War of the Wizards (1983)

WAR OF THE WIZARDS (1983)
aka Phoenix
Article 4704 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-9-2014
Directed by Sadamasa Arikawa and Richard Caan
Featuring Richard Kiel, Charles Lang, Betty Noonan
Country: Taiwan / USA
What it is: Epic fantasy

A fisherman discovers a bamboo book and a magic vessel that gives him great wealth. This makes him the target of assassins and wizards who want his secrets, and he finds himself facing off against a powerful sorceress.

Though it’s hardly a classic, I found this ambitious-but-primitive fantasy from Taiwan to be amusing and fun. Part of the reason it works is that the running time is short enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome (it comes in at about seventy minutes) and it’s laced with a great deal of humor; my favorite scene has our hero facing off with a succession of assassins at a restaurant who are too busy killing each other to do him much damage. There’s a giant bird, various magic users, a giant stone creature, a magic sword, and Richard Kiel (fighting with iron hands at one point) to add to the mix. The special effects are of the bargain basement variety, but somehow that adds to the charm of this one. For some reason, IMDB doesn’t mention any of the Oriental cast members, but I suspect it may have another title listing somewhere else there. All in all, this is a silly but harmless piece of nonsense.

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