A Touch of Zen (1971) (Masters of Cinema) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Directed By: King Hu
Starring: Hsu Feng, Chun Shih, Ying Bai
Rated: 12(UK)/Region B/2:35/1080p/Number of Discs 3
Available from Eureka
An unambitious painter named Gu (Shih Jun) lives with his mother in the vicinity of an abandoned mansion rumoured to be haunted. In actuality, the mansion has become a hiding place for the warrior Yang (Hsu Feng) and her own mother, both taking refuge following the assassination of their loyal minister father by the wicked eunuch Wei of East Chamber. After the eunuch sends an army to pursue the escapees, the group fortify the mansion with traps and false intimations of the terrifying ghosts within. But even after, things take yet more unsettling turns…
If you want to see something that laid the very artistic and cinematic groundwork for such films as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers, then take a look at 1971’s A Touch of Zen. Starring Hsu Feng and coming from the fine folks over at UK’s Eureka, A Touch of Zen, is an amazing movie experience that is just as interesting to watch as it is to look at on this release. We have a great story here that goes in a few interesting directions, but when it comes to the battle scenes, we see them with such a style and grace that for the time was very revolutionary and ahead of the curve. This is a movie that lives off of revenge, redemption, and honor. All of which are key elements of the story. You might have heard the phrase, often imitated but never duplicated, well I think this movie is a prime example of that from a movie form. A strong plot mixed with a great lead and some of the coolest setting you’ve seen for a movie can go a long way and such is the case for A Touch of Zen. King Hu proves to be a painter behind the camera and his live action art is really a thing to be seen and this is the release for seeing it.
We have henchmen following our lead here and she has to fight back, there is a lot more complex things to the plot (a whole, whole lot more complex things), but that of course is the core of it all. Hsu Feng really is a great fit for this movie and it is a pure joy to see her here in this criminally underrated movie. But the movie isn’t all action, as we have a lot of drama here to try to help put this karate epic on its back and for the most part those sections of the film work really well, dare I say extremely well. It isn’t just a karate movie, the roots for this one runs much deeper. Into the world of a Samurai drama and above and beyond even just that. If you are a fan of film in general, then I must suggest you give A Touch of Zena watch. If you want to see it as its best, then you need to do what you can in order to see this release from Eureka when you watch it. I think if you can get over the long running time, you’ll be more than happy with the results you get.
– 4K restoration, on both Blu-ray and DVD
– New English subtitle translation
– Limited edition third disc with the documentary ‘King Hu 1932-1997
– Booklet featuring an interview with King Hsu
– Select scene commentary by critic and Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns
Quality of Transfer: 90%