• Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow/Drunken Master

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: June 13th, 2017.
    Director: Yuen Wo Ping
    Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu Tin, Hwang Jang Lee, Dean Shek
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movies:

    Twilight Time presents a double dose of vintage Jackie Chan action and Yuen Wo Ping with their Blu-ray double feature release of Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master!

    Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow:

    First up, we travel back in time to China at the end of the Ching Dynasty. Here the Eagle Claw Society has asserted their rule over the martial arts world by taking out every competing style save for the deadly Snake Fist. As such, Eagle Claw master Lord Sheng Kuan (Hwang Jang-Lee) takes it upon himself to hunt down and essentially assassinate anyone he can find associated with the Snake Fist school of kung-fu. He and his cronies search the land for Grandmaster Pai Cheng-Tien (Yuen Siu-Tien) to get rid of him once and for all.

    To combat this, Pai Cheng-Tien disguises himself as a beggar and decides to search out his only remaining former pupil, completely unware that the guy has already been murdered by Sheng Kuan. Pai Cheng-Tien also doesn’t realize that the town he’s chosen to hide in is the same town that Sheng Kuan's men are using as their base of operation!

    Enter a poor orphan named Chien Fu (Jackie Chan). His kung-fu is useless and he’s honestly a bit of a loser, no friends or family to back him up should things get testy. When he comes across Pai Cheng-Tien being harassed he steps in thinking that he’s helping out a defenseless old man, but soon he realizes that the old man is far more than he realizes. From here, the two men hit it off and Pai Cheng-Tien takes Chien Fu under his wing to help him master the art of the Snake Fist so that he can not only defend himself when things get tough, but also take out Log Sheng Kuan.

    A remarkable achievement in physical prowess and in showing off Chan’s natural talents in front of the camera not just as a martial artist but also a facial contortionist, Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow is a highlight in the early part of Chan’s career. The fight scenes are as intense as they are impressive and the plot moves along at a great pace. Director Yuen Wo Ping keeps things moving along nicely and mixes the comedic scenes with the action scenes perfectly. It’s impressive that this same actor/director combo made this movie but it’s even more impressive that the same year they managed to make another film that wasn’t as good but was in fact better. Which brings us to…

    Drunken Master:

    In our second feature, Jackie Chan plays legendary Chinese folk hero Wong-Fei Hong in this 1978 film, the directorial debut of Yuen Wo Ping, a filmmaker best known to North American audiences as the fight choreographer for such films as The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

    Chan plays legendary Chinese folk hero Wong-Fie Hong . When we meet him, he and his friends are goofing off, trying to impress a pretty girl and getting into fights at the local market. When Wong-Fie Hong’s father fails to teach him the art of kung-fu, he sends him to train with his uncle, Sam The Seed (played by Yuen Hsiao Tieng of Shaolin Master Killer and Drunken Monkey). Sam is a hard drinking hermit who lives in the middle of nowhere.

    Wong-Fie Hong is forced to head out to meet up with him only to learn that his uncle is an exceptionally cruel individual. Not only is he drunk all the time, but he’s got a twisted sense of humor and a habit of injuring his trainees. When Wong has had enough, he escapes - only to be brutally beaten and severely humiliated by a notorious assassin named Thunderfoot (played by Huang Cheng Li, star and director of numerous 70s kung-fu films like Snake In Eagle’s Shadow, an early starring role for Chan).

    Utterly ashamed of himself but desperate for revenge, Wong-Fie Hong returns to his uncle to complete his training, while Thunderfoot is hired to kill Hong’s father. He completes his training and returns home, but does he have enough time to stop Thunderfoot from killing his dad?

    While not exactly high on plot or sophistication, Drunken Master is still more fun than you’ll have watching pretty much anything else from the genre. The story is basic, but it works and it never fails to keep the viewer entertained. Though it exists mainly an excuse for Chan to strut his stuff, he’s in his prime here and Drunken Master is widely regarded as the film that propelled him from stuntman to superstar. Some of the moves on display, be they for comedic intent or used in the middle of an intense fight scene, almost seem impossible but Chan somehow has the ability to make it look natural, even easy at times. The final fight, where he takes on high-kicking Jang Lee Hwang, remains a high point in seventies martial arts cinema – its intense, wonderfully choreographed and plenty exciting.

    No one has ever done comedic kung-fu as well as Jackie Chan, and this film is one of his finest moments, ranking as one of the greatest martial arts films ever made and showcasing some remarkable fight scenes and great performances from its supporting cast (including a guy that looks like a young Bolo Yeung but isn’t). Yuen Wo Ping’s skills in fight choreography are obvious throughout the majority of the film, as it comically bounces back and forth from one brawl to another.


    Both films are presented on the same 50GB Blu-ray disc framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfer for Drunken Master looks mighty similar to the one featured on the UK release via Eureka, though that’s not a bad thing by any stretch. Regardless, both films are presented in nice shape with only minor print damage noticeable throughout. Detail is strong and there’s good depth and texture. There are no issues with any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement, so we get a nice film-like picture for both features. Compression artifacts are never a problem and color reproduction is pretty solid, as are black levels.

    Audio options are provided in English and Mandarin DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles (that translate the English track, NOT the Mandarin track) in English only. Aside from that issue, nothing to complain about here. The audio is clean, clear and easy enough to follow. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced.

    Extras start off with an interesting commentary track from Hong Kong film expert and film critic Ric Meyers, who is joined by Jackie Chan’s biographer, Jeff Yang that has been carried over from past DVD releases. These two really show their love for the film and its creators in this commentary, and the viewer is treated to all sorts of interesting facts and anecdotes about the film.

    Aside from that, we also get isolated music and effects tracks for each feature, menus and chapter selection. Included inside the keepcase is an insert booklet of liner notes featuring an essay from Julie Kirgo that makes some observations about the effectiveness of Chan’s screen presence and the importance of these two pictures in his filmography. The UK Blu-ray release of Drunken Master from Eureka contained proper subtitles and quite a few more extra features not carried over to this disc.

    The Final Word:

    Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow/Drunken Master offers up two of Jackie Chan’s finest seventies offerings in very nice high definition presentations. It’s unfortunate that the subs don’t translate the Mandarin track and that more extras weren’t able to be included here, but the films hold up well and to date this is the only HD offering of Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!