Snake in the Eagle's Shadow / Drunken Master
- Street Date:
- June 13th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- Matthew Hartman
- Review Date: 1
- July 28th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- Twilight Time
- 209 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
When you're talking about classic Kung-fu movies, it's impossible to not mention a certain set of major players. Guys like Bruce Lee, The Shaw Brothers, Gordon Liu among numerous others are all institutions of the chop-socky genre. As stars rise and fall making their high-kicking debut on the big screen, it can be argued that action superstar Jackie Chan has enjoyed the most enduring presence in the genre. With his first credits dating back to 1962, Jackie Chan has enjoyed an immeasurable level of success. His roller coaster career was jump-started in 1978 with two major back-to-back releases Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master - both directed by master martial arts choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen.
Sitting down to this review, it's difficult for me to determine which one I liked better, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow or Drunken Master. Both are great in their own kinetic chop-socky way with over-the-top sound effects, wild stunts, and Jackie Chan fine-tuning what would become his signature blend of action and comedy. My heart tends to lean towards Drunken Master, but that's more to do with nostalgia as I saw that one most often as a kid with a back-to-back viewing of Super Infra-Man and The Big Boss. As an adult, I sit back and appreciate the technical prowess of both of these films. Shot on meager budgets with only a few days of shooting time, it's amazing they're of such a high quality at all let alone finished films with good stories and great action sequences!
Where I like Snake in the Eagle's Shadow quite a bit stems from Jackie Chan playing a nobody without any skills. He's a janitor for a Kung-fu school who gets bullied and picked on daily. When a mysterious stranger (Siu Tin Yuen) appears ready and willing to train him, his character becomes a lethal martial arts master within the timespan of a simple training montage. Then he goes on to come to the man's defense when the time calls. It's a great arc for the character.
On the flip side, with Drunken Master, Jackie Chan plays Fei-Hung, a braggart and a bully martial arts wunderkind who gets great joy in playing practical jokes on people. Because his father is the master of the school, he's learned little to no discipline and refuses to be tamed. But when he manages to shame his school and his father, his father calls in the mysterious Beggar So (also Siu Tin Yuen) to tame the boy through the drunken martial arts. The blend of slapstick comedy, martial arts, and incredible stunt work makes Drunken Master a classic of the genre.
Considering Jackie Chan has been in over 120 films over the last 50 years with more on the way, it's amazing the longevity his career has entertained. Sure, I wasn't a big fan of some of his more recent titles like Skiptrace and Dragon Blade, but I don't blame Jackie Chan for the outcome of those movies. If you've seen either of those you know he's easily the best part of both movies. At over 60 years old, the man's not slowing down. While some of his stunts aren't as elaborate as they once were, he's still a nimble guy who willingly puts himself in harm's way to entertain his audience.
It's awesome the movies like Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow are available. Even going back to his earliest uncredited appearances in Bruce Lee flicks like The Chinese Connection or Enter the Dragon, it's really cool to see how far he's come over the span of his career and how active he remains. While it's easy to say Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow rank among his best films, I'd say that it's damn near impossible to single out one particular film as his absolute best. Sure, some are better than others, but in one way or another, they're all entertaining. So if you've only ever seen Jackie Chan in flicks like Rush Hour or Rumble in the Bronx - you owe it to yourself to check out Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master - the two films that arguably launched his career into the stratosphere.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Snake in the Eagle's Shadow/Drunken Master arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time as a limited edition release of 3,000 units. Both films are pressed onto a Region Free BD-50 disc. The disc is housed in a clear standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing stills from the two films as well as another fantastic essay from historian Julie Kirgo. The disc loads to a start menu that lets you choose the film you want to see before arriving at individual static image main menus.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The good news for Kung-fu fans is both Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master arrive looking better than ever in this Blu-ray set. From VHS to DVD, I'd gotten used to these movies looking pretty rough with soft image, washed out colors, skipping frames, bad audio, and plenty of scratches. Both films enjoy a robust 2.35:1 1080p presentation that greatly mitigates or removes any of the previously mentioned issues. Colors for both films are well saturated offering up some bright bold primaries as well as healthy earth tones. Skin tones are also healthy looking without appearing too pale or too pink - right in the middle where they should be.
Details are stronger then I've encountered with previous releases allowing you to appreciate fine facial features, costuming and production design work. Film grain appears intact without being intrusive or noisy. Black levels are solid all around. While I'm extremely happy with these transfers, one complaint I do have is how flat they can look. While they don't always look this way, there are several stretches where the image lacks any appreciable depth in spite of strong black levels and details. Print damage is minimal, only some mild speckling or an occasional scratch. Fans of these films should be very happy with the condition they're in with this release.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Both Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master enjoy robust Cantonese, Mandarin, and English dubbed DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono tracks. While purists may want to stick to the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks with English subtitles, I'm partial to the English dubbed tracks myself. But that's out of pure nostalgia really. I watched these movies dubbed growing up so revisiting them on Blu-ray with these tracks only felt right. All tracks work great with clean dialogue exchanges. The heavy punch and kick sound effects are amazing and scoring is equally impressive. Levels are spot on for both films so once you've got it set at a comfortable volume you should be good to go - although I'd recommend going loud for these. The sound effects and the action sequences are terrific. Imaging is a bit flat and front loaded but otherwise, both films enjoy terrific audio mixes free of age-related damage or other annoying anomalies.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Aside from the fantastic essay from film historian Julie Kirgo, the bonus feature package for this is pretty slim. The only bonus of note is a great commentary track for Drunken Master.
Audio Commentary Featuring film historians Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang. Sometimes this sort of anecdotal commentary can be a little dry, but these two are clearly fans of the film and offer up a terrific amount of production details and information about Jackie Chan.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Both Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master sport Isolated Score & Effects tracks. While the music on their own is great, sometimes they goofy Kung-fu smacks and punches enter into the mixes making them sound a bit humorous all on their own without the visuals. Both are great to listen to and Kung-fu film score fans should have a blast with these.
Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master are true martial arts genre classics. The stories are awesome, the fight choreography is amazing, and the stunt work is damn impressive. Add in the fact that you're watching Jackie Chan in two of his breakout films and you've got the making for a perfect double feature. Fans should be very happy with Twilight Time's release of these films on Blu-ray. Both films arrive with terrific video transfers and stellar audio tracks that allow you to chose between two Chinese language tracks with English subtitles or go for broke and pop on the goofy and entertaining English dubbing. While the bonus feature package is sadly very slim, a Jackie Chan interview would have been sweet, the audio commentary is still great and well worth giving a listen. At the end of the day, I'm calling this disc recommended. It's a must for Jackie Chan fans.
- Limited Edition of 3000 Units
- 2-Film Blu-ray
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD MA 1.0
- Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0
- Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0
- English SDH
- Audio Commentary
Exclusive HD Content
- Isolated Score & Effects Tracks
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