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Come Drink With Me (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Come Drink With Me (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: March 22nd, 2022.
    Director: King Hu
    Cast: Cheng Pei Pei, Yueh Hua, Yang Chih-Ching, Chen Hung Lieh, Shen Lao
    Year: 1966
    Purchase From Amazon

    Come Drink With Me – Movie Review:

    In the opening scene of Come Drink With Me we witness a roving clan of thieves laying waste to a government convoy and the kidnapping of an important political officer. The reasoning behind their actions is that they intend to use their captive friend as a bargaining chip, so that they can force the government to release their leader who has recently been locked up for his criminal activity.

    In order to free the hostage without having to give up their prisoner, the local officials decide to send in Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei, who is probably best known to western audiences for her appearance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). She is a brilliant swordswoman who disguises herself as a male, the hope being that she'll be able to take on the bandits and save the day. She soon, by chance, meets a likeminded individual named Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua of The Iron Bodyguard). He teams up with her to help stop the thugs in their tracks. Though at first he appears to be nothing more than a local small town drunk, everyone is soon surprised to find out about his martial arts skills.

    Plenty of killer fight choreography and some great swordplay combined with a cold, calculating performance from the female lead make Come Drink With Me a prime example of just how good vintage martial arts films can be. Cheng Pei Pei is smart, cunning and just pretty enough (even when posing as a man!) to make for a fantastic heroin and she carries the film with ease. She moves quickly and gracefully with a steely gaze and the precision of a master swordswoman in this film, lending an air of class to the proceedings.

    Directed with loads of style by the late King Hu, the film does a great job of focusing on the fluid movements of the combatants on screen. He directs the film with a deliberate pacing and some interesting plot twists. The interplay between Drunken Cat and Golden Swallow might seem a little clichéd by today's standards, but it works really well here and it provides for a lot of fun throughout the film. Though the characters work together for a similar cause, they couldn't be more different and at the same time, they're more alike than either one of them truly realizes.

    Of course, like any good martial arts film, Come Drink With Me builds up to a final showdown in which the hero must overcome insurmountable odds to emerge victorious. In this film, Golden Swallow squares off against a small army of men in a scene which gives Cheng Pei Pei ample opportunity to show off her unique fighting style and sword skills. While the film isn't the bloodbath that many of Chang Cheh's films made around the same time period would turn out to be, there's still plenty of violence on display here and the movie hardly shies away from bloodshed, as evidenced in the opening scene when a man has his hand cut off in a sword fight.

    While Come Drink With Me isn't the best or most original martial arts film of its day, it's certainly one of the most influential. The care and detail in the cinematography and fight choreography raised the bar for competing directors and studios, and it's at least partially because of this film that the later entries from the Shaw Bros. studio looked as good as they did. The production values are strong and the cinematography is excellent.

    Come Drink With Me – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow Video brings Come Drink With Me to Region A Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with the feature taking up 24.2GBS of space on a 50GB disc. Colors look quite good here and black levels are fine but some digital noise reduction appears to have been applied, some detail is on the soft side and the image is seemingly free or natural looking grain. Additionally, there are occasionally shots where the focus looks off (though this has to do with how the movie was shot and is not a fault of the transfer itself - the old DVD release looked soft and out of focus in those same shots). There's virtually no print damage, however, and the transfer is free of obvious compression artifacts and edge enhancement. This is a nice step up from the previous DVD release.

    24-bit DTS-HD Mono options are provided in both the original Chinese language option with English subtitles and in an English dubbed track. The Chinese track plays best, it suits the film more and it sounds quite clean with no audible issues. The English track is fun in the goofy sort of way that dubbed tracks tend to be for older Shaw Brothers movies.

    Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary by film critic and historian Tony Rayns that does a really nice job of explaining how King Hu came to make this movie as well as the details of his career and what makes him an important filmmaker. Rayns also goes over a lot of the different people credited with working on the film and provides some interesting details on their backgrounds, plenty of insight into Cheng Pei-Pei's career and specifically her work in this movie and lots more.

    There is also a selection of interview included on the disc, the first a fifty-two minute piece with star Cheng Pei-pei, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003. This is quite interesting and extensive and allows the actress to cover her background in dance, her early training, moving to Hong Kong and connecting with the Shaw Brothers, learning martial arts, getting a contract with the Shaws, working with King Hu, staging the fight scenes and more. A thirty minute interview with star Yueh Hua, again filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine, this time in in 2007, sees the actor talking about moving from Shanghai to Hong Kong, connecting and training with the Shaw Brothers' studio, some of the early breaks in the Hong Kong film industry that launched his career, landing the part in Come Drink With Me and what it was like working on that film. Another piece filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003 is the forty-four minute interview with actor Chen Hung-lieh that details his relationship with Yueh Hua, training with the Shaw Brothers' crew, getting his first break, working with Hu and the intricacies of filming the fight scenes without an actual fight choreographer around.

    Talk Story with Cheng Pei-pei, a 2016 Q&A at the University of Hawaii moderated by George Chun Han Wang that runs for eleven minutes and sees the actress talking about what it was like being the only female in the movie, working with both King Hu and Run Run Shaw, and more.

    Cinema Hong Kong: Swordfighting, is a great documentary on the history of the wuxia genre and what the Shaw Brothers’ brought to it. This runs for fifty minutes and was made by Celestial Pictures in 2003. Interviewed in this piece is Cheng Pei-pei but so also some other big names like Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Kara Hui and David Chiang. It’s a really strong overview of the early wuxia films and their importance to Hong Kong cinema and their influence the world over.

    Finishing up the extras are an original theatrical trailer, a digital reissue trailer plus trailer for the sequel Golden Swallow as well as an image gallery, menus and chapter selection. As only a test disc was sent for review we can’t comment on packaging or inserts.

    Come Drink With Me - The Final Word:

    Come Drink With Me holds up well, a film as entertaining as it is influential. It's a stylish and exciting film with an iconic lead performance from Cheng Pei Pei and some fantastic fight choreography. Arrow Video gives this Shaw Brothers classic a solid Blu-ray release.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Come Drink With Me Blu-ray screen caps!

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