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Classic TV Revisited: The Water Margin

The Water Margin

The Water Margin was flailing swords and mystic magic in medieval China that aired Monkey style on BBC Two in 1976. It starred Atsuo Nakamura, Kei Sato, Hajine Hana

Age?
About 700 years.

I know the Chinese were advanced but even they didn’t have telly back then.
You’re right. It was a classic Chinese tale of 108 knights roused from their graves to fight tyranny and evil.

So why was it on Japanese TV?
They nicked the idea and the rest is history.

Why was it so popular?
Difficult to say because it was dubbed and acted by an unknown Japanese cast.

Sounds a bit boring
Oh no, it had a lovley theme tune and every episode had a set-piece sword fight.

Er, great.
No really. It was top TV and had a strong following on BBC2. You see it was effectively an eastern version of Robin Hood with evil and mysticism.

The Water Margin

And big swords
Dirty great ones

So who were the heroes?
They were led by Lin Chung who was a disillusioned army officer who takes up arms against the evil Kao Chiu.

And…
He was a small-time bully with magical powers who taxed and murdered peasants and became prime minister.

So…
Lin grows in power as one by one Chiu alienates the “nine dozen heroes” of the story and peasants etc.

Where were the water margins?
Liang Shang Po, far to the south of the capital city.

What happens?
Lin Chung flees there after being framed in Kao Chiu’s evil plot and slung out the Imperial Guard.

And…
Meanwhile Kao orders priests to open a pit sealed by the Emperor. In the pit lie the souls of nine dozen rebel knights. They join Lin in the Water Margins. Meanwhile Blue Face is sent to kill long suffering Lin.

So the show was enhanced by a sort of ancient mysticism?
You are wise.

A lot of old mumbo-jumbo then.
No. It was a little opaque, I suppose.

Try me
Here is the opening to each episode with Burt Kwouk’s voiceover: “Do not despise the snake for having no horns for who is to say it will not become a dragon. So may one just man become an army.”

Yeah, that’s opaque…





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