Outraged by the antics of assorted evil monsters a noble dragon assumes human form and descends to Earth as ass-kicking mystical hero Yun Chung Lung (Hsi Hsiang). Although chastened at first by the Heavenly Court for interfering in mortal matters, he gains a guardian in Guan Yin the Goddess of Mercy (Chen Siu-Chen). She tasks Yun Chung Lung with saving some townsfolk from black magic mischief wrought by a brother and sister demon duo. One such victim is Li Wang (Wang Cheng), a decent sort whose ailing mother (Liu Yin-Shang) insists he can only cure her illness by feeding her human flesh. After exposing the old woman as a demon in disguise (and casually revealing his real mum is dead), Yun Chung Lung enlists Li Wang and the latter’s fiancé (Jin Lin-Zhi) to help stop a monster army from unleashing a terrible flood.
Japan might be the dominant Asian nation when it comes to monster movies but Taiwanese efforts have a small but hardy cult following. Interestingly whereas Japanese kaiju eiga more often than not have contemporary settings Taiwan's monster movies are largely mythological yarns having less in common with say Godzilla (1954) than period epics like Majin (1966) or entries in the 'yokai' subgenre such as Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968). Hong Kong's venerable Shaw Brothers pioneered several mythological monster films including Na Cha and the Seven Devils (1971), which was actually made by Japanese filmmakers, but The Fairy and the Devil is perhaps the most infamous Chinese language example. At various points this unwieldy hybrid fairy tale, monster romp and historical epic evokes Shaw Brothers kung fu fare, Russian children's cinema and Cecil B. De Mille.
Both its creature effects and soundtrack are swiped from other movies! In the former case 1971's even more obscure The Founding of the Ming Dynasty, in the latter none other than Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) plus choice excerpts of Sixties surf rock, Eighties synth pop and Basil Poledouris' rousing soundtrack for The Wind and the Lion (1974). While below the Eiji Tsuburaya standard the special effects here are relatively impressive. You have your Asian fantasy film staple men in monster suits (the very Majin-like villain Red Devil, a kung fu fighting White Ape), especially striking airborne dragon puppets and a sea creature resembling the Masters of the Universe action figure Merman. Alongside more cel animated energy beams than one can count the miniature effects are especially accomplished with the climactic flood sequence expertly realized. Which is good since away from the monster action the film gets bogged down by a laborious star-crossed love story even stranger than all the supernatural shenanigans. The performers are none too personable while Chiang Tai's direction is staid for the most part reserving all the ingenuity for the delirious fantasy action sequences. Given the only print currently available both streaming and via physical media is so severely cropped the subtitles are all but illegible your enjoyment depends on a willingness to ignore the near-indecipherable plot and simply savour such sights as a bug-man with a mullet and our hero pursued by a giant flying green head firing laser beams. Good times.