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This along with Drunken Master I (not Drunken Master II which was released
in the US as Legend of Drunken Master, which is good but not great) have to
be the best of the pure Kung-fu genre. This is just one great fight scene
after another. The choreography is breathtaking, especially for two scenes:
one where Jackie slides rags under the school master's feet, and the other
where the old man doesnt allow Jackie to take his bowl. This is the original
Kill Bill, just pure thrilling action. The story is so not a factor that I
wont even mention it.
Jackie's Hong Kong movies are a class apart. Hollywood spoiled the martial arts genre. The new Jackie Chan movies and Jet Li etc are insufferable because of Hollywood overdoing things. I dont think there will be action as exhilarating as Hong Kong kung-fu ever again... sadly, technology takes away beautiful things. I'll end with a paraphrase of Roger Ebert's on talent: When you see anyone doing something difficult and making it look easy and *a joy*, you feel enhanced. It is a victory for the human side over the enemies of laziness and timidity.
I believe this was Jackie Chan's first widely successful movie freed
from the constraints of Lo Wei and working with a different director
allowed Jackie to move into a different direction and stop trying to be
the new Bruce Lee (as if anyone ever could be!).
Surprisingly the humour translates pretty well and both Jackies cruel martial arts school employer and the kindly martial artist he meets and befriends are well drawn comedic characters. The sometimes bizarre fighting styles all named after animals are a joy to behold and Jackie and all the other martial artists involved show just how skillful they are with some truly memorable twists on the old school kung-fu style fighting. Many of those in this film came together again a year later to make the equally excellent Drunken Master.
I would recommend this film to any martial arts fan as a must see, it's also an excellent entry point if your interested in looking into martial arts action films in general. 8/10
'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow' - Jackie Chan's other breakthrough hit,
along with 'Drunken Master'. Both released in 1978, these two movies
made the careers of Jackie Chan and director Yuen Woo Ping, and both
featured Siu Tien Yuen and Hwang Jang Lee in similar roles.
The plot follows Chien Fu (Jackie Chan), an orphan abused and mistreated by the kung-fu (evil, of course) school he works at. He can't fight until he meets Pai Cheng-Cheh (Siu Tien Yuen), a grand-master of Snake Fist, and last remaining follower of the Snake Fist style. A rivalry between the Snake Fist and Eagle Claw styles has led to the near-elimination of the Snake Fist style, and Chien Fu and Pai Cheng-Cheh find themselves being hunted by Lord Sheng Kuan (Hwang Jang Lee), the master of the Eagle Claw style.
The awesomeness of 'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow' lies in the fact that it really is quite similar to 'Drunken Master', which is also awesome. Again, the plot is a pretty standard kung-fu plot, but any plot which allows for the maximum amount of on-screen kung-fu time is a good plot. The training sequences are entertaining, and the following fight scenes are incredible - Jackie, Hwang Jang Lee and Yuen Woo Ping are all at their best here.
'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow' is an awesome and very funny movie - 10/10, a must see for all Jackie Chan fans.
ej's kung-fu capsule review for films of the chop-socky old-school -
1. basic plot type - Clan vs. clan; special styles clash; young man comes of age learning kung fu from older master.
2. plot construction - Pretty strong, and easy to follow. Director Yuen adds some very nice touches, such as when Chan introduces the old master to his only friend - a cat.
3. dramatic - Occasionally, in its emphasis on the relation between the old master and his young student.
4. funny - Occasionally - this is still early for Chan, but he is already playing his role with a bit of light irony.
5. dialog - competent but no shocks here.
6. cast performance - Strong all around.
7. crew performance - Seem to be aware that they are on the verge of a technical breakthrough in 'fu film-making, but this isn't quite it. ("It" is the later "Drunken Master", of course.)
8. amount of fighting - Lots.
9. quality of fighting - Over-all, really darn good.
10. special any cast or crew notes - After years of effort, the success of this film at last made Chan a star in Hong Kong's film market, and brought to a head the tensions between Chan and the producer to whom he was contracted, Lo Wei. Although Lo would always insist that he 'discovered' Chan, all he really wanted was a capable and charismatic young fighter he could mold into another Bruce Lee. Lo hated this film, and all other early Chan attempts to change the traditional chop-socky formula. But this film shows that Chan was very much his own man with his own vision; while the plot is pretty standard for this genre, Chan's performance is refreshingly new.
Fortunately, Chan's ties with Lo would soon be severed, allowing the development of the Chan we've all come to admire.
Chan is also aided here by the early effort of Choreographer/ director Yuen Woo Ping. Yuen's direction waffles a bit in spots, but this is clearly because he has a sense that there can be more to a martial arts film than we see in many chop-socky films of the era; he's still learning to articulate that.
Besides countless imitations, the film spawned two direct sequels; one (SiES II) was produced by the same production company and starred Wong Tao; it is interesting in a quirky, eccentric way thanks to the supporting actors; but Wong Tao is no Jackie Chan. The other sequel, known as "The Jade Claw" appears to have been put together by the Yuen Clan to continue the developing reputation of Simon Yuen. Unfortunately, the elder Yuen died before the film was finished, and the continuity is terrible. Still, Billie Chong, star of that film, does a lot better as a Jackie Chan imitator than Wong Tao ever could.
Chan himself refused to revisit this story for a sequel, and I think the decision wise - this film is genius in the making, all around; but the genius isn't made yet - that would appear later, and with much greater impact, in Drunken Master.
11. big positive - Simon Yuen's most credible performance as the old master.
12. big negative - The cat's-claw style Chan develops in this film is not all that impressive; that creates a weakness in the finale. There are also allusions in the dialog to plot threads that never show up.
Bottom-line - who should see this movie - Chan fans; Martial Arts fans; chop-socky fans; Yuen clan fans. Its a solid action film, but may be too much a part of its genre for more general audiences.
I´ll try to summary this movie. Orphan (Jackie Chan) is being mistreated by evil Kun fu-Club owner on the club in which he is a cleaner. He meets an old beggar who learns him "snake style" -kun fu. The old man is being hunted down for knowledge of the martial art. Check this movie out. If you like Jackie-Chan, then you will love this movie. I give it a 10/10.
Jackie's first big hit. It's easy to see why it was so popular when it was first released. Nobody had ever seen comedy and kung fu mixed together before. And if it wasn't for Jackie, we might have never have. Good and plentiful fights easily make this a kung fu classic that still entertains over 20 years later.
Lots of fighting, done in a comical way. Just about every character in
movie are not too bright, which is perfect for a comedy of errors.
I have always preferred this comical way of handling martial arts better than the too serious Bruce Lee style.
This is Jackie Chan's best film I have seen so far! Miles better than Drunken Master. The guy is supremely fit, which you see in this film, and the skill this guy possesses is second-to-none. There is tons of fighting from absolutely loads of Hong Kong's top martial artists. Apart from Jackie Chan, it's "Thunder Legs" Hwang Jang Lee who stands out, this guy is a supreme kicking machine! If you want to see a classic, then this is it! 10/10
If you've got a couple hours to spare, and you like light hearted hong kong kung fu, then watch this film. The music and sound effects are really hilarious, and the action never lets up. The final fight scene is somewhat memorable as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's "old school" and then there's "OLD SCHOOL", and this is pure
chop-socky Spaghetti Eastern film making at its best. Fans of the old
Golden Harvest/Shaw Brothers films will find all the proper clichés
included, but there is enough original plotting, fight choreography and
actual acting going on here to distinguish it from the 999 other films
the Shaws released during the same period. Add the charm, humor, and
likability of Jackie Chan into the mix, and you've got the perfect
"Kung Fu Theater" experience.
I've watched a reasonable number of kung fu flicks (enough to qualify as a fan, not enough to qualify as a devoted fanatic), and the plot to this one strikes me as reasonably fresh; instead of using classic "vengeance", "rebellion" or "gangster" motifs, "Snake" revolves around Jackie's growth as a man and as a fighter as he tries to help and protect a friend who Jackie doesn't know is the last master of a nearly extinct style of Kung Fu. It's a nice change of pace that allows elements of humor and friendship into the relationship between Chan's character and his teacher. And somehow the humor in this one works even for a Western sensibility - the director, fight director and the stunt men and the actors manage to include some involving, funny, moments in Chan's training that nevertheless impress.
Plus, you've can't have an old school Kung Fu film without montages of the hero training in the secret forms and techniques of his style accompanied by the Chinese equivalent to the theme music from "Rocky", and "Snake" delivers these. Newer viewers may dismiss Chan (now in his 40-50s) in favor of someone like Jaa or Li, and because of the emphasis nowadays on humor and acrobatics; but "Snake" shows that Chan in his prime was in AWESOME shape. It's a real pleasure to watch him go at it. There is genuine artistry at work here. And the scene where Chan discovers/invents the missing application that fixes the weakness in the Snake style is well done (for this kind of movie).
So if you like old school Kung Fu movies, seek this one out; and if you are a fan of Jackie Chan, seek this one out. I liked it a lot, and bought it on VHS - if I can find it somewhere on DVD for a reasonable price, I will probably buy it again.
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