18 March 2018



'After you finish copying the Sutra, Melody will kill you.'
'Because she is a demon.'

'An affair between a man and a ghost will never work out.'

'Melody has been locked in Hell. It is only a matter of time before she escapes.'

I had myself a little alternative Paddy's Day party this year by watching this magnificent three-hour-long fantasy-horror epic in Mandarin Chinese instead of opting for what was on the telly. There's only so many times you can watch and admire THE QUIET MAN or DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE without going completely doo-lally, lol.

Paddy's Day is over now, the dreaded snow that shut the country down two weeks ago is back for a repeat performance and the only people out braving the elements today are mad tourists. That's because the Irish are all in bed nursing hangovers, except for the ones out frantically looking for a chemists' to dispense the Morning-After pill. That's if the drunken shenanigans I heard going on outside on the street where I live till all hours of the morning are anything to go by, lol.

Me, I limited myself wisely to the usual one glass of wine at bedtime and now I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to go and dying to tell ye about LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN, a sumptuous Taiwanese feast for the eyes that will leave you looking at your own surroundings afterwards with utter disdain. Well, if you don't have a lotus pond, you might as well pack it all in, right?

This is the story of a good-natured and smiley but rather naïve scholar called Yunqing Ho, henceforth to be referred to as Mister Ho. He is paid a sum of money by some monks to make a copy of a book that took ten years to write. Mister Ho is a copyist, see? There wouldn't have been any photocopiers or printers back in eleventh-century China so any copying would have been done painstakingly by hand.

Then he's told that he's got to make his way to General Han's Mansion on Qinfeng Road to do the job, as it's apparently a nice quiet place to copy down a Sutra. This Great Mudra Sutra (it's a spell of some kind, I think) is a rather interesting Sutra because: 'Whoever owns this esoteric Sutra can navigate the realms of life and death.'

It certainly sounds like a handy little Sutra to have, of all the Sutras available to mankind (of which I'm aware of precisely one, this one from the film here!), as it can release lost souls from their suffering and boot them on into the Afterlife as happy as Larry. A bit like unblocking a sink of the nasty clogs that stuff it up, after which the water flows freely and clearly once again. An icky plumbing metaphor, if you will.

It takes Mister Ho a hell of a long time to reach the General's Mansion. He passes through some of the most breath-takingly beautiful countryside you'll ever see on his way there. These location shots were filmed in Korea, which must be one of the most visually gorgeous countries on the planet if this is what it looks like. 

Just look at the forests, the streams, the hills, the little pathways and the hedgerows throbbing and bustling with life and tell me that your citified lungs don't long for just one good big gulp of real fresh air. I know mine do.

Mister Ho passes by any number of fabulous, isolated and abandoned old pavilions, temples and gazebos on his journey, any one of which would be perfect for a bit of nice quiet writing. But no, he's got his instructions so he's got to keep on keeping on.

As this is a legend filled with magic, demons, faeries, sprites, witches and witchcraft, he keeps seeing a beautiful female flautist slightly up ahead of him who disappears into thin air whenever he tries to catch up to her. It doesn't take a genius to work out that she's a ghost. Or is she...? No, wait, she is, lol.

Mister Ho's heavy pack has grown heavier and his delightfully beaming smile has dimmed a little bit by the time he eventually reaches the General's Mansion, abandoned now except for a quartet of the weirdest people Mister Ho has ever encountered in his life.

His first meeting is with the crazed old man known as Old Chang, who appears to be attacking the newcomer and trying to make him leave. Warning him off, maybe? Old Chang is called off by Mister Tsui, an affable but shifty-looking fellow for whom Mister Ho has a letter of introduction.

Mister Tsui sees to it that the young(ish) scribe is set up with a bedroom and writing-table at which to carry out his ascribed task. But not before he meets the hilarious and talkative Madame Wang, former housekeeper to the now-deceased General Han. 

She seems determined to 'do' for the slightly terrified Mister Ho, whose assurances that he can cook and clean for himself fall on deaf ears. If Mister Ho is the irresistible force, then Madame Wang is undoubtedly the immovable object. She's a great comic character, this one.

Even more interesting than Madame Wang herself is Madame Wang's grown-up daughter, Melody. Stunningly beautiful, educated in the zither, chess, poetry and painting (how lovely! A nice change from Latin verbs and trigonometry.) and a genius at playing the little hand-held percussive drum she carries with her, she's a catch-and-a-half.

Accomplished, talented and spectacularly easy on the eye, any man would be glad to have her by his side. Mister Ho would most likely have been smitten with her anyway, but Mister Tsui, Madame Wang and Melody aren't taking any chances with the man who currently controls the magical Sutra they all want to get their hands on.

After drinking a special concoction they've prepared for him and passing out while mesmerised by Melody's hypnotically magical drumming, a bewildered Mister Ho awakes to find himself married to Melody. The Sutra's as good as hers, or is it...?

What follows next will keep you spellbound, excuse the pun. We have Taoist monks and Buddhist monks, fiercely intense drum-offs between rivals, the afore-mentioned lotus pond, spells to counter-act other spells, a love triangle between Mister Ho, Melody and a pretty barmaid and a positive proliferation of differently-coloured smoke bombs going off in all directions. It's absolutely mental, I tells ya.

Poor Mister Ho's head is spinning at the speed with which developments unfold. Will he be able to get the all-important Sutra copied down and brought back safely to the monks who've commissioned it, or will he be merely signing his own death warrant when he dots the final 'I' and crosses the last 'T?'

Is Melody the demon some folks think she is, and would she really dispose of her new husband once he's fulfilled his purpose? And after they so gracefully consummated their union to the visual accompaniment of the most beautiful and delicate metaphors in Nature and everything. Bummer, man. It all remains to be seen anyway, dear readers, but it's well worth your while sticking around for the finale. This Taiwanese film is a work of art.

'EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT to release LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN, the beautifully restored director's cut of a King Hu masterpiece, as part of THE MASTERS OF CINEMA SERIES in a definitive Dual Format (Blu-Ray & DVD) edition on 19th March 2019.'


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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