NA CHA & THE SEVEN DEVILS
(Hong Kong 1973)
Original Title: Mei Shan Shou Qi Guai
Directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, Doi Michiyoshi Produced by Runme Shaw Action by Wu Min Hsiung
Starring: Yu Lung, Tina Chin Fei, Chen Hung Lieh, Ching Li, Wai Wang, An Ping, Ho Fan, Luo Bin, Chang Feng, Yu Chi Kung
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Fantasy / Kung Fu / Drama
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: This 1973 Shaw Brothers production is their version of Monkey King Journey to the West. The film is kind of a co-production between China and Japan and the Shaw Brothers hired a Japanese director, Tetsuya Yamanouchi. The studios also recruited Japanese special effects teams to handle the visuals for the shape-changing God characters and other monstrous creatures seen in the movie.
Views: This Shaw Brother's early 70s tale of mischievous child god Na Cha, spins a yarn very similar to that of the famed Monkey King so shouldn't be too foreign to anyone new to the genre. Opening on Mount Kunlun, a place that exists high in the atmosphere between heaven and earth, we find Na Cha practicing his swordplay with his brothers. On his way home, Na Cha gets hungry and climbs a peach tree to get a piece of the large fruit. At the same time, he manages to shake 7 magical peaches out of the tree that gently falls to the earth below. Being 3000 years old, these peaches grant immortality to anyone that consumes them, something Na Cha gains after one bite along with new powers that allow him to break rocks with one chop and cause small earthquakes. To make up for what he has done, Na Cha is tasked by Heavens Officials to go down to earth and retrieve the peaches before they are eaten by devils. Backed by his two brothers, they set off on their journey only to find that they are too late with each of the peaches now consumed by seven devils. Now immortal, the devils set out to terrorise and cause trouble wherever they can, both in human and animal forms leaving it up to Na Cha and his brothers to put a stop to them and fix the trouble he has caused!
While it was one of many great fantasy films to come out of the Shaw Brothers studios around this time, Na Cha And The Seven Devils was far from their best. That said, it's not completely terrible either. Directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, a Japanese director who had already proved successful with his 1966 monster fantasy, The Magic Serpent – which has been hailed as one of the main inspirations for George Lucas in creating the original Star Wars series – this family adventure blends well-known Japanese FX tricks (of that time) with typical Shaw-style choreography. This makes the film come across like an early 70s superhero movie at times, with people flying through the clouds, riding on the back of dragons, or throwing giant boulders through the air with no effort at all. It's hardly the most enthralling film of all time, but Na Cha And The Seven Devils still has enough charm and fun moments over the course of its story to keep you entertained. That said, it may prove a harder watch for the more modern audience who are more used to the finely tuned, highly polished offerings from Hollywood and beyond.
There's definitely a great range of wild characters to enjoy and especially with the seven devils, each of whom starts off in their animal forms before gaining the ability to change after eating the peaches. These include the Eagle Devil, Ape Devil, Frog Devil, Fox Devil, Rat Devil, White Horse Devil, and the epic Water Dragon Devil which is actually an impressive sight. Most of them are played by recognisable faces from the Shaw studios around that time, and most notably Chen Hung Lieh who plays the White Horse Devil. Launching his career in the early 60s, Chen went on to star in over 150 films and many classics such as Magnificent Trio, Come Drink With Me, Trail Of The Broken Blade, and Yuen Woo Ping's Fire Dragon, with Hong Kong Bronx being his final film before his death in 2009. At 13 years of age, child actor Yu Lung plays Na Cha in what would be his last role as a kid before his final movie, The Young Lovers & The Escaped Prisoner, five years later. Wu Min Hsiung handles the fight choreography in this project, combining mostly fantastical attacks and movements with a little kung-fu or weapons work – although not really offering much to talk about in terms of martial arts including a mediocre end battle. While not often mentioned among the greats of the Shaw Brothers studio, this actor/choreographer turned director has delivered many decent titles in the 70s including The Big Fellow, The Martyrs, Adventure At Shaolin, Green Dragon Inn, and more...
Overall: Some cool FX tricks, fun characters, and charm help Na Cha And The Seven Devils entertain at least once!