Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 3rd, 2017
Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong, 1978 (Snake in the Eagle Shadow / Drunken Master)
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen (Both Films)
Writers: Chi Yuan Hsi, Huo An Hsi, See-Yuen Ng, Loong Shiao, Chi-Kuang Tsai (Snake in the Eagle Shadow), See-Yuen Ng, Lung Hsiao (Drunken Master)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek, Kau Lam, Linda Lin, Tien Lung Chen (Drunken Master)
BluRay released: June 13th, 2017
Approximate running times: 98 minutes (Snake in the Eagle Shadow), 111 minutes (Drunken Master)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: PG (Snake in the Eagle Shadow), PG-13 (Drunken Master)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono Mandarin (Both Films)
Subtitles: English (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Twilight Time
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Snake in the Eagle Shadow: A janitor at a Kung Fu school who constantly is bullied by the instructors creates his own fighting style that mixes “Snake Fist” with the movements of a cat that he saw fighting a snake.
When one discusses martial arts cinema, Jackie Chan is one of handful of individuals who have left their indelible mark on the genre. And yet his rise to the top was a long hard haul that finally payed off when he teamed up with one of genres most celebrated fight choreographer’s Woo-Ping Yuen, who was making his directorial debut with Snake in the Eagle Shadow.
On the surface, though the premise for Snake in the Eagle Shadow, does not diverge away from the type of stories that had become all too familiar too marital arts enthusiast. And yet the end result is a film that foreshadow a new direction that would infuse new life into a genre that by the late 1970’s was already in decline.
From a production stand point this film features more than a striking resemblance to Drunken Master, which features many of the same actors and key crew members. And though it has not received the same acclaim of the aforementioned Drunken Master. It is an equally revolutionary cinematic statement that continues to hold up well after all of years.
The narrative is briskly paced and the inventive action set pieces deliver in spades. Another strength of this film is the way that humor plays a role in the story at hand. And said, humor would also become a staple of Jackie Chan films to this day.
Standout moments include, a scene where Jackie Chan’s character is asked to make a potential student who is the son of an aristocrat look better than his actually fighting abilities. Fortunately, Chan’s character has grown tired of being everyone’s punching back and he for the first time in public shows off his newly acquired fighting skills. Another standout moments includes, a scene where Chan’s character watches a cat fight a snake and this gives him the idea of combing this technique with “Snake Fist”.
Performance wise the cast are good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performances being Jackie Chan in the role of Chien Fu, a janitor who works at a martial arts school and Siu Tin Yuen in the role of Grandmaster Pai Cheng-Tien, the man who teaches Chien Fu “Snake Fist”. Another performance of note is Jang Lee Hwang, in the role of Lord Sheng Kuan, this film’s main villain. And it should also not come as a surprise that these three actors would go onto play a large role in the success of Drunken Master.
Drunken Master: In order to defeat a highly skilled assassin named Thunderleg, an undisciplined youth is taught “Drunken Fist” Kung Fu.
Drunken Master was directed by 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.
Snake in the Eagle Shadow and Drunken Master come on a 50 GB dual layer (45.9 GB) BluRay. And both films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The sources used for both films are in great shape, there are no issues with compression, black levels remain strong throughout and details look crisp. The transfer for Drunken Master appears to come from the same source that was used for Eureka Video’s Blu-ray / DVD combo.
Both films come with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mx in English, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese and a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin. All of the audio mixes sound, clean, clear and balanced. It should be noted that in sections of the Cantonese and Mandarin audio tracks where the original dialogue is missing on Drunken Master, an English dub will play. Included with this release are removable English subtitles and it should be noted that these subtitles are a direct translation of the English dubbed tracks. Also, Drunken Master’s English audio track is not the audio track that was included with the film’s original theatrical release.
Extras for this release include, an option to view the Twilight Time catalog, an eight-page booklet with an essay about the film’s written by Julie Kirgo, an option to listen to an Isolated music & effects track for both films and an audio commentary with film historians Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang for Drunken Master.
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.
Overall Snake in the Eagle Shadow and Drunken Master get strong transfers from Twilight Time.
Note: This Blu-Ray release is a limited-edition release of 3,000 copies.