-ray 1080p debut of Tsui Hark’s Zu Warriors From the Magic Mountain, engineered from a brand new 2K restoration, Eureka has spared no expense. This is a template film, a whirlwind of neo special effects, overflowing fantasy, frenetic energy, bumptious comedy and genius kinetic dynamism. It is comic book action, launched with a confident splash while Hollywood was still exploring its maiden voyages with Star Wars, Empire, Superman and Batman. As Asian Movie Pulse aptly assessed, “an unforgettable milestone from the Hong Kong film industry” and I say, influencing the art of fantasy epics all the way to tomorrow morning, a vast sword and sorcery fairy tale opera, reminding us of the venerable cinematic axiom: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Yuen Biao is an exchange student in contemporary Canada, a champion fencer disabled into a coma and teleported (like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, 1939) into another world, the way back days of 10th century civil war in Tang Dynasty China where he incarnates young soldier Dik Ming-kei. Rival clans fight viciously. He seeks safety in a cave. But this cave is in the bowels of the menacing legendary Zu Mountain, ensnaring him in mystic combat, a mythic spiderweb of battle exceeding all his modern understanding. To traipse further would be entering spoiler territory and I’ll not commit that crime.

The art direction by William Chang is sumptuous (Mulan [TV series] 1999; Gone With Bullets, 2014) known for his costume art in other films, Chang’s total look here is a study in the environmental aesthetics of excellence. Zu is a template film for his dossier alone.

But there is so much more in this wonderful crew behind the cameras. The stunt team: Hark-On Fung (Kung Fu Hustle, 2004); Hoi Mang (Yes, Madam!, 1985); Biao Yuen (Shanghai Noon, 2000) and Cory Yuen (who would go on to direct The Transporter, 2002). Why be so abstruse to name these great action innovators and choreographers? At the risk of preening as a dilettante (CHiPs four seasons in my own jacket) I would herald Zu Warriors as one of the foundational ensembles of stunt virtuosity in all film history. Yeah, it’s that good and the leadership of Tsui Hark is therefore all the more significant.

More technicals in the bountiful Eureka package: Cantonese and English soundtrack options; newly translated English subtitles, my wisenheimer recommendation: 讓廣東人流,you WILL take this trip more than once anyway, language impenetrable to you at first will become secondary as when listening to opera. Go organic, I say. It’s more nuanced and will only be enhanced by the newly produced commentary track from Asian cinema docent Tony Rayns. Then the interviews: a brand new (for Eureka loyalists) 2020 visit with Tsui Hark himself (Zu: Time Warrior, 93 min) plus the Tsui Hark episode from The Incredibly Strange Film Show series originally aired on British television in 1989; 52 minutes of archival interviews with Yien Biao, Mang Hoi and Moon Lee. It seems like egging the pudding to add that there is new art work on the limited edition O-CARD slipcase by Darren Wheeling and a collector’s booklet with new essays for the first 2000 units.

If you find joy in this genre, watching Zu Warriors should be a filmic feast for all three eyes, if you catch my drift. Well worth making it your cherished personal property.


John Huff

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