In the fifth century, constant civil war scars western China. To escape death, Ti, a young scout, jumps through a crevice in the Zu mountains where he meets and becomes the apprentice of Ting Yin, a spiritual man with great fighting powers. They encounter a monk, Hsiao Yu, also a great fighter and a good man, but unfriendly to Ting. Because Ting and Hsiao can't work together, it falls to Ti to team with Hsiao's acolyte Yi Chen: they have 49 days to travel far to claim two swords that are the only weapons that can defeat the Blood Demon, who has decided the wreak havoc on the world. They get help from Long Brows, Ting falls in love with a countess, and civil war still rages. Written by
Because this movie was made in the 1980s, I did not expect the special FX to be the equivalent of anything made in the states, or even up to the level of The Stormriders. However, I found this film a lot more enjoyable than the latter. This film is almost a non-stop ride full of swordfights, optical FX battles, flying people, and it still leaves room for some interesting themes also.
The plot deals with a soldier being disillusioned by the endless civil wars that have been fought. He goes to a mountain where he joins a swordsman, a monk and his apprentice, Sammo Hung, and some lovely ladies in a quest to defeat the Blood Demon, a being of pure evil. On the way, the soldier (Yuen Biao) and the monk's apprentice (Mang Hoi) must find some swords to use in the battle.
The action is nearly non-stop. It first starts out with some basic swordplay. Once Yuen reaches the mountain, than everything shifts into overdrive. Optical FX fly across the screen at dizzying speeds. Humans and demons fly across the screen at dizzying speeds. People get frozen alive. Women fly around with swirling cloth in their wake. Men fly around chained to boulders. Eyebrows are used to contain evil. All I can say is...wow. Only Ching Siu Tung could come up w/ some as imaginative as this.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some interesting themes involved. Tsui Hark seemed to make a statement against world leaders who start senseless wars and kill innocent people. Also, he talks about how battles become futile when people won't set aside their differences for a common cause. If we want to save the world or even ourselves, we all have to work together.
Of interesting note is the International dubbed version. That version makes the film into a dream sequence and turns the war parable into a love story spanning many generations. A lot of scenes are cut and shortened, giving the Zu mountain segment a very rushed feel. Overall, the subtitled version is a lot more preferable.
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