Jackie Chan stars in this hit kung fu comedy that is without a doubt the best of its kind from the 1970s. Chan is a young, troublemaking Wong Fei-hung in early Republican-era China whose propensity for getting into petty fights leads his father to hire Su Qi-er (Simon Yuen), a famous, hard-drinking kung fu master to put his son through a year of grueling martial arts training. When a local land dispute erupts, a professional killer known as Thunderleg (Hwang Jang-lee) is hired to kill Fei-hung’s father. Having nearly mastered the “Eight Immortals” forms of Drunken Fist boxing, Fei-hung comes to his father’s rescue only to discover that the killer is the same man who had humiliated him earlier during a chance encounter. The film brings together most of the same cast and crew of SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW in a similarly structured story where the leads are recast in nearly identical roles. The main difference is that this film concerns itself with the exploits of heroic figures from southern Chinese martial arts folklore. Chan is portraying Wong Fei-hung and in an irreverent manner far removed from the gentlemanly guise adopted by Kwan Tak-hing in the long-running WONG FEI HUNG Cantonese film franchise of the 1950s and ’60s. Director Yuen Woo-ping’s father, Simon Yuen, is cast as Beggar Su Qi-er and Lin Chiao portrays Fei-hung’s father Wong Kei-ying. These two are known as members of the famous Ten Tigers of Canton. DRUNKEN MASTER is a brilliant showcase for the broad talents of Chan who dominates the screen in his own way just as Bruce Lee had done years earlier. His amazing dexterity, self-deprecating nature and knack for physical comedy makes every action sequence dazzling, while a colorfully cocksure portrayal of Fei-hung along with spitfire dialogue filled with trash talk generates equal amounts of genuine thrills and laughs. Training sequences are creative and fight scenes are consistently fun and diverse. Throughout the film, Chan goes up against a variety of memorable opponents played by talented screen fighters including Tino Wong, the dexterous Linda Lin, Simon Yuen, co-action director Hsu Hsia, the bald-headed Shan Kwai, and of course the main attraction, Korean superkicker Hwang Jang-lee, sporting the wickedest sideburns in kung fu cinema. This is the second and best match-up between Chan and Hwang after their initial match-up in SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW. Hwang is in top form while Chan goes ballistic with an eye-popping display of martial artistry and athleticism as he fights his way through all eight of the Drunken Fist forms. This performance is matched only by Chan’s maniacal end fights in THE YOUNG MASTER and DRUNKEN MASTER II. As with SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW, Simon Yuen nearly steals the show with a great performance as the whimsical, aging kung fu mentor. As master-student relationships go in kung fu cinema, this is one of the most enjoyable and humorous examples.
REVIEW: Drunken Master (1978) ,
Drunken Fist • Genre: Kung Fu • Hsu Hsia • Hwang Jang-Lee • Jackie Chan • Ng See-yuen • Seasonal Films • Simon Yuen • Su Qi-er • Wong Fei-hung • Yuen Woo-ping