Laserblast Blu-ray & DVD: The Spirit, Splinter, Zu Warriors, and the Lost Collection

For fans of science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies, this week’s DVD and Blu-ray releases are not the most exciting. The only major theatrical release reaching home video is THE SPIRIT, Frank Miller’s disappointing filmization of the Will Eisner comic strip, which arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD. Also of interest is SPLINTER, a low-profile title from last year, which makes its bow on DVD and Blu-ray. (Randall Larson interviewed the film’s composer Eli Cmiral, back in December.)
As for the rest, it is mostly re-issues of previously available titles, resurrected through the modern technology of Blu-ray – or simply because somebody got ahold of the rights and thought there were a film more dollars to be milked out of the old titles.

Zu - Warriors of the Magic Mountain

One oldie worthy of return is ZU – WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, from producer Tsui Hark. This is the film that more or less launched the wave of fanciful Fant-Asia films back in the late ’80s, a movement that extended into the ’90s, eventually culminating in CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. ZU is a bit uneven, but it is loaded with colorful action, achieved with old fashioned stunt work and wires instead of CGI. It is also infinitely better than Hark’s 2001 remake ZU WARRIORS, a dreadfully dull piece of work.
In the “Back on Blu-ra”y category are THE THITEENTH FLOOR, a disappointing journey into virtual reality presented by Rolland Emmerich and Dean Devlin; and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN, a forgotten Jean-Claude Van Damme sequel from 1999.
In the “Back Just Because” category, Lionsgate is releasing several older titles under a new banner, “The Lost Collection,” which they claim are the “best movies you totally forgot about.” A glance at the titles (REPOSSESSED, SLAUGHTER HIGH,  MY BEST FRIEND’S A VAMPIRE) render this description highly suspect, but hey, that’s Hollywood Ballyhoo for ya. As an extra added inducement to purchase, the DVD boxes include trivia packs – which makes you wonder who in the company got tapped with the job of watching the films in order to come up with some trivia about them (or did they simply log onto IMDB?).
Finally, an obscure DTV title makes its bow this week, NOVEMBER SON, whose main claim to distinction seems to be the joint casting of scream queens Judith O’Dea (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) and Brinke Stevens (just about anything directed by Fred Olen Ray). It may not quite equal pitting Bette Davis against Joan Crawford in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, but you have to give the filmmakers credit for trying.

Zu Warriors (2001) – DVD Review


This is a major disappointment from Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark, who produced and/or directed some of the best fantasy films of the 1980s and 1990s (including A CHINESE GHOST STORY and GREEN SNAKE). This 2001 production, a re-hashing of 1983’s ZU, WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, is updated in terms of productions values and special effects, but it lacks the flair and charm of Hark’s earlier productions. The heavy-handed approach to the slim story bogs the film down so badly that even hardcore fans will find their patience tested to the limits as they wait in vain hope for some of the old excitement to arise.

The setting is the mythical world of Zu, where immortals train for centuries to perfect their martial arts skills. One day, a pupil named King Sky (Ekin Cheng) is sent away by his master Dawn (Cecilia Cheung) just before an evil force destroys her. Centuries later, King Sky teams up with Red (Louis Koo) and White Eyebrows (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) to confront the force, which now threatens all of Zu. King Sky meets Enigma, who is the reincarnation of Dawn. Red keeps watch over a mountain where the evil is gestating, but he is bedeviled by a tiny pixie that eventually possesses him, turning him evil. White Eyebrows instructs his followers to merge the Thunder and Sky swords into one invincible weapon, but the attempt fails. Then White Eyebrows tells King Sky that he has the ability to merge three great powers that will defeat the evil; only this does not work, so it’s back to merging the two magic swords, which finally succeeds, enabling victory. Continue reading “Zu Warriors (2001) – DVD Review”