AKA: Walking in the Mountain
[Director: King Hu; Producer: King Hu, Cheuk Hon Wong; Writer: King Hu]
Cast: Sylvia Chang, Hui Lou Chen, Wu Chia Hsiang, Shih Chun, Feng Hsu
Running Time: 130 min
Plot: Hsu Feng stars in this fantasy adventure as Ho, a Sung Dynasty scholar who has left his town to to finish a Buddhist sutra in the peace of the the country. While there, he meets two beautiful young women who compete for his affection. However, these two women prove to be ghosts in disguise who are not interested in Ho, but in claiming the sutra that he has nearly finished.
In 1971, with his popularity in Hong Kong waning, King Hu secured backing for two new pictures from Korean investors. So Hu took his entire cast of regulars (i.e., Hsu Feng), the lead in A Touch of Zen and one of the heroes of Dragon Inn) to the mountains of Korea and shot Legend of the Mountain and Raining in the Mountain back-to-back.
Let’s get this out of the way: Raining in the Mountain is one of King Hu’s greatest movies. It is gorgeous and exciting, with a clever story and some rousingly pointed commentary on the hypocrisies of the human condition. Legend of the Mountain, however, didn’t fare so well. It is indeed beautiful, as all King Hu films are. And it features some very interesting acting. But the story has been trod on by every angle, and Hu was definitely not the first to get to this particular plot.
A scholar is put in charge of translating a sutra which, when completed, will allow communication with the dead. He sequesters himself in a deserted mountain fort for the task, but he is soon taken in by the neighbors and married to their daughter. To make matters worse, the whole area is haunted by a multitude of ghosts, none of which the scholar is any remote match for.
There is no kung fu in this movie, and it seems from this film as if Hu was much more creative when restricted to the martial arts genre. There are some funky special effects and some fun little humorous bits in the movie. But it’s really probably the least cohesive of King Hu’s movies, and it’s pretty uninteresting, to boot.