[box cover]

Drunken Master

Jackie Chan meets Ralph Macchio! In 1978, Chan starred in this comic-kung fu film as Wong Fei-hong, the screw-up son of the head of a martial arts school. Wong disses his teachers, gets in trouble when he accosts a pretty girl who turns out to be his cousin, and beats the living crap out of the son of a powerful local businessman. As punishment, his father sends for Wong's uncle — a legendary kung fu master known for his sadistic training techniques. As with the American martial arts films that would later copy the plot, the iconoclastic master (Siu Tien Yuen) and the talented, headstrong boy form a unique teacher-student bond, and Wong learns the bizarre art of "Drunken Boxing." Directed by Hong Kong legend Yuen Wo-Ping (known better in the Western world as the fight choreographer for The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), this is a very silly film with a lot of over-the-top hijinks from Chan as he battles bad guys with names like Thunderfoot and Gorilla, and does amazing, shirtless pull-ups while all covered with sweat. The beginnings of his trademark style are in evidence as he balances on chairs, dives through legs, and conks himself in the head far too many times for comic effect. He's Jackie Chan, dammit — with his rock-hard abs, David Cassidy haircut and almost supernatural talent for slapstick, it's easy to see how he became an international superstar. Interesting side note: Wong Fei-hong is a 19th-century folk hero, portrayed often in Chinese culture and cinema. Besides the follow-up Drunken Master films with Chan and Willie Chi, the character was also played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China and by Tak-Hing Kwan in the Wo-Ping/Sammo Hung film Magnificent Butcher. Wong is a favorite character of Wo-Ping, in fact — the full Chinese title of his 1993 film, Iron Monkeyis Iron Monkey: The Young Wong Fei Hong. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Drunken Master offers a very good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and features a commentary track by Hong Kong film experts Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang, plus trailers for other Columbia HK releases. The languages are listed as English (mono) or Cantonese with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Thai. On the review copy that we screened, the subtitles worked just fine, but the language kept switching back and forth between English and Cantonese. This appeared to be a problem with the actual audio recording on the Cantonese language track, not a technical glitch — hopefully, Columbia isn't sending all the copies of Drunken Master out with this problem.
—Dawn Taylor

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