Review: The Water Margin
DVD: The Water Margin (1973)
It’s been quite hard to find any information online about this TV show, so please forgive me for using Wikipdia to give you some background info on it. Made in 1973, The Water Margin is a Japanese television series based on Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It consisted of two seasons of 13 episodes by Nippon Television it was shown in Japan in 1973 and 1974 as 水滸伝 (Suikoden).
The novel and TV show is a rollicking storyof 108 outlaws during the Song Dynasty. However, this TV adaptation follows Lin Chung (Atsuo Nakamura) and ‘war’ against Evil (you can tell he’s evil from his villanous moustache) with the local government official Kao Chiu (Kei Satô).
It was adapted for BBC by David Weir without translations, using only brief plot synopsis, and you can tell. The dialogue is so stretched it’s obvious that Weir had NO idea what the hell was going on, but the amazing thing is, it really doesn’t matter. The dubbed version, narrated by Burt Kwouk, was shown on BBC television from 1976 to 1978. I vividly remember watching this as a kid and it was a firm favourite along with ‘Monkey’. If anything I preferred The Water Margin not least for its star Atsuo Nakamura who is very easy on the eye.
It was quite magical to watch a programme about a distant land, MADE in that distant land with flying Robin Hood type warriors who talked a lot about… stuff, but then did some arse kicking. Let’s not forget that Weir also gave us some sound yet confusingly obscure ‘Japanese sayings’ such as “Do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?” Huh?
If I could give Fabulous Films marks out of 10 for this release I would give them an 11. Fully restored on DVD and Blu-ray it amazingly has reinstated a lot of deleted scenes and shortened scenes (Episode one includes a lovely ‘Hammer-red’ decapitation that would never have seen the light of day on the BBC).
It is a complete joy to watch, and although I’m only on episode 9 of series one, I am truly re-hooked. A must for fans, also a must for mum’s and dad’s looking for something great for the kids to watch (yes, all children need decapitation).