Action, HK Style – Drunken Master (1978)

Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Starring: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Hwang Jang-Lee, Lam Kau, Linda Lin Ying

Jackie Chan returns as the young and reckless Wong Fei-Hong whose antics upset his dad (Lam Kau) and also his auntie (Linda Lin) who he ends up fighting by accident not knowing who she is.

When Fei Hung gets into one too many fights, his dad decides to send him off for harsh training with Beggar So (Yuen Siu Tien), but the youngster says “bugger this” and runs away trying to avoid it, only to run in him any way when he tries to scam a free meal at a restaurant and ends being beaten up for his trouble. Beggar So pretty much kidnaps him back to his shack and puts him through harsh training. The one time he tries to escape he ends up being beaten up and humiliated by Thunderleg (Hwang Jang-Lee) who doesn’t think he is even worth killing.

After trying to trick his master into not drinking during a fight, Wong Fei Hong finally learns the secret of Drunken Kung Fu and just in time as a rival of his dad’s wants to put out a hit on him and has called in a contract killer.

I understand that this was made not long after Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and it makes sense that they would use the same actors and director. Some people complain about there being too many sequels in Hollywood, they have not seen anything when it comes to Hong Kong. The original Wong Fei-Hong movies made in the 1940s and 1950s numbered in the hundreds even including Wong Fei Hong’s Battle with the Gorilla and Wong Fei-Hong’s Seven Battles with the Fiery Unicorn. They were also dead serious and all played by the same actor. Kids in Hong Kong would have grown up with them so it would have been like someone doing a funny movie about Dr Who or a beloved 80s kid’s show these days.

With the majority of the movie being taken up with the training sequences, they would want to be good training techniques and they do their job quite well. Once we finally get to see the drunken boxing it does not disappoint with the young impulsive Fei-Hong deciding not to practice one stance as it was “for girls” leaving him in a bind when he had to use it.

Lam Kau as Wong Fei-Hong’s dad does look very fearsome and like he could beat up Jackie Chan in real life. Linda Lin as his aunty also puts in a great performance and I wish she had more than just the one fight scene in the movie.

Simon Yuen retains his ability as Beggar So to steal every scene in he is in by just being in the shot. He does not seem to do as much fighting in this one, preferring to leave Jackie’s character to do most of the work.

The movie seems to end rather abruptly, but at least you do get to see the big fight scene at the end where the evil dude gets his comeuppance. Jackie Chan supposedly almost lost an eye filming the final fight scene, not having learnt to stay clear of Hwang Jang-Lee’s kicks after getting his teeth bashed out in the previous film.

Comparing this film to Drunken Master II would be unfair as there is sixteen years between them. While it is recommended you watch this with Snake in Eagle’s Shadow, it stands up just as well on its own and is well worth tracking down if you want to see the early work of Jackie Chan.

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