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Drunken Master

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    Ian Jane
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  • Drunken Master



    Released by: Eureka - Masters Of Cinema
    Released on: April 24th, 2017.
    Director: Yuen Wo Ping
    Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Hsiao Tieng, Huang Cheng Li, Shih Tien, Hsu Hsia
    Year: 1978

    The Movie:

    Jackie Chan plays legendary Chinese folk hero Wong-Fei Hong in this 1978 film, the directorial debut of Yuen Wo Ping, a filmmaker best known to North American audiences as the fight choreographer for such films as The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.

    Chan plays legendary Chinese folk hero Wong-Fie Hong . When we meet him, he and his friends are goofing off, trying to impress a pretty girl and getting into fights at the local market. When Wong-Fie Hong's father fails to teach him the art of kung fu, he sends him to train with his uncle, Sam The Seed (played by Yuen Hsiao Tieng of Shaolin Master Killer and Drunken Monkey). Sam is a hard drinking hermit who lives in the middle of nowhere.

    Wong-Fie Hong is forced to head out to meet up with him only to learn that his uncle is an exceptionally cruel individual. Not only is he drunk all the time, but he's got a twisted sense of humor and a habit of injuring his trainees. When Wong has had enough, he escapes - only to be brutally beaten and severely humiliated by a notorious assassin named Thunderfoot (played by Huang Cheng Li, star and director of numerous 70s kung fu films like Snake In Eagle's Shadow, an early starring role for Chan).

    Utterly ashamed of himself but desperate for revenge, Wong-Fie Hong returns to his uncle to complete his training, while Thunderfoot is hired to kill Hong's father. He completes his training and returns home, but does he have enough time to stop Thunderfoot from killing his dad?

    While not exactly high on plot or sophistication, Drunken Master is still more fun than you'll have watching pretty much anything else from the genre. The story is basic, but it works and it never fails to keep the viewer entertained. Though it exists mainly an excuse for Chan to strut his stuff, he's in his prime here and Drunken Master is widely regarded as the film that propelled him from stuntman to superstar. Some of the moves on display, be they for comedic intent or used in the middle of an intense fight scene, almost seem impossible but Chan somehow has the ability to make it look natural, even easy at times. The final fight, where he takes on high-kicking Jang Lee Hwang, remains a high point in seventies martial arts cinema - its intense, wonderfully choreographed and plenty exciting.

    No one has ever done comedic kung fu as well as Jackie Chan, and this film is one of his finest moments, ranking as one of the greatest martial arts films ever made and showcasing some remarkable fight scenes and great performances from its supporting cast (including a guy that looks like a young Bolo Yeung but isn't). Yuen Wo Ping's skills in fight choreography are obvious throughout the majority of the film, as it comically bounces back and forth from one brawl to another.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Eureka presents Drunken Master on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a '4K digital restoration' on a 50GB disc framed at 2.39.1 widescreen. The picture quality here is quite strong and it's immediately evident that this offers a substantial improvement over past DVD editions. Colors are handled very nicely and black levels are strong. Skin tones look good, nice and lifelike, and there are no problems with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction. There's a little bit of print damage here and here but overall the image is generally very clean, showing a natural amount of film grain and presenting frequently impressive texture and detail.

    As far as audio options go, we get the original complete Cantonese soundtrack included here as well as alternate English and Mandarin audio options, each presented in LPCM Mono with newly translated English subtitles that seem to be specific to each track (subtitles for the Mandarin track are presented simultaneously in English and in Chinese - noted as 'Hong Kong Theatrical Subtitles'). If you choose the Mandarin track you might be confused at first as the dialogue is spoken in English, but that's because this particular dub was prepared for a shorter cut of the film - so there are a few spots where the Mandarin track reverts to English now and again, and when this happens the English subtitles disappear from the screen.

    Extras start off with an interesting commentary track from Hong Kong film expert and film critic Ric Meyers, who is joined by Jackie Chan's biographer, Jeff Yang that has been carried over from past DVD releases. These two really show their love for the film and its creators in this commentary, and the viewer is treated to all sorts of interesting facts and anecdotes about the film.

    From there, check out a twenty minute long video interview with Jackie Chan where he shares his thoughts on the film's longevity and tells some interesting stories about working on the feature with the director and his fellow cast members. He also talks about the character he plays in the picture, working on Snake In Eagle's Shadow prior to Drunken Master and quite a bit more. Chan is his typically down to Earth and unpretentious self here, you can't help but love the guy. Eureka has also supplied forty-two minute long video interview with film scholar Tony Rayns. This provides some important cultural context for the film, as it does a fine job of explaining how filmmakers in China and Hong Kong were scrambling to fill the void left by Bruce Lee and how Jackie Chan was considered at the time to be one of the front runners for his replacement. He also explains the history of the film's production company, Seasonal Films, and offers up plenty of background information on different cast and crew members. Not to be outdone, director Gareth Evans (the man behind The Raid film series) shows up for a twenty-one minute talk explaining the impact and importance of Chan's specific brand of martial arts mayhem, his thoughts on other Wong Fei-Hung films, and the sheer insanity of some of the film's kung fu set pieces. Last but not least, producer Ng See-Yeun gets in front of the camera for fourteen minutes to talk about his background in the film industry, his early days working for the Shaw Brothers and then how he branched out on his own and what he was able to bring to the cinema of his day. Interesting stuff - between the four interviews we cover a lot of ground, not just the history of the picture but it's importance and its influence as well.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a single deleted scene, a UK music promo, the film's original theatrical trailer, a 'kicking showcase' (just a highlight reel showing off some of the kicks from the film), menus and chapter selection. Finished product will come with an insert booklet and a DVD version of the movie but only a test disc was sent for review.

    The Final Word:

    This film is absolutely essential for kung fu and Asian cinema fans and it is great to see it so nicely represented on Blu-ray. If you're even a minor Jackie Chan fan, you want this. Drunken Master is Chan at his best and is the film that rightfully earned him the moniker of the clown prince of kung fu.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























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