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Don’t be confused by the way that I stagger: A celebration of Drunken Master

Don’t be confused by the way that I stagger: A celebration of Drunken Master

 

Terracotta would like to introduce you to the excellent Youtube channel JAKE ON FILM, if you don't already know it.

More than just another film review site, you'll find well made content shot by the production team which is themed to the film they are reviewing, and you get good insight into the background and context of the film as well.

Here's a special guest post from Jake, of JAKE ON FILM, about the seminal film Drunken Master (and of course we hope that we get that elusive Drunken Master II blu ray release from one of the labels soon!).

Susbcribe to JAKE ON FILM @jakeonfilm, exploring the outer edges of the film universe, on youtube!

Enjoy!

 

Welcome drunkards! Jake On Film is celebrating Drunken Boxing (Jui Kuen) this month, with the immortal Drunken Master (1978).

Some may be surprised that this strange technique is a real style of Kung Fu and was first mentioned in The Water Margin (one of the classic novels of Chinese literature circa 1500) as the character Wu Song is a practitioner, using sways, bobs, and weaves to deceive his opponent into thinking he is drunk.

 

Water Margin manuscript

The Water Margin

 

With this history in mind, we jump to 1978 - Yuen Woo Ping has just had success with Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow with previous box office poison, Jackie Chan. They decide to repeat the formula but with a style audiences hadn’t seen on screen since the black and white days of the quintessential Wong Fei Hing - Kwan Tak Hing.

Drunken Master starts in a field (as all good Kung Fu films do) with our villain; hitman Jim Ti-Sam (Korean super kicking legend Hwang Jang Lee) using his skills to defeat his latest victim (Woo Ping’s brother Yuen Shu Yee) cut to Jackie Chan at his father’s Kung Fu school acting the fool and embarrassing his teacher, idiot extraordinaire Dean Shek. Chan is legendary folk hero Wong Fei Hung - unlike the more stoic version portrayed by Jet Li in The Once Upon a Time in China series, Chan plays him as an immature fool. After groping a woman and beating up a rival school member, his dad punishes him by sending him to train with his uncle, another legendary character, Beggar So (Yuen Woo Ping’s Dad Simon Yuen) who eventually teaches him the eight immortal drunken style, which he must use to defeat Jim Ti-Sam.

 

What stands out most about Drunken Master is Jackie himself, his martial arts prowess, penchant for comedy and sheer physical ability jumps out the screen and slap you in the face. The training sequences and multiple long fights are sadomasochistic at times. The other, is the ability of Hwang Jang Lee, with no Kung Fu training but a taekwondo black belt to his name, his movement, technique, and power are awe inspiring.

 

Drunken Master Jackie Chan comedy

 Jackie Chan showing comedic skills in DRUNKEN MASTER

 

The training sequences are brilliantly done, Chan being pushed to the limit by Beggar So, their relationship is also nicely played, including a great bonding scene reciting the poetry of Li Bai the drunken poet, didn’t expect that from a Kung Fu comedy, did you? Then of course the drunken style itself, Jackie running through the eight different characters within the style whilst the classic track ‘On the General's Orders’ booms out. Kung Fu at its finest.

Yes, it takes almost an hour for the Drunken Fist to be introduced and this rambunctious version of Wong Fei Hung can become tiring with the silliness dialled to 11 but with top tier action, showcasing such a unique style, it truly stands the test of time, as an all-time classic.

 

drunken master style

 Kung Fu shapes in DRUNKEN MASTER
 

The best way to watch this gem is Eureka’s Masters of Cinema addition, which you can purchase on the Terracotta website using the code JOF10 for a cheeky 10% off. The package has a DVD and Blu-ray disc and features the original Cantonese track (previous releases just featured a Mandarin mono) the English dub does still have the amusing character names of Freddy Wong and Thunderfoot but it’s not the one from the original VHS, which some people like for nostalgia reasons.

 

Drunken Master bluray eureka

 

You get an amusing interview with Jackie Chan, in which he can’t remember much about making the film (too many blows to the head since then!) and a classic ramble from Hong Kong film expert Tony Rayns, add to that a solid commentary from Jeff Yang and Ric Meyers and you’ve got a collector’s item on your hands.

 

Right, time to grab your favourite tipple and indulge in this Kung Fu classic. Until next time, keep watching…

Jake


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