Thursday, 24 July 2008

ZHAN SHEN TAN/Beach of the War Gods (1973)

I first heard of BEACH OF THE WAR GODS when a clip of the final fight scene was shown on a television film magazine. A few weeks later the film opened at the Casino cinema in London's Old Compton Street. My girlfriend who had also seen the clip dragged me along, not unwillingly, to see it. We both came out as Wang Yu fans and over the next few years criss crossed London seeking out Wang Yu movies. We managed to track down DEADLY SILVER SPEAR, GOLDEN SWALLOW, SEAMAN NO.7, TEN FINGERS OF STEEL, MAGNIFICENT CHIVALRY, THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DESPERATE CHASE, THE ONE ARMED BOXER and ONE ARMED BOXER VS,THE FLYING GUILLOTINE. Of these ONE ARMED BOXER and BEACH OF THE WAR GODS remain my favorites. BEACH is a reworking of the SEVEN SAMURAI/MAGNIFICENT 7 scenario, with Wang Yu recruiting six heroes to defend a village agains marauding Japanese. The opening with Wang Yu trudging across a windswept beach and entering a semi-deserted walled village to order a bowl of noodles at the saloon is pure Clint Eastwood and the ensuing fight where he decimates Japanese advance guard (killing the first one by propelling a chopstick through his skull) is like a Toshiro Mifune fan's greatest wish fulfilment. There is much leaping over buildings by Wang and several members of his regular stock company including Tien Yien and Lung Fei. The final battle scene lasts about 45 minutes and climaxes with Wang and Lung Fei clashing swords while hanging from the sails of a revolving windmill! Seemingly this film is not available on DVD but back in the late 70's it was released on VHS by Rank in England - surprisingly (for the time) in uncut and widescreen prints (as was ONE ARMED BOXER) and my copy is taken from a third generation VHS copy of this....not perfect but acceptable. Wang Yu himself is a fascinating character with a long career in both Hong Kong and Taiwanese movies. His attempts to break into English language films with such titles as THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, QUEEN'S RANSOM and ATTACK FORCE Z didn't really got far despite THE MAN FROM HONG KONG being a medium sized box-office success and featuring a big hit single. Perhaps this was partly because of Wang's off screen reputation which included a brawl with one of his co-stars on QUEEN'S RANSOM and a latter arrest for murder which was dropped for lack of evidence. He doesn't seem to do much these days and his blog on MySpace is little more that reproductions of film posters. There is more about Wang Yu and THE MAN FROM HONG KONG on Terry Frost's Paleo-Cinema blog (see link on sidebar). Rating ***

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