Mandarin: Zhui ri
English: Chase the Sun
Despite its obvious debt to the A CHINESE GHOST STORY series and a tight budget,
this sombre period fantasy turns out to be an impressive achievement in its
own right and one of the finest fantasies of the early 1990s. Haunted by a
recurring dream, in which he encounters a veiled maiden (Joey Wang Tsu-hsien,
at her most stunning) and then falls into a bottomless abyss, swordsman Kar
Yat-long (Jacky Cheung Hok-yau) awakens one evening with part of the woman's
bracelet in his hand. While riding one day, he comes across the very same
woman (whose name is Ku Moon-cher), about to be sacrificed by some villagers,
to protect their homes from the malevolent King of Ghosts. Although he offers
to escort her to safety, she returns for the sake of her people.
That evening, Yat-long encounters another beautiful girl (Sharla Cheung Man)
in a remote part of the forest. Although she provides him with ample opportunity
to seduce her, Yat-long does not, for he realizes that the maiden is actually
a Fox Goblin which drinks the blood of men that fall into its seductive clutches.
Before leaving in the morning, he gives the creature the name Ching'er and
earns her unyielding love. Meanwhile, Moon-cher violently rejects the advances
of the King, resulting in the destruction of Ku Village and, later, her suicide.
Yat-long seeks out and finds Moon-cher's ghost but she is soon taken by the
King, prompting the swordsman and an elderly master (Wu Ma) to concoct a desperate
plan to rescue her soul. Along to aid Yat-long is Ching'er, who is willing
to sacrifice herself for him, despite the fact that she knows Moon-cher is
his true love.
In contrast to its models, A CHINESE LEGEND has no comedy relief and is quite
downbeat but that actually helps to make it more romantic and affecting. The
leads give committed performances and both the cinematography and the score
are quite beautiful and atmospheric, adding greatly to the final product.
There are enough positive attributes on hand here for all but the most cynical
viewers to forgive some technical shortcomings like obvious miniatures, flawed
rear screen projection, and visible support wires. The film was directed by
Lau Hung-chuen, who helmed a handful of other projects (including the infamous
DEVIL FETUS) but is best known as a cinematographer (he shared those duties
here with Cheung Dik-kei and Yuen Wai-kwok). Lau Shun also appears in a characteristic
role as another aged master.
Cover art courtesy Shengchi.
Dolby Digital 2.0
Post-synced Mandarin Language Track
Permanent Subtitles in English and Traditional Chinese
6 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips
Fullscreen (cropped from 2.35:1)
Coded for Region 3 Only
Contains moderate violence
DVD menu courtesy
BOARD RATINGS AND CONSUMER ADVICE
A CHINESE LEGEND was first released on DVD by China
Star, utilizing the old Star Entertainment laserdisc master. That version
(now out-of-print) cropped the scope image to approximately 1.85 but was reasonably
good quality and featured an effective stereo re-mix. It lacked English subtitles,
however, making this poor quality Taiwanese DVD the only current choice for
Western viewers. The disc is derived from the same middle-of-the-screen transfer
as the original Taiwan videotape release; the print is very worn and the splice
can be seen at the point of virtually every shot change. Colors are decent
but the audio is monaural and the resolution is strictly VHS level. The severe
cropping of the subtitles also makes this a scant improvement over the China
Star release in terms of coherency. If your machine has X-Y scaling, you can
reduce the size of the picture and be able to see more of the subs and the
compositions, helping to improve viewing somewhat. Regardless, this movie
deserves a much better showcase and the Shengchi disc should only be considered
by those desperate to see it.
A CHINESE LEGEND is
available at Poker Industries.
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© John Charles 2000 - 2003. All Rights Reserved.