Recently, I caught this kung fu film bug so I went and procured some films to watch. As a kid, I loved watching them on tv except I just never remembered any titles or actors or whatever. I mean, Bruce, Jackie and Jet yea they made really big movies so you always remember those but I’m talking about the kung fu films that came outta the Shaw Brothers studios, stuff like that you know, with killer monks, assassins and chivalrous heroes and shit. I always remembered that what I’d saw as a kid was so good that I always just totally dismissed the more modern stuff made around the 90s and 00s. Y’know Crouching Tiger and all that. Or worse still, Kill Bill. I hate Kill Bill. I prefer old school kung fu.

King Hu in particular is really good. His Come Drink With Me and Dragon Gate Inn, are in many people’s opinions at the summit of Kung Fu films. So it comes to me as a surprise when I watch Raining In The Mountain (Kong Shan Ling Yu). Unlike some of his other work, there’s a lot less action. Rather, there’s a lot more evasion. It’s quite interesting. There’s also like no raining at all whatsoever.

The basic plot centres on this Buddhist monastery set in the mountains. The head abbot is retiring and having difficulty choosing a successor amongst his disciples. He gets esquire Wen, General Wang and abbot Wu Wai to help him choose but Wen and Wang have ulterior motives. They just really want to steal this scripture written by Xuanzang and have brought along help to do so. Wen has White Fox, played by insta-wife-status Hsu Feng and her assistant, Golden Lock. Wang has his unscrupulous lieutenant with him. Wu Wai isn’t trying to steal anything but he’s totally awesome because he’s so close to nirvana he travels with a retinue of women. A freakin’ harem. There’s one scene where he meditates with all the monks by this pool of water in the mountains and the girls frolick at the water’s edge just meters away, white robes clinging to their asses and shit. Another complication is added with the arrival of Chiu Ming, a convict sent for penance, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, by none other than the general’s lieutenant.

So within this increasingly complex plot, we have 2 different forces trying to steal this holy scripture that the monks just refer to as crap paper but it also allows the head abbot to find his true successor.

The cinematography is really really good. The start of the film is like dry ice overload but you get these awesome scenes of the natural landscape as Wen, White Fox and Golden Lock approach the monastery. Then there’s the scenes where the subordinates are all scurrying around, ducking and somersaulting for cover, showing the monastery’s impressive architecture. You really get a sense of space because the place is massive and this plays into the plot itself, with each faction manoeuvring its way around politically and physically to get closer to their goals.

Plotwise, I felt a few bits were a bit loose but generally, the film keeps up the suspense and excitement. You get a bit of a surprise as to the conclusion and I’m not gonna spoil any of that at all. I’ll just say that I enjoyed the film as a more spartan example of a kung fu film, something I didn’t expect but turned out to be really good.

Skip to 3:18 in the vid above for waterside frolicking goodness.