HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: White Haired Witch
HTS Overall Score:75.5
“White Haired Witch” is really a remake of sorts, taken from the source novel by Liang Yusheng, named “The Bride with White Hair” and put into movie form. Cinema goers were first introduced to the bride with Ronny Yu’s adaptation of the book back in 1993 (also titled “The Bride with White Hair”). The movie was a well-received movie by the general Kung-Fu watching public, but was a rather drastic change from the novel. “White Haired Witch” does its very best to stick to the source material, but it’s one major flaw comes from the fact that an overstuffed novel that would make even a Dickens fan raise an eyebrow over the length is VERY difficult to cram into an hour and forty four minute movie. The pacing is rushed and the post editing shows how cramped for space they were in trying to adapt such a large novel into once feature length film.
I’m going to attempt to summarize this one the best that I can, as the amount of information stuffed into the movie is so mind bogglingly large that I had a really difficult time keeping up with all the plots and sub plots after a bit. The country of China is at war with the Jin nation and politics in the court reign supreme. Eunuchs are plotting against the Emperor, Rogue factions are infighting amongst themselves and spies hide in plain sight. The Yudang clan is in charge of delivering little red pills to the Emperor that care for his medicinal needs, leaving them in a status of power. One of the members of this martial arts clan is singled out for a promotion and soon rises to the status of leader. This man, one Zhuo Yihang (Xiaoming Huang) is tasked with delivering the red pills himself to the Emperor, only to have the Emperor die after taking them. This prompts the government to put a price on his head for assumed murder.
Unaware of the bounty on his head, Zhuo travels to a remote fortress near the battlefront, a fortress that stands as the “Horatio Hornblower in the pass” between the Emire and the invading Jin forces. There he meets the lovely Jade, a Robin Hood type character who steals from the Empire’s greedy forces and gives back to the starving peasants. Enraptured by her, Zhuo becomes entwined in her cause only to get caught up in a sub plot regarding a wolf in sheep’s clothing general who murders the Yudang Clan’s general (who also happens to be Zhuo’s grandfather) and a sub plot involving a police official trying to infiltrate the fortress and bring Jade to justice for her “Robin Hood” criminal elements.
Things start to get REALLY convoluted at the midpoint of the movie when all the plots and sub plots come together and start vying for seniority in the runtime. Zhuo is captured for supposedly killing the Emperor and converted to the head Eunuch’s pawn, in order that his clan stay safe from retribution. Jade falls into despair when Zhuo doesn’t come home like he promised and even ends up marrying another woman. Sick with grief the magical transformation finally happens, where we see the white haired witch in full form. Exhausted and ill to the core, Jade stands at the precipice of life and death, a precipice that Zhuo has to pull her back from with everything he has.
I had to watch the movie several times in order to get as many of the plots and subplots sorted out in my head, as that is the movies major flaw. The cramming of too much information into a short run time. The novel, “The Bride with White Hair”, is an enormous and beautiful book, and I think that “White Haired Witch” would have fared much better with a good 4 hour+ runtime, or split into two pieces (ala “Red Cliff”). I think that it all started off nicely (as you can tell by the first 30 minutes of the movie), but in production something went drastically off the rails as every little bit they could take from the novel and infuse into the movie is crammed into every corner. There wasn’t a 5 minute period that went by where some comment, or some subplot was brought up that just fades into obscurity or leaves you with the feeling that “this was probably explained a LOT more in the book”. There’s a million little plots going on at once, and each one is perfect in its own right, but suffers a lot when it’s fighting for air time with all the others. Also take into account that the ending sequence, while in tradition with China’s love of tragedies, is edited so differently than the rest of the movie that it feels rather jarring.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though the actual plotline was a jumbled up mess of “too much!”, there is still a decent amount to enjoy here. The throw back to the old Wuxia movies (think Wire-Fu) was an incredibly refreshing trip back down memory lane. “Brotherhood of Blades” had a decent amount of Wuxia elements in it, but “White Haired Witch” went balls to the walls with the Wife-Fu and fantastical elements. The choreography was simply superb as the copious action sequences were the highlight of the movie. The fluid motion of the wire work and the artistic cinematography kept me pulled in the entire time, even amidst the chaos. Asian cinema has always been rather weak with CGI, as you can see some very poor matte prints and CGI thrown into the mix, but they really go all out when it comes to wardrobe and set pieces. The clothing is fantastic and the mixture of beautifully choreographed Wuxia swordplay and hard hitting martial arts is a sight to behold.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40121[/img]“White Haired Witch” comes to Blu-ray with a near perfect 2.39:1 AVC encoded transfer. This transfer is exceptional from beginning to end, with some amazing detail to the image. Check out the armor and the intricate clothing on the secret police and Zhuo’s bride. Colors are striking, with lots of exotic purples, blues and greens coming through in a hypnotic display of beauty. Whites are striking and bold, with the film having a mixed color grading of teal and gold. The gold grading tends to come into play indoors, while the outdoor sequences sport the soft teal tones. Shadows are incredible for the most part and give the black levels of your TV a good workout, but there was a few times where the contrast is played with a bit and some of the blacks get a bit washed out in those moments. It’s obcvious from some of the fight sequences that the movie was originally shown in 3D theatrically, but since this is only a 2D release, none of the pop out effects are quite as effective.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40129[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in Mandarin is almost as good as the video, with an aggressive feel and a fairly immersive sound field. Dialog is front and center, with clear representation at all times. As you’d guess from a Wuxia/Martial Arts film, the surrounds get some pretty heavy use with the sounds of battle and all. Weapons impact with appropriate weight and the score comes through nicely. LFE is constant, but never overwhelming, giving a nice low end to the film without being a powerhouse action track. There were a few moments where I wished for some more bass in movie, especially the sword fighting, but the track does quite well, even with that little nitpick.
• Huang Xiaoming
• Jianghu Heroes
• Arrival of the Witch
• Nirvana After 100 Rebirths
• Wudang Swordsman
• The Debut
The white haired witch/bride is a titular character that has influences in the last 20-30 years of Wuxia film history. Ronny Yu made the movie titles after the book and she has made numerous appearances as both a hero and villain in quite a few movies (even making an appearance in the Jackie Chan/Jet Li film “Forbidden Kingdom”). This rendition is much closer to the actual novel, but suffers badly from too much information overload. The chaos can be a bit extreme, but the action sequences are certainly fun and engaging with some beautiful cinematography. Audio and video are excellent, giving this at least a rental recommendation from me. Even though the plotline WILL confuse and test your patience, the beauty and fight sequences make for an entertaining one time watch.
Starring: BingBing Fan, Xiaoming Huang, Li Xinru
Directed by: Zhang Zhiliang
Written by: Yusheng Liang
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA, Mandarin DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 10th 2015
Buy White Haired Witch On Blu-ray at Amazon
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