Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 21st, 2017
BluRay released: April 24th, 2017
Approximate running time: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Cantonese
Subtitles: English, English SDH, English / Chinese Hong Kong Theatrical Subtitles
BluRay Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Drunken Master is the directorial debut of Woo-Ping Yuen, who’s initial rise to prominence was as a fight choreographer. His notable films as a director include, The Magnificent Butcher, Iron Monkey and Tai-Chi Master.
When discussing martial arts cinema, there is no denying Bruce Lee’s impact on the genre. And though there was a concerted effort to find someone to fill the void left due to his untimely death. With the majority of so called successful being nothing more than “Clones” of Bruce Lee.
By the end of the 1970’s martial arts cinema was at a crossroads. And what was once considered tried and true formulas were starting to wear thin. Fortunately, for martial arts cinema it was about to experience a resurgence that would finally free the genre from Bruce Lee’s long shadow.
And though there were a handful of films from this era that have left a lasting impact on martial arts cinema. There is one that stands taller than its contemporaries and its influence continues to reverberate. Case in point, Drunken Master.
On the surface this film’s narrative appears to be another all too familiar tale about a fighter who’s has to drastically improve his Kung Fu in order to defeat an evil nemesis. And yet the end result is something that puts a much-needed spin on this subject. With comedy playing an integral role in this film’s success.
From a production standpoint, there is not an area where this film does not excel. The narrative is meticulously constructed and pacing is never an issues as key moments are given just the right amount of time to resonate for maximum impact. And when it comes to the fight sequences they are all creative and well executed. With this film’s standout moments being, a scene where this film’s protagonist is badly beaten and humiliated by Thunderleg. Another standout moment includes, the training sequence where the protagonists learns “Drunken Fist” Kung Fu.
Performance wise the entire are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being Jackie Chan (Wheels on Meals, Police Story) in the role of Wong Fei-Hung, a Chinese folk hero who has had numerous movies and televisions shows made out him. Before Drunken Master Jackie Chan was one of many actors who were groomed to be a successor to Bruce Lee. In these film’s he was essentially a Bruce Lee “Clone” and these films were considered box office failures. His breakout film would be Drunken Master a film that finally allowed him to incorporate more of himself into the roles he portrayed. Other standout performances include, Jang Lee Hwang (Game of Death 2, Ninja Strikes Back) in the role of Thunderleg and Siu Tin Yuen (Heroes of the East) in the role of the Drunken Master.
Drunken Master comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand-new transfer has been created from a 4k digital restoration and the end result is one of the best looking vintage Hong Kong cinema transfers that I have seen to date. And when compared to previous release, this new transfer greatly improves upon color saturation, black levels and image clarity. Grain remains intact and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with three audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and a LPCM mono mix in Mandarin. All three audio mixes sound, clean, clear, balanced and robust when they need too. Included with this release are four subtitle options, English, English SDH, English / Chinese subtitles from the film’s Hong Kong theatrical release and English subtitles for the Mandarin audio track. It should be noted that the Mandarin audio track was created for the shorter version of the film and scenes that were not recorded in Mandarin are presented in English.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (4 minutes 27 seconds), a UK music promo for the film (1 minute 29 seconds), a deleted scene (1 minute 48 seconds), a segment titled Kicking Showcase (1 minute 34 seconds), an interview with producer NG See Yuen (14 minutes 5 seconds) and an audio commentary with Hong Kong film experts Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang.
Topics discussed in the interview with NG See Yuen include, how he got his start in the film industry working for the Shaw Brothers, his thoughts about various film’s that he worked on, actors he helped discover and the future of Hong Kong Action cinema.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, the legacy of Drunken Master, the role this film played in Jackie Chan’s, the character Wong Fei-Hung and how before this film he had always been played with a seriousness, Cantonese comedy in marital art films, Wei Lo and why he let Jackie Chan out of his contract, Jackie Chan’s Peking Opera upbringing and how it has influenced his films, Bruce Lee “Clones” and why any attempt at cloning Jackie Chan was unsuccessful and other martial arts related topics.
Other extras include, an interview with Jackie Chan (21 minutes 8 seconds, in Chinese with English subtitles), an interview with filmmaker Gareth Evans (21 minutes 24 seconds), an interview with film scholar Tony Rayns (41 minutes 36 seconds) and a twenty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film written by Michael Brooke, a section titled Poster Gallery and information about the transfer titled Notes on Viewing.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jackie Chan include, his thoughts about Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle Shadow, how the prepared for the role Wong Fei-Hung, fight scenes and the various injuries that he has incurred over the years, Drunken Master’s popularity around the world and how his life changed because of this film’s, his fighting styles, how he tries to make films that audiences of all ages can watch, the possibility of a third Drunken Master film and his memories the infamous eating scene from Drunken Master.
Topics discussed in the interview with Gareth Evans include, his thoughts about Jackie Chan and Drunken Master, Wong Fei-Hung, martial arts tropes, how the staging of fight scenes has changed drastically since the 1970’s and martial arts films that have influenced him as a filmmaker.
Topics discussed in the interview with Tony Rayns include, Bruce Lee’s impact on martial arts cinema, Lo Wei’s connection to Bruce Lee, how Lo Wei attempt to grown Jackie Chan as the next Bruce Lee was very unsuccessful, NG See Yuen and Seasonal Films, drunken Kung Fu, background information about Yuen Woo-Ping, Wong Fei-Hung, Lau Kar Leung, how Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle Shadow revived the martial arts genre which was in decline at the time, Jackie Chan and his thoughts about Drunken Master and how an over-saturation of martial arts films lead to the genres decline in the 1980’s.
Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Drunken Master gets a definitive release from Eureka Video, highly recommended.