Saturday, January 23, 2010

Na Cha The Great with Alexander Fu Sheng

Alexander Fu Sheng always reminds me of David Cassidy!

That's an unfair comment to make and the actor was simply a product of his era. That said, he seems to be underplaying a bit in this otherwise fantastical tale of Chinese myth. 1974's Na Cha The Great is a fun way to spend 90 minutes for a Shaws fan.

Mortal filial son Na Cha wanders into town not knowing that two ocean demons are masquerading as mortals. He misses by a few seconds one of the demons turning into a giant and tossing some villagers around in a scene worthy of a Godzilla film.

Soon, Na Cha is arguing with his parents about his lessons and is visited by Master Taiyi from Mt. Qianyuan (Lee Wan Chung) who offers to teach the lad some skills in fighting the despotic Tsou rulers.

But first, Na Cha has a bit of an altercation with one of the demons-posing-as-humans and kills the demon/human in a fight near the river.

Now the demon's partner is out to get Na Cha who is still learning his lessons at his home.

The 2nd surviving ocean demon (Fung Hak On) has become smitten with a local village girl (17-year-old Shaw starlet Yuen Man Tzu) and -- sure enough -- Na Cha intervenes in an altercation between the demon, the girl, and her woodcutter boyfriend.

As Na Cha fights the demon-posing-as-a-human, the demon reverts to his magical form and soon Na Cha finds himself fighting a huge dragon in heaven in the clouds. The effects are not great but the overall effect -- the way the action flows -- is expertly handled and the viewer doesn't really have a moment to pause and notice the weak dragon prop.

I only stopped and noticed it because I'm watching this on DVD and I'm a modern cynical viewer; I'm sure theater-goers in 1974 were really enthralled by this sequence.

Na Cha slays the dragon and removes one of its tendons to make a belt for his father (!).

This whole sequence of events enrages the demons' father (Chang Teo) who happens to be the ruler of the ocean realm -- Aoguang of the East Sea to be exact.

Na Cha offers to sacrifice himself -- commit seppuku on the beach, really --- to appease Aoguang and, thus, spare his village from a flood and torrential rain.

Now in the heavenly realm, Na Cha is still a student, this time of spiritual matters -- look for a very young Eric Tsang in his first role (according to IMDB.com) in this scene!

Using wheels of fire on his heels, Na Cha is now rocketing through heaven and earth, fighting oppressors.



During the last third of the film, Na Cha returns to earth as a mortal to fight the despotic Tsou officers and rulers.

There are then a lot of fights between Na Cha and armed masses of people from heaven and earth. These scenes don't feel like the typical heavyhanded Chang Cheh bloodshed which could signal the hand of action choreographer Lau Kar-Leung.

All-in-all, a somewhat confusing tale of Chinese mythology made palatable by the star presence of the young Fu Sheng and some decent set pieces.

The DVD has a 12-minute interview with Kung Do (Chang Teo) as well.

Unfortunately, according to YesAsia.com, the DVD is out-of-print.

[Photos: YesAsia/Celestial Pictures]