Today: May 22, 2024

Beach of the War Gods

Should you ever have the urge to blend Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai with the sort of historical action film typified by Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then the result wouldn’t be that far from Jimmy Wang Yu’s superb Beach of the War Gods.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Yu’s epic historical adventure, is set during the Ming dynasty —  which has become the default setting for this type of wuxia mayhem.

When a band of Japanese pirates begin to raid villages on the Chinese coast, a wandering swordsman (Wang Yu) single-handedly dispatches the invading thugs — and agrees to help the beleaguered townsfolk defend their land. 

What follows will be very familiar to fans of both Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, as a rag-tag of team of flawed but skilled warriors are quickly assembled. The team includes mercenary knife thrower Leng Ping (Tien Yeh) and hot-headed swordsman Iron Bull Chao (Hsieh Han). When the raiders finally launch their assault, a ferocious battle ensures, leading to the titular conflict on the Beach of the War Gods.

Wang Yu’s film may be derivative, but there’s still lots here to applaud, from the frenetic fight sequences, to the nuianced character development. The storyline is a stripped down affair, yet Yu more than compensates with drama and swordplay. 

Beach of the War Gods didn’t have the sort of budget that Japanese film could command at the time — and it can look a little creaky at times. But the Taiwanese production team do a great job with what they have. The result is both thrilling and visually satisfying — in fact you’ll need to watch this a few times to really appreciate how well Yu crafts each shot, making especially good use of colour and sound effects. 

In celebration of its anniversary, the new edition, from Eureka Classics makes its worldwide debut on Blu-ray from a brand new 2K restoration.

Extras include:

  • Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (First Print Run of 2000 copies only) featuring new artwork by Tony Stella. 
  • 1080p HD presentation on Blu-ray of the original Hong Kong theatrical cut from a brand new 2K restoration. | 
  • Original Mandarin mono audio. 
  • Optional English dubbed audio. 
  • Optional English Subtitles, newly translated for this release.
  • Brand new feature length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival). 
  • Brand new interview with action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema on the life and career of Jimmy Wang Yu. 
  • Archival interview with Jimmy Wang Yu.
  • Trailers.
  • PLUS: A Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet (First Print Run of 2000 copies only) featuring new writing by James Oliver and a review of the film by Dr Craig D. Reid from his book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s.

 

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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