FREAKSHOW Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain

Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time features… er… kung fu eyebrows?

Director: Tsui Hark
Hoi Mang, Moon Lee, Brigitte Lin, Damian Lau
Available on region one and region two DVD.
Watch the trailer here.

Eyebrows. Central to the careers of Roger Moore and Leonard Nimoy. To the rest of us, merely harmless lines of bristly hair. But, in the hands of a kung fu master (or rather, on the brows of a kung fu master), they’re deadly weapons. At least, they are in the crazed universe of Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain, which features a chap who can grab people with his super-long eyebrows and chuck them around.

This slice of fantasy kung fu is a classic of the genre, and was a big influence on John Carpenter when he made Big Trouble In Little China. It was ground-breaking at the time, because for the first time experts from the States were employed to work on the optical effects. They look a bit tuppence-ha’penny now, but there are still some striking moments, such as a kung fu scrap set against an acid-trip space backdrop.

The plot is sometimes hard to follow, although it’s difficult to tell why. It could be that cultural differences block a Westerner from comprehending things that would be instantly understood by an Eastern audience. Or it could just be that they’re making it up as they go along. You won’t care. When one character asks what the hell’s going on he’s told “They’re the bad guys. We’re the good guys. Understand?”). That’s all you really need to know. The narrative moves at such break-neck speed and hits you with such a rapid succession of gags that you’re soon too dizzy to fuss over the details.

As you’d expect in a film where practically every character has the ability to fly, the film features loads of wire-work, and the action scenes are brilliantly choreographed. Some scenes have all the grace of ballet; others have characters hilariously pinging around like a pinball. Now that wire-fu’s gone overground and respectable (thanks to the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) it’s refreshing to go back to the source. Great fun.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Rat Pfink A Boo Boo four or five times, but never seen On The Waterfront. The weirdo.

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