Saturday, January 04, 2014

Eight Immortals – review

Director: Hung Min Chen*

Release date: 1971*

*Note, the IMDb page, details of date and director are based on the supposition that the Fusian DVD release is of the film "Ba xian du hai sao yao mo". If I have mixed films up with another then please leave a comment.

Contains spoilers

The eight immortals are a group of legendary Xian, transcendent heroes of Chinese mythology. Revered by Taoists they have become very much a part of pop culture as well. As such the film opens in a modern day scene, with street storytellers rousing a crowd to come and listen to their tale that is illustrated with painted tiles.

Lu Tung-Pin
The story they tell is that which we see. Set within the Tang dynasty, following a period of peace and prosperity, a rebellion is led by An-Lu-Shan. With that scene set the film spends time exploring the eight immortals (either singularly or in groups) and the impact they have on mortal lives (some of whom feature in the main story. It shows them using their powers to help the helpless, those in danger and overcome adversity.

drinking blood
The story then moves to the adventure proper and the region, where most of the individual stories took place, has been invaded and taken over by Red Demon – who is described as a ravenous blood sucker. So this is our vampire, a blood demon who we see sucking the blood out of victims in his dungeon. One victim he spares is a woman called Pai Mou-Tan as he desires her sexually. In the very first story we saw her as a reluctant courtesan in love with her childhood sweetheart Tu Teh-Fang. The immortal Lu Tung-Pin tricked the brothel owners so that she and her love could be together.

demon pig
Pai Mou-Tan is saved from the Red Demon by the jealousy of his wife and the fact that Pai Mou-Tan can massage well (a skill the Demon's wife is in need of) and ends up as a handmaid and in a position, along with a wine seller and fellow prisoner, to help both the immortals and Tu Teh-Fang who has become leader of the rebels. Unfortunately I must spoil the ending – but you should have guessed that good triumphs – by saying that, once defeated, Red Demon takes his original form – that of a pig.

Pai Mou-Tan
The film is slightly disjointed due to the jumping between stories but, of course, is designed that way. There is a whole level of morality tale in some of the stories and a fondness of song (apparently). That said it is a fun Taiwanese movie and the subtitles (in both English and Mandarin and hard-coded) are readable for the most part (only in one scene did a couple of lines become indistinct). It was also nice to see Chinese mythology being used. The DVD is labelled as digitally remastered, however the print is patchy in places but still watchable and the quality of the story distracts from this once the viewer is sucked in. 6.5 out of 10.

The *imdb page is here.

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