Warriors from the Magic Mountain
The movie is absolutely filled with countless outlandish elements and events, which appear on screen in rapid succession, one after another. The heroes leap through the air, perform various impossible feats, and fight a plethora of magical enemies. They encounter an incredibly old man who has chained himself to a boulder, but who, nevertheless, remains extremely deadly. They visit a supernatural countess (Brigitte Lin) who lives in a dreamlike castle surrounded by her female acolytes, and who is able to use her mystical powers to heal one of the heroes of an ailment inflicted upon him by the Blood Demon. The Countess and one of the heroes fight one another while mounted on huge moving statues of animals. The various characters travel to diverse strange and magical places, such as a dank underground temple, a glowing evil vortex, and a fantastic palace perched atop an impossible mountain. Even the battles they fight are infused with a sense of enchantment, being filled with bright flashes of lightning, glowing swords, and numerous other charming special effects. The movie really is a frequently exhilarating delight thanks to all these marvelous details and events depicted by the director.
Unfortunately, while Zu is ceaselessly moving and generally exciting, it is also so amorphous that it does occasionally lose the viewer's attention. What is more, the film's lack of structure is not its only fault. Much of the acting is less than impressive, and the director's attempts at humor are rarely funny. One scene, in which Ti tries to catch a fish, who actually laughs at his clumsiness, and the vegetarian monk later attempts to hide the fish's skeleton after he has eaten the poor creature, is, however, surprisingly entertaining. Sadly, it is the only successful comedic routine in the film.
I should at this point note that the movie also exists in an "international version" that incorporates the supernatural happenings of the original film described above as a dream imbedded in a dreadfully silly framing story about a young man (Biao) who falls in love with a mysterious girl (Moon Lee). The scenes shot for this version are included on some DVDs of the movie and, if watched, will help to remind the viewer how lucky he was not to have seen the international version. The extra scenes are truly atrocious.
Despite its often severe faults, Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain is so filled with wild adventures, elaborate costumes, colorful special effects, and outlandish characters that it is genuinely entertaining.
Review by Keith Allen
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