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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Legend of the Mountain (Blu-ray)
Legend of the Mountain (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // May 1, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 17, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Adapted from a Song Dynasty folk story, King Hu's 1979 film Legend Of The Mountain is the lushly told story of Ho Yunqing (Chun Shih), a young scholar. He's asked by a monk to transcribe a Buddhist text that allows the living to have power of those who have passed on. Wanting to conduct his work in solitude, Ho heads to the abandoned home of a general located in the midst of a remote, but admittedly very scenic, mountain range.

Once Ho arrives and attempts to begin his work, he meets a few off local characters such as Mr. Tsui (Lin Tung) and a lovely young woman named Melody (Feng Hsu), as well as her mother. Ho also makes the acquaintance of the man tasked with caring for a nearby monastery as well as an insane old man named Zhang (Feng Tien). Complicating matters further is the arrival of a Taoist priest and, after a sudden and mysterious marriage takes place between Ho and Melody, an equally mysterious woman known only as Cloud (Sylvia Chang) shows up… all around the same time that various characters start dueling for possession of the Buddhist text that Ho needs to protect.

Legend Of The Mountain moves at a verydeliberate pace. The film is, to be blunt, slow. That said, it will reward those with the patience to give it a chance. King Hu does spend a lot of time showing off the scenery and the absolutely gorgeous Taiwanese mountain locations used for much of the film, and while this definitely slows down the pacing of the story you don't really mind so much when everything looks as good as it does in this film. The compositions are remarkable, almost painterly at times, and the use of color in the film is as flamboyant as it is impressive. Henry Chan's cinematography is just as much a star of the film as any of the human actors that populate its world, and if nothing else the production values on this picture really are top-notch. There's an almost Herzogian obsession with capturing the harsh beauty of nature in the picture, but for many of us that's a pro rather than a con.

As to the story itself, it's an interesting and involving mix of genres. While it blends action (mostly all relegated to the second half of the film) and fantasy and romance it also dabbles in horror, ultimately coming off as a ghostly folk story more than anything else. The performers handle their parts quite well. Chun Shih (recognizable for his work in the excellent A Touch Of Zen and the 1967 version of Dragon Inn) plays his character with plenty of believable enthusiasm. He never overdoes it, Ho comes across as quite naïve at times, but never dumb. It's a good role and the actor makes the most of it. Providing some interesting contrast are the performances delivered by Feng Hsu as Melody and Sylvia Chang as Cloud. Without wanting to spoil things, their respective approaches to the characters that they play in the film are quite different but they play off of one another very well and are quite entertaining to watch. Feng Tien is also great in his supporting role, adding some welcome and effective comic relief to a few of the scenes in which his character is featured.

Note that the version of the film included here is the full-length, uncut version running over three hours in length. The previous DVD edition that was released domestically was the heavily truncated cut of the picture, so it's absolutely a good thing to have King Hu's intended vision finally presented for fans in very nice quality as it is here on this Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray

Video:

Kino presents Legend Of The Mountain on a 50GB Blu-ray disc with the feature taking up just over 40GBs of space. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, the transfer is taken from a new 4k restoration and it looks excellent. Colors are warm but not unnatural looking, if slightly faded, and black levels are nice and strong. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and there's very strong detail throughout, nice depth and texture too, except for some scenes involving a fair bit of smoke and others that utilize some fast zooms. Otherwise, this is a beautifully shot film filled with a lot of gorgeous scenery and it looks very good here.

Sound:

The Chinese language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, which comes with optional subtitles in English only, is problem free. There's decent range for a mono mix and the levels are properly balanced. There are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion and the score has pretty solid power behind it, even if it sounds a tad harsh from time to time (as do some of the sound effects used throughout the picture). Overall though, the audio here is fine.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is a twenty-one-minute interview with film critic Tony Rayns (who knew Hu in real life) who gives us some welcome background information on the picture and on King Hu's career with the Shaw Brothers, then Golden Harvest as well as how and why Hu wound up shooting this particular film in Korea. He also talks about the screenplay, the differences between the 110 minute version and this uncut 191 minute version and more. Up next is an eighteen-minute video essay by film critic Travis Crawford who speaks about this film's place in the wushu pantheon, how this picture compares to some of the work that was coming out of the Shaw Brothers studio at the time and the influence that this film and Hu's work had on filmmakers that followed in his wake. Both of these are quite interesting and valuable additions to the package.

Extras finish off with a still gallery and a trailer for the feature as well as menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes packaged with an insert booklet by writer Grady Hendrix that's worth checking out.

Final Thoughts:

King Hu's Legend Of The Mountain is a true epic, a wonderful mix of fantasy/horror and martial arts that benefits from a strong cast, beautiful location photography and impressive production values. Kino's Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and contains a few nice extra features that document both the history of the film and the man who made it. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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