1944 [Qualiton] - Art Tatum
When ZU WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN first appeared in 1983, Hong Kong audiences were shocked by the level of sophistication of the film's special...
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Review of "1944 [Qualiton] - Art Tatum"
I first watched 'Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain' 15 years ago and remember it being one of my favourite films, as it is a mixture of fantasy, action, comedy and horror which was a rare treat. This film was made in 1983 in Hong Kong and was seemed as a revolution of the era. Hong Kong can openly admit that they are very behind with Special Effects compared to the Western world, though this film has managed to achieve a high level of sophistication with the visual effects during the time.
From what I remember from my parents, the film was adapted from a 60-odd volume novel called 'The Legend of Zu' by Lee Sau Man. I have not had the privilege of reading it, as I'm Chinese illiterate, though my parents have read some of it. However, having some knowledge of the story, I was very excited to watch this film as I love fantasy.
During a tough time in the region of Szechuan (that's where the Chinese dish originates from), a war has broke out between the blue, red, orange, yellow and green empires. The story follows a young soldier called 'Ti Ming Chi' (Yuen Biao), who was unlucky enough to be in the middle of a pointless battle. As a Blue Warrior, he has made alliance with a Red Warrior (Sammo Hung) to survive the war by faking deaths, pretending to be busy fighting each other and stirring things between all empires.
With Ti Ming Chi's desire to be Ting Yin's student, he realised that the world has more trouble than a battle between the colourful empires. It seems that the Dark Lord is about to take over the world and soon, all humans will be destroyed. They must start their mission to find the legendary twin swords, which are the only weapons that can possibly stop the arrival of all evils.Along the quest were Abbott Hsiao Yu (Damian Lau) and his timid student Yi Chen (Hoi Mang). Friction was obvious between Abbott Hsiao Yu and Ting Yin, though they both meant well and are both hoping to destroy the evil. Their company has become invaluable to Ti Ming Chi as he was able to learn the truth about the hidden trouble the world has to face, as well as learning a few useful skills to survive the evils.
As much as there are many evils lurching around, it was a relief to know that there were also many good warriors around as they went on their quest. They have met the old and wise Long Brow (Sammo Hung again) who was able to temporarily slow down the process of the Dark Lord's rebirth. They have managed to encounter the Healing Countess of the Ice Palace (Brigitte Lin) to heal a demon possession and they could not have managed to save some humans' lives without a young heroic fairy, Mu Sang (Moon Lee).With all the chaos going on in the world, you cannot help but to feel sorry for Ti Ming Chi, who was an ordinary human unlike his companions who has magical skills. With many disasters, deaths and misfortunes, it may seem almost impossible for the Goods to beat the evils. Will luck be on Ti Ming Chi's side?~~~~~~~~
I thought Tsui Hark was brave to have combine the traditional effect of Wire work, which has been used in Hong Kong movies for fifty years prior with American's Special Effects. In a way, he has created a hybrid by picking the best of both worlds. For that effort, he was able to create a fantastic film, which is full of action from the very start of the film to the end.
This was made possible with the fact that he has cast so many Martial Arts actors, such as Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Hoi Mang, who were able to choreograph the fight scenes in the film. With a lot of help from harness and special effects, they were able to produce scenes that may have never been attempted before, such as the fight scene that involves being high up in the sky. It may sound like I am complaining, but the fact the film is so action packed, it is very difficult to remember all the fight scenes and sequences. It is also very hard to identify which action scenes would be my favourite. I think it requires a few viewing before any decisions can be made.I felt the majority of the characters in the film were created for a specific reason, no matter how big or small of a role they have. I was also impressive with the acting skills from the main cast, as they were very natural and convincing. Yuen Biao has created a character that is slightly boisterous which enables him to demonstrate some acrobatic moves as well as having opportunity to fulfil the comical elements e.g. being over confident with his martial arts which lead him to awkward falls. You can see how his character matures during the film, as he had no choice but to grow up and save the world.
Sammo Hung went for a slightly more modest approach this time round, as he did not display as much martial arts in this film. He went for a clumsy Red soldier who seems to be dodging rather than fighting during the chaotic battle of the empires. He also played a comical role of the Wise Long Brows, who is supposed to be superior. Yet, Sammo has made the character light-hearted by giving him an eccentric personality. This enables the audience to like the character as well as caring for him, as he is an elder.I did not know much about Hoi Mang, but I think he was my favourite actor out of the entire film as the timid monk. He had an adorable face, looks as if he was useless and need to be mothered. You feel sorry for him as he struggles to get his courage up for majority of the film. As he was always in the shadow of Abbott Hsiao Yu, he was completely lost without his Master which will enables the audience to empathise with him. You do however, see that his characters matures, as Yuen Biao's one does. The highlight of Yi Chen would be when he was stripped off by the fairies (poor monk), pulling a girl's trousers down (naughty monk), struggling to swim (drowning monk) and eating fish when his master wasn't around (naughty monk again).
I am pleased to see that the non-martial artists such as Adam Cheng and Brigitte Lin claiming their fair share of actions in the movie. If you don't know the background of the actors, then you won't be able to identify who were martial arts trained and who wasn't. In fact, the two most powerful characters were played by Brigitte Lin and Adam Cheng! They were involved in some of the most imaginative fight scenes, such as the battle on large statue elephants with scarf and sword fight.There was a real chemistry between the two characters. Even though nothing has happened during the movie, their eye contact tells it all. Countess and Ting Yi were not able to spend much time together with all the battles that was going on in the world, yet you knew they feel the same for each other. Both actors were able to portray their characters with such grace and superiority, I think their imagery should be used to advertise Chinese movies to the other countries. As disaster soon prevented the two characters from being together, it was also the love of the Countess for Ting Yi and her sacrifice, which made it possible for the others to fight the Dark Lord. I don't want to give away exactly what has happen but for that, I think it is one of the greatest love story I have seen which made my heart sank.
The problem with Zu Warrior is that Tsui Hark is trying to fit one of the biggest novels into a 95 minute movies. This meant that a lot of actions were happening and many stories were interweaving, which perhaps, can be confusing at times. I believe that the time scale of the events in the film were approximately one month, yet I'm not sure if I was able to identify that in the movie. The pace of the stories was told so quickly that I felt that some scenes were not fully developed. I think this film could be a disadvantage for audiences who knows little or nothing about the Chinese culture, as it could be confusing or it could be hard to grasps some of the concepts.If you were to watch it today, you will probably find it more comical than scary as I did 15 years ago. The Special Effects are so dated, you cannot help but to laugh the cheesiness of it. However, you must appreciate the high standard achieved for 1983. I can not express how much people should give this film a try. The story line is so imaginative, I cannot find a film yet to meets its standard. It is energetic, intriguing and a film with a message. Why create war when life is so precious and can disappear in a short amount of time? This film will suit fans of horror, comedy, action, adventure and fantasy.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TSUI HARK - Director
He is seen as Steven Spielberg of the Eastern world, Tsui Hark has made approximately 54 movies and creating most of the big stars in Hong Kong such as John Woo, Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, Adam Cheng and Brigitte Lin. Tsui has created a hype during the 1980s and 1990s with genres such as fantasy, action and horror all roll into one with special effects to enhance the viewing pleasure. He has produced some classic films such as 'A Chinese Ghost Story', and 'Green Snake' which explores the Chinese fantasy world with special effects and are highly praised in the Eastern world.
YUEN BIAO - plays Ti Ming Chi
Yuen Biao joined the China Drama Academy at the age of 5, where he was trained in acrobats, martial arts, Peking Opera and entertainment alongside Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. Although Yuen Biao is perhaps the fastest and most agile fighter out of the three icons, he is underrated for his talent. He started off in the shadow of Chan and Hung, as he was younger, though has managed to now become established in the entertainment world by himself.
SAMMO HUNG - plays Red Soldier and Long Brows
Sammo Hung is recently recognised for his breakthrough in USA for series 'Martial Laws'. Trained with Yuen Biao and Jackie Chan, Sammo has always impressed his audience with his improvisational conversion from props to weapons and a flexible 'large' fighter who is capable of a lot of things that an average sized person may not do. Although Sammo has starred in a lot of movies, he is often a very modest chap. He tends to do the behind the scene work, such as directing, producing and choreography and let his fellow Chan and Biao to take the acting credits.
BRIGETTE LIN - plays Countess
Started her acting career at the age of 17, she has made over 100 films, and has maintain a stable career for over 20 years. It is believe that no-one has yet achieved an career record like hers. One of her more famous film is 'The Bride with White Hair'.
ADAM CHENG - plays Swordman Ting Yin
One of the classic actors of all time in Hong Kong, Cheng has also achieved a career as a singer in the 1970s. He has been working in the industry for nearly 40 years and is usually typed cast to play a dynasty swordman due to his tall build. Cheng is more of a television series actor than a movie, though I think he performs well no matter what roles are given to him.
Director = Tsui Hark
Screenplay = Shui Chung Yuet
Duration = 95 minutes
Country = Hong Kong
Language = Cantonese or English, with subtitles.
Cert = PG
Price = You can buy it for as low as £5.99 (30th March 2006)
Product Information : 1944 [Qualiton] - Art Tatum
Manufacturer's product descriptionWhen ZU WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN first appeared in 1983, Hong Kong audiences were shocked by the level of sophistication of the film's special effects. Determined to raise the production values of Hong Kong films to that of the United States, director Tsui Hark hired special effects experts from Hollywood to help him create a mind-boggling fantastical adventure with flying swords, staffs made of pure energy, a pulsing blood monster, and a wizard with bushy eyebrows that act as long whips. Set in the sublime crags and peaks of Szechuan, during the midst of a senseless war between blue, red, orange, and green factions, ZU is adapted from the 64-volume novel THE LEGEND OF ZU. The story follows unlucky soldier Ti Ming Chi (Yuen Biao), who becomes entangled in a quest to save the Earth from evil spirits. Also featuring the portly Sammo Hung and the graceful Brigitte Lin (whose flowing robes and martial arts skill resemble her Invincible Asia character in SWORDSMAN II), ZU is a non-stop spectacle that recalls the mythopoetic fantasy CLASH OF THE TITANS. Eastern myth and fantasy, Western technology, and Hark's perpetual motion pacing combine in a film that ends in a plea for unity.
Listed on Ciao since: 12/03/2006