So number 4 on my list is Legend of Drunken Master… Only My Blu-Ray hasn’t arrived in the mail yet! So I thought it appropriate to pull out my old DVD of the original Drunken Master from 1978 (the movie was made in 1978. No, they didn’t the DVD until some time after that..), and review it!
Out of all the movies I’ve reviewed so far (which isn’t many), this one is entirely different. In classic Jackie Chan fashion, this movie has just as many gags as fight scenes.
Wong Fei Hung, played by Jackie, is the son of a well known Kung Fu instructor. In class he often causes trouble, and is somewhat of a class clown. The same can be said for him everywhere he goes. Fei Hung (or as the English subtitles called him ‘Freddy’ on the DVD) is causing trouble, even trying to trick young girls into kissing and hugging him for a laugh.
When a local man selling a jade is ripped off, Fei Hung fights the thief who stole and destroyed the jade. He gets back the money owed and teaches the thief a lesson. When Fei Hung returns home he has to face the music as Mr Lee (father of the thief), wants to punish Fei Hung. As his punishment, Fei Hung is sent off to be disciplined by his great uncle So Hei, a legendary martial artist notorious for his strict training methods and ability to straighten up young guys.
Why the title Drunken Master?
As it turns out, So Hei is always drinking wine, and constantly under the influence. When he finally sobers up during the movie, So Hei loses a fight to Bamboo King (or ‘Stick King’ as Fei Hung calls him). That’s when Fei Hung realises he is powerless without his wine, and So Hei shows him his secret style – a form of drunken boxing that uses the power of the 8 drunken gods!
Fei Hung then trains hard, learning the forms of the 8 drunken gods, then travels out into the world.
Immediately, he gets drunk, starts a fight with ‘stick king’, and wipes the floor with him!
Nothing like a Kung Fu Comedy!
Jackie Chan had me laughing a few times in this movie! Even some of his martial arts scenes are physically humorous (especially when fighting using the female Drunken God form).
Throughout the entire film, Jackie portrays a young guy who simply wants to have a bit of fun, but is met with a lot of serious authority. In particular, the scenes where Fei Hung is doing some kind of torturous exercise and finds a way to cheat through it, only to be caught out and made to do something much harder are simply hilarious.
If you want to catch Jackie Chan at his comedic best, definitely check out this classic movie!
The serious side to Drunken Master
There isn’t a hell of a lot, but you can relate to Fei Hung wanting to train harder after getting severely beaten up by a travelling assassin named (don’t laugh) ‘Thunderleg’. This all happens after having ran away from So Hei and trying to make it on his own. After the fight, Fei Hung straight away returns to his training and diligently learns the forms of the 8 drunken gods.
This speaks to anyone who has tried martial arts training as a way to protect themselves from bullying or attack, it just so happens that Fei Hung usually gets drunk before each fight, making the ‘serious’ side pretty laughable all over again!
Throughout the movie though, every fight Fei Hung gets into (well, most) is not without good intention. He usually fights someone who is cheating or doing something criminal towards someone else in an attempt to find justice.
The Martial Arts in Drunken Master
He’s up and down, flipping and rolling and does it with what appears to be great ease and laughing throughout it all. The more serious fights are a bit more ‘kung fu’ however, showing differing stances and moves that are very much like the other kung fu movies of the time. But Jackie’s portrayal of Drunken Boxing looks extremely believable, and really makes the visual style of the film.
His fight with Thunderleg toward the end of the movie really showcases a massive variety of his movements within the style, something he would have had to learn and train for quite diligently as an actor.
What’s interesting is the deception within the style – as each opponent looks at Fei Hung’s feet, they perceive him as drunk, off balance and easy to defeat. But the power within those ‘drunken’ stances are just as solid as any other kung fu, through the vigorous physical training from So Hei.
Fei Hung then uses this apparent ‘weakness’ to his advantage, lowering the guard of his opponent to defeat them with a series of drunken movements.
Some of the timing is a little hit and miss in this movie though, but you can overlook it quite easily with the added humor and distinct style of the fight scenes toward the end of the film. I can see why this is a Jackie Chan Classic!
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Drunken Master on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Drunken Master on DVD
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Drunken Master / Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow DVD Two Pack
or Watch it Online Here!
(US & Canada)