Beach of the War Gods

Near the end of his stay with Shaw Brothers, Jimmy Wang Yu discovered with The Chinese Boxer that fighting and killing the Japanese was a box-office winner and after breaking his contract with Shaw Brothers he made a number of films to capitalize on this. He continues the theme with this film (1973) that is based to some degree on historical events. In the 1500’s during the Ming dynasty, the Japanese were often raiding the Chinese coastline plundering, over running towns and demanding large payments. This film focuses on one small but heroic attempt to fight back.
Wang Yu does his typical loner/Clint Eastwood type character – who wanders into a small town that is just about to be overrun by a small group of the invaders. He stands by silently at first – his face hidden beneath the shadows cast by his hat – but eventually of course he gets annoyed and kills a few Japanese with some well thrown chop sticks!  The rest of the Japanese then attack Wang Yu, but he finishes them off with the speed and flourish that I do with a chocolate almond ice cream cone!

Knowing that the Japanese will be back looking for revenge with a much greater force, Wang Yu decides to get the hell out of Dodge! Just kidding – not Jimmy Wang Yu - as he tells the town people “I started this, I’ll end it”. Of course, what he neglects to tell them is that a whole lot of them will be dead by the movie’s end. In Seven Samurai style, Wang Yu recruits a few tough men to help train the villagers to defend themselves – the guy with a vest full of deadly knives was particularly cool. They learn that in 10 days time the Japanese will arrive with an overwhelming display of force. Plenty of time to train a group of villagers and farmers to fight the Japanese!

The last thirty minutes of the film turns into one large action bonanza as the two forces battle head on. The villagers have set various traps on the beach (the town, Litan, is near a place on the coastline called “Beach of War Gods”) – and ambush them in the village. It all becomes a deadly killing ground full of clashing blades, heroics, sacrifice and spurting blood. In the end it comes down to Wang Yu dueling the head of the Japanese in a lengthy and ferocious fight that incorporates a windmill and blinding steel blades into the action!
This film has a very good reputation among Wang Yu fans – and though the action was enjoyable – I can’t say I found the film completely compelling. The characters were not developed to any degree and they all seemed so stiff and impersonal (due though I am sure to some extent to the poor dubbing) and the main action piece was too chaotic, big and crowded without enough focus on particular individuals. The final duel though is terrific and the ending is pure Wang Yu.

My rating for this film: 6.0