ZU: Warriors From The Magic Mountain
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Tsui Hark
Year:
1983
Run Time:
94 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1
Region:
PAL 2 & 4
Genre:
Fantasy/Wire-work/Swordplay - 12 (UK)
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MOVIE
7/10

A milestone in Hong Kong movie making it may be, but Zu's reputation, in my eyes, has always been overrated.
Whilst it undoubtedly features (at the time of filming) groundbreaking special effects and set-pieces, it still remains a large number of ingenious ideas in search of a coherent plot.
The leaps of faith required of the viewer as the film jumps from scene to scene makes for a storyline which becomes increasingly hard work to follow.

Taking the lion's share of the acting roles, Yuen Biao gets to show off his considerable talent as the young soldier thrust into position of having to save the world.
Adam Cheng is at his scene-stealing best as the swordsman who must pass on his skills to Biao.
Wonderful cameos from Sammo Hung (as several different characters), and appearances from Moon Lee and Brigitte Lin bolster an already impressive line of stars including Meng Hoi and Damien Lau.

Tsui Hark's renowned directorial skills are given free reign, with each of the stunning set-pieces filling the screen with imagination. Just about everything, and everyone, takes flight, and if it's not soaring stone elephants, then it's self-dividing swords with which our heroes battle each other.
However, the basic fact remains that the characters and plot seem to matter less than the range of special effects, and this makes for not only an emotionally uninvolving but also confusing viewing experience.

PICTURE
6/10

After the incredible presentation Project A received, I was looking forward to being similarly impressed by this transfer.
Unfortunately, these feelings slipped away upon the realisation that the print used has aged very badly, with the transfer doing little to help.

Detail fluctuates alarmingly from good to below-average, although I expect some of this is due to the source material rather than HKL.
Whilst grain is abundant in many scenes, some of the most disappointing elements of the transfer are those which fail to cope with smoke and dry-ice-filled scenes. Artifacts are quite visible during these darkly lit sets, and add to a disappointing transfer.
Although night-time sequences (of which there are many) come off particularly badly, the daytime ones fair a great deal better, with bold colours and decent detail holding things together.

SOUND
6/10

Sound effects and the musical score are moved to the left and right front speakers successfully, with the centre speaker handling the majority of dialogue.
An aspect which I have often noticed with mono soundtracks mixed into 5.1 is that, unless a great deal of care is taken during the process, the dialogue and sfx can become muted.
At times this is a problem with this latest release, as many of the well realised sound effects are drowned out by other elements.

SUBTITLES
7/10

Whilst failing to particularly impress me with their translations of terms, and their faithfulness to the script, the subs are good enough to get the job done.
Scorpion King remains HKL's best piece of subbing work for a long time, and it's frustrating to come across such inconsistency from release to release.

EXTRAS
8/10

Commentary
The hugely welcome addition of director Tsui Hark alongside Bey Logan is a breath of fresh air for those of us who feel these commentaries work best with the input of more than one person.
Tsui, as you'd expect, reveals some fascinating details, speaks perfect English and seems to enjoy the trip down memory lane with Logan.
One of HKL's best commentaries for a while.

Trailers
UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer

The Wizard's Cave
Offering the sort of extras Hong Kong fans crave, HKL provide the US version's additional scenes - presented here in non-Anamorphic widescreen.
Opening the story in modern times, Yuen Biao's character finds he becomes strangely drawn to an ancient artifact on display in a local museum.
Presented with its original English dub, the added scenes do nothing for the film, other than making it even more incoherent and syrupy thanks to the plotline involving Moon Lee.
None the less, this is required viewing.

Interviews
Meng Hoi
The elfin action actor talks quietly and thoughtfully about his start in film-making and of his landing the role in Zu.
The feature lasts for a respectable 17 minutes and is well worth a look.

Moon Lee
This 20 minute interview with co-star Moon Lee is better than her previous outing on HKL's Mr. Vampire release.
Thankfully, as with Meng Hoi's, her interview stays focused on the film and as such, holds your attention.

Additional Trailers
Tai Chi Boxer
Project A: Platinum Edition

Whilst falling short of some of their other releases in terms of numbers, the extras are still of a high enough quality to demand your attention.

CONCLUSION
7/10

As entertaining a 90 minutes as you're likely to see in Hong Kong fantasy cinema, Zu still impresses with its unparalleled imagination. It also makes you realise that, as with so many modern big-budget SFX epics, a film still needs a heart in order to keep your blood pumping.

MOVIE 7/10
PICTURE
6/10
SOUND
6/10
SUBTITLES
7/10
EXTRAS
8/10
MENUS
7/10
PACKAGING
5/10
OVERALL 7/10