The Import Corner: Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (Eureka Entertainment) Blu-ray Review


Eureka Entertainment has done it again. They have given the love and care that a film like Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain deserves on blu-ray. We have a brand new restoration, multiple sound options, subtitles that aren't "dubtitles", and a nice selection of special features including the Export Cut of the film that changes the film a lot.


Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Release Date: February 5th, 1983 (theatrical) / April 20th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 97 mins
Region Code: B (locked)
Picture: 1080p (1.85:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English
Slipcover: Yes (first printing only)
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Yuen Biao, Adam Cheng, Brigitte Lin, Damian Lau, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, and Norman Chu
Written by Szeto Cheuk-Hon
Directed by Tsui Hark
Rating: BBFC: PG (fantasy violence)

THE FILM



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.

When I was getting into martial arts films during the 90s, I remember trying to watch ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTIAN. I really tried. The film just never took hold of me. In fact, I found the film to be very confusing despite the fact that I was watching this thing like a hawk. I stopped watching about halfway through and forgot about it. Then Eureka announced their blu-ray for the film and decided that it would be a good time to revisit the film and try to make it to the end this time.

I was successful this time but the story is still as nonsensical as it was back then. Characters are introduced without much explanation as to who they are and we are expected to go along with it. The Yuen Biao character, who is out lead, feels like he was in the middle of something when the film starts as he is attacked by two armies after the briefest of dialogue sequences. This would be fine in a normal martial arts film as things have a tendency to be on the simple side. This, however, is a fantasy film with tons of stuff thrown at us all the time. We should have a few minutes to get our heads around everything that we are seeing.

The thing about ZU is that we don't really care about this stuff while we are watching the film. Director Tsui Hark gives us one of the most beautiful fantasy films I have ever seen. He employs every trick available in the early 80s to give us things that we have never seen before. Animation, forced perspective, wires, opticals, and make-up effects are just a few of the different types of effects on display here. Almost every shot in the film, once they get to the magic mountain, has some type of effect in it. Even though ZU was released two years shy of 40 years ago, I was still in awe of everything that was going on in the film, even though some of the effects haven’t aged all that well. I still was able to appreciate the art that was on display here.

There is a reason that Tsui Hark was known as the “Chinese Steven Spielberg”. He is able to jump around in different genres whenever he wants, impresses with his camera work, and makes his stories seem way bigger than they actually are. Basically, he knows how to make a film like few others out there. The same year that ZU was released in China, Spielberg released E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, which would go on to become the biggest film in the world for a long while, and I will say that I like ZU a lot more than E.T. Despite it’s shortcomings, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN is a fun flick that is a feast for the eyes. Fantasy and martial arts fans should see this film.

THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND



Sourced from a brand new 2K restoration, and presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, ZU looks great. I will say that Eureka has been spoiling us with these restorations that they have been doing for 80s and 90s kung fu flicks. Here, we have a nice looking picture filled with color, and those colors looking wonderful. Skin tones are accurate and film grain is present. This transfer really captures the look and feel of the film that hasn’t been seen before.

Two tracks are available for us here, a Chinese mono and an English stereo. The Chinese track sounds much better than the English. The Chinese track is clearer and stronger than the English track with both dialogue and effects sounding fuller. The English track is good, but sounds a bit muffled and soft.

English subtitles are provided for the Chinese track and are not dubtitles.

THE PACKAGING




THE MENUS



THE FEATURES


Select Scene Commentary with Tony Rayns (1h 8m, HD) This track strangely doesn’t cover the whole film, but most of it. The track starts out with Rayns informing us that the real mountain is actually called “Shu”, but “Zu” sounded better and it stuck. He also covers the different sacred mountains found in China. Rayns then dives into politics both in and out of Tsui Hark’s films. This takes up a bulk of the track and something that I was not all that interested in. He barely talks about what is happening onscreen which makes the “select scene” part of this track seem a bit weird. Rayns does make the plot of the film a bit more bearable through explanation. He does return to talking about the film and Tsui Hark towards the end of the track. It is very apparent that Rayns knows his stuff, but his political talk really turned me off of this track.


Alternate Opening Credits (1m 58s, HD)

Zu: Time Warrior - Export Cut (1h 37m, HD) Here we have a version of the film that was created for the European market. The film has a wraparound story that has Yuen Biao as a college student who falls in love with a woman played by Moon Lee. He believes that they are made to be together because of the stories of ZU. He gets into a car accident and the ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN film begins proper. The dub is different to fit the new storyline and the film is cut by about 25 minutes to accommodate the newer footage. This is an interesting version of the film, but I think that the original version is better. The print of this version is rough and has not been remastered at all. The sound is English Dolby Digital 5.1.


Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show: Tsui Hark (22m 6s, SD, 1.33:1) Here we get an overview of Tsui Hark’s work up to the time of this episode’s release. We get interviews with Tsui Hark and some of the people he has worked with.


Interview with Tsui Hark (1h 1m, HD) A lengthy and in-depth interview with director Tsui Hark filmed in 2020 exclusively for this release.


Interview with Yuen Biao (12m 29s, SD) In Chinese with English subtitles.


Interview with Moon Lee (21m 16s, SD) In Chinese with English subtitles.


Interview with Mang Hoi (17m 40s, SD) In Chinese with English subtitles.

Original Hong Kong Trailer (3m 30s, HD)

Also included is a 24-page booklet with an essay by James Oliver, viewing notes, and production credits.

THE CONCLUSION



ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN is an interesting film whether you like the film or not. There is always something to look at, with many things not seen before. Tsui Hark has a real eye for the amazing and fantastic and this makes the film worth a watch. Eureka has really done right by the film with this blu-ray. The picture and sound are the best and the special features are wonderful. The Export Cut of the film is rather interesting as it feels like watching a new film. This is a must buy for martial arts and fantasy fans.

THE SCREENSHOTS


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