These were Jackie Chan’s first comedies, both directed by Yuen Woo Ping who would choreograph The Matrix, Crouching Tiger and direct many amazing Hong Kong films himself. The typical kung fu movie was a student trained really hard to avenge his master. Chan spoofed that formula by playing imbeciles whose exploited their shortcomings. His fight scenes became slapstick comedy. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow introduced his comedy. Drunken Master confirmed it.
I cannot believe how these movies look on Blu-ray. Fans of Hong Kong movies know they didn’t take great care of prints in the ’90s, let alone 1978. So when Jackie Chan appears doing kata in a red stage at the beginning of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, I could not believe how perfectly clear and bright it is. The whole movie looks like this. Widescreen, sharp frame, clear as a Rush Hour movie. You really see the texture and character of the old temples and dojos.
Drunken Master is even more of a “fighting in an open field” movie. It has a bit more slickness than Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow like dew in the grass. The color green is especially vibrant in this film.
Now imagine seeing Chan’s gracefully choreographed hijinks in this kind of clarity. In Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Chan spoofs the martial arts trope of animal styles, acting like a cat. It’s also where he began to explore prop comedy. Look for a scene where the old master puppets Chan, and where he protects his freshly washed floor at all costs.
Of course Drunken Master became his trademark bit where he acts like he’s drunk in a fight. If he actually gets drunk, he’s even more powerful.
Drunken Master still has the audio commentary which I listened to when the dvd came out. It blew my mind then and I already knew a lot about Hong Kong cinema.
Twilight Time really outdid their transfers. They only produced 3000 so make sure you get your copy. There are only 2999 left!
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