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Legend of the Mountain (Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray Review)

Legend of the Mountain is the story of a young scholar, Ho Yunqing (Shih Jun, A Touch of Zen, Dragon Inn), is tasked by an eminent monk to transcribe a Buddhist sutra said to have immense power over the spirits of the afterlife. To execute his work in peace, he travels to an isolated monastery deep in the mountains, where he encounters a number of strange people, including the mysterious and beautiful Melody (Hsu Feng, A Touch of Zen, Dragon Inn). As malicious spirits attempt to steal the sutra, Ho becomes entangled in a conflict between duelling forces of good and evil. Will he leave the mountain alive? 

Film 

Legend of the Mountain is director King Hu’s ghost story masterpiece brought to us in its epic 192-minute full cut restored from a 4K master by Eureka! Master of Cinema. Master  Scholar Ho Yunqing  (Chun Shih) is on his way to transcribe a sutra loses his way along the arduous road. He comes upon a temple and a few weird inhabitants. Wide-eyed and enthusiastic, Yunqing takes refuge with the strange folks.

An old lady and her young daughter seem happy that nice strong man like Yunqing has happened by. Melody (Feng Hsu) takes to Yunqing immediately and seduces him with her drums. I am being slightly facetious with that last description, but I speak the truth. Melody is a talented musician and can play the drums beautifully. In doing so she hypnotizes Yunqing and essentially marries him overnight. To be clear, the passage of time seems to move at a rapid pace, so a few minutes here and there may be months or many months in the film.

Once Yunqing begins to put the pieces together the household becomes stranger and stranger. More oddball characters begin to show themselves or creep about that makes his stay at that old temple an uncomfortable endeavor.

I had only ever heard of Legend of the Mountain in passing — it was never on my radar until now. The film is an evocative epic clocking at more than three hours. In fact, the first 45 minutes or so is that of Yunqing walking through various terrain. Director King Hu also incorporated many scenes of animals and nature itself into the film to create an abstract drama, with a ghost story aesthetic. When Yunqing is first approached by the characters that inhabit the temple – they eyeball him and connive in a creepy manner. What are they going to do to him? Things like that make watching the film that much more effective. There are even secondary characters that keep watch of the place like Lamas that come and go and a creepy drunkard that comes around.

The tone of the film also shifts to that of comedy and quirkiness in spots. Madame Wang (Rainbow Hsu) is definitely not your conventional “granny” character. Once we get to the last hour of the film — the full spectrum of the story comes into full view and it is entertaining to say the least. I got various flashbacks to the masterpieces: Hausu and Kuroneko, while watching Legend of the Mountain. 

Please keep in mind that Legend of the Mountain is not for everyone. It has a daunting running time and can be esoteric. If you decide to take the journey then you will be in store for a treat and an overall cool ghosts and spirits type of film. The “wuxia” element is only hinted at — please note that there are no traditional martial arts fights. Wirework is presented, as are scenes of magic and sorcery. If you are looking for a wuxia film then this is not the one for you.

Plea note that Eureka! Masters of Cinema Legend of the Mountain is region B locked, therefore, you will need a region free Blu-ray player for proper playback. If you already have one then Legend of the Mountain is a no-brainer.

Video 

Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: Legend of the Mountain has been restored in 4K for this release Blu-ray. It should be noted that this release is NOT in actual 4K, it’s obviously presented in full 1080p. I did hear rumblings that this print used may have had faults, but after having gone through the Blu-ray I can say that I was floored by the presentation. Legend of the Mountain can be considered a painting in motion. Half the time it is nothing more than moving images showcasing characters and scenery. As you can see by the rating – it is a fantastic looking Blu-ray.

Depth: The landscapes are beautiful and vast – almost like being there. The Blu-ray captures the grand scale of the production perfectly.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and inking. Crush was never a problem.

Color Reproduction: The color palette shines on this Blu-ray release. Certain themes and cues are hinted at by various colors of smoke and they look positively brilliant on this release — almost like a water color painting.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks great especially the female cast. I like the subtle instances of the female characters wearing make-up and eyeliner. In fact, our lead wears eyeliner, as well.

Noise/Artifacts: Intrusive DNR and noise reduction were not detected. Precious grain present throughout.

 

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Mandarin LPCM 1.0 (48 kHz / 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The audio presentation on the Blu-ray is that of the highest caliber, but even though it is presented in high resolution 24-bit LPCM 1.0 mono — it can be a bit tinny here and there. It usually gets tinny during the various scenes involving highs like music, instruments, and such. This being a 1.0 channel track all of the sound effects, dialogue, and ambience is directed in the front. Depth is lost. The real winner here in the audio department is the dialogue. Dialogue levels are fantastic.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Legend of the Mountain is a dialogue driven film and the soundtrack does a great job in vocalization department. It can be heard loud and clear.

 

Extras 

The big draw for this release of Legend of the Mountain is the restoration in 4K print, with only a limited amount of special features included. There are two informative featurettes included. The first is a comprehensive video essay by David Cairns and an new interview with Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns. A trailer rounds out the supplemental features.

  • Limited Edition O-Card (2000 units) – first print run only 
  • A new video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns (HD)
  • A new interview with Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns (HD)
  • Trailer
  • A collector’s booklet featuring an abundance of archival writing and imagery

Summary 

Legend of the Mountain may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re an Asian cinema fan then it’s most definitely required viewing — especially now that we get this gorgeous Blu-ray presentation that sweetens the deal. The video is terrific and the audio is just ok. The special features are adequate but the pickings are slim. If you are region free then this is a require purchase. Please be aware that you must have a region free Blu-ray player for proper playback. Legend of the Mountain is available via Amazon UK.

 

Legend of the Mountain is available on

Blu-ray & DVD via Amazon UK!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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