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jKL (1966)
Come Drink with Me

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 02/01/2009
Summary: A beautiful classic

"Come Drink With Me" is one of the high points of Hong Kong cinema. King Hu was a genius and Sir Run Run Shaw put the creative and adminstrative might of Shaw Brothers behind him. It features Cheng Pei Pei, Yuen Hua, Chen Hung-Leih and Shum Lo very early in their acting careers, Sammo Hung's first credit as action director and a battalion of talented Shaw Brothers professionals in front of the camera, many of whom become (or already were) stars in their own right. It was beautifully framed and shot--Shawscope never looked better and touched on such universal and timeless themes as family loyalty, duty to one's country, the necessity of the rule of law and personal honor. To say that "Come Drink With Me" has held up against movies that came decades later is, I think, to sell it a bit short--it is a close to a masterwork by a masterful artist.

One example: in an early scene, Golden Swallow enters a restaurant and orders five ounces of liquor made from tiger paw. When the waiter tells her they don't have it she orders another type of alchohol with two glasses. She is being watched by one of the leaders of the bandits who hold her brother hostage who is already in the restaurant. We know that Golden Swallow knows she is in the presence of her enemies by the varying planes of focus and depth of field that King Hu uses, first showing her sharply against the slightly out of focus bandits in the background, then focussing on the bandit and his henchmen with her still in the foreground but no longer the subject of the shot. Her sidelong look as the camera moves toward the bandits is perfect and perfectly caught on film. The bad guys fear Golden Swallow, having tasted defeat at her hands already--we know this because they have talked about how they would much rather face the governor's soldiers than have to deal with her again. Now they scuttle around, disguised as merchants, woodcutters and porters, while spying on Golden Swallow and hoping to catch her unawares. King Hu has made it clear to the audience that this won't happen and that the bandit's fear is well placed.

Cheng Pei Pei was not an accomplished screen fighter then and the fight choreography suffered because of it--for example she would strike a defensive pose positioning her twin daggers to parry a sword blow that hadn't begun, oddly reversing the "thrust/parry"rhythm to a clumsy looking "parry/thrust". She was great at looking imperious, though, as if thinking "how dare you rabble attack me" which along with the impeccable framing and cutting, helped the audience overlook her action heroine shortcomings, as did her training as a dancer so that her moves, however non-deadly they may have looked, were always graceful and impeccably timed.

Golden Swallow's enemies are a formidably cruel lot, particularly Jade Faced Tiger, portrayed with over the top glee by Chen Hung-Lieh--his villainy is delicate, almost feminine. His cohorts are a murderous but cowardly gang, ready to kill an already injured monk at his command but fearful when confronting someone who may fight back.

Fan Dapei, a prescient drunken knight, helps Golden Swallow by waking her up, annoying her by demanding that she join him in a drink. When she throws him out she discovers that her short swords are missing. Angry, she goes after him, always a step behind until she finds the swords so she is alert, armed and ready for action and, just as importantly, not in her bed when Jade Faced Tiger's men arrive to kidnap her. If she hadn't been chasing Fan Dapei she would have been asleep when they showed up.

The long fight, first between Golden Swallow and the mass of the bandits, then with Jade Faced Tiger, is choreographed to hide Cheng Pei-Pei's martial arts shortcomings. The bad guys past her and fall dead with a bloody wound that the audience didn't see delivered. Occasionally two of them attack at the same time and she is able to dispatch both, one in front of her with a slash, the one behind with a backhanded jab.

During this fight she shakes her hair loose, transforming herself to arrestingly beautiful from tough but attractive a transformation made all the more striking because it happens in context while fighting.

“Come Drink With Me” is a gorgeous film, beautifully composed and shot, making great use of the wide screen. The scenes filmed on location, particularly the long fight at the temple are breathtaking with the deep focus and long depth of field showing King Hu’s rigorous attention to detail.

This is not a museum piece, not only an artifact from the past that we can see echoed in movies in the decades after it. It is a very entertaining film and will remain such as long as movies are watched.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 06/02/2008

Widely regarded as one of the greatest martial arts films ever, King Hu's masterpiece Come Drink With Me still holds up well even today, over forty years since its' initial release. The movie's influence is still very much felt in modern movies, specifically with pictures like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

The film tells the story of Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-Pei), a woman trying to save her kidnapped brother from a group of bandits, who are trying to use him as leverage to gain the release of their leader from prison. Even though Swallow has formidable kung fu skills, her abilities still can't overcome the might of the bandits. After befriending a mysterious beggar named Drunken Knight (Yueh Hua) who decides to help with her problem, the stage is set for a final confrontation.

While that might sound like a very basic plot -- and when it's boiled down to the bare essentials, it really is. But King Hu, along with co-writer Yi Cheung, manage to create some compelling sub-plots that manage to actually enrich the film, instead of simply overwhelming the viewer. With a running time of 104 minutes, Come Drink With Me packs in a lot of story in a very lean package. A lot of modern film-makers would do good to take note at Hu's economic use of each and every scene.

Of course, a kung fu movie is nothing without solid fight sequences, and Come Drink With Me does not disappoint at all. Yes, there might not be wall-to-wall action here, but what is presented is absolutely top-notch. Action director Han Ying-Chieh (with some help from a young Sammo Hung) broke from the norms of the time, which favored static and stagey fight scenes highly derivative of Chinese opera, for fluid and dynamic portrayals of kung fu that are punctuated by flashes of ultra-violence via blood spurts and severed limbs. Those weaned on modern computer-fu films might find the action here a bit slow, but this particular reviewer really appreciated the effort that went into creating the fight scenes.

Some note must also be made of how gorgeous Come Drink With Me looks. Unlike many Shaw Brothers productions that were primarily filmed on generic sets in the "Shaw Town" studios, a lot of effort was made here to film on location, which pays off in spades in the visual department. Even the scenes shot on closed sets still pop out from the screen. It's the icing on one of the most wonderful cakes ever created in the realm of kung fu movies. If you're a fan of the genre and haven't seen Come Drink With Me yet, then you are truly missing out on one of the best viewing experiences you'll ever have.

DVD Information

The new Dragon Dynasty DVD, which uses Celestial's remastered print, looks and sounds great. The only real complaint that could be leveled is against the subtitles, whose translation is a bit rough at points. Extras include a commentary from Bey Logan and Cheng Pei-Pei, interviews with Cheng Pei-Pei and Yueh Hua, a featurette about the film's historical significance, a tribute to King Hu hosted by Tsui Hark, and several trailers.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/06/2006
Summary: Required veiwing material

A general’s son is taken hostage as leverage to free a bandit leader. The general’s other offspring, Golden Swallow, is sent to retake the son. When the bandit gang encounter the Golden Swallow (Cheng Pie Pei) in a local inn, they are taken aback by his martial arts ability and are swiftly defeated. With the help of local beggar Fan Da-Pei (Yueh Hua), the Golden Swallow keeps the bandits at bay. But everyone has a trick or two up “his” sleeve…

King Hu’s COME DRINK WITH ME is the seminal Hong Kong action movie. Although some feel that by today’s standard the action scenes are slow and uninteresting, this really is missing the point. This film should be watched for its drama, splendour, character and story as much as anything else. Besides, the swordplay is fine as far as I’m concerned and I’m sure Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou et al would give a major body part to be able to achieve what this film achieves – and with no CGI and relatively few trick shots either. I’m talking about genuine mood and feeling here. COME DRINK WITH ME has it by the bucketful.

Those who still aren’t convinced that Shaw Brothers films went down the pan production-wise during the mid seventies should take a look at this film from 1966. In fact, the first ten minutes should be enough to convince. The outdoor scenes are fantastically filmed and the interior sets are breathtaking. I’ll never forget the shock I felt when I first saw the beggar’s home set – it’s simply awesome. A lot of credit should also go to the lighting department (often overlooked in even Hollywood films) who never fail in keep everything looking top-notch with lots of great mood lighting.

The film is a series of stand out scenes and set pieces. In Golden Swallow’s introduction scene, we see “him” surreptitiously humiliate a whole clan of bandits. Forget Bruce Lee, THIS is the art of fighting without fighting! Incidentally, a bald Yuen Siu-Tien can be seen in this scene. The only leap of faith required really is the fact that anyone could take the Golden Swallow for a man. Seldom have I seen such a pretty man…!

We also have some real sexual tension between Golden Swallow and Fan Da-Pei. When she (for her secret has been revealed!) gets into a fight at the temple (another cracking location, by the way), her vest briefly becomes visible – leading to a short burst of giggles from the bad guys and Golden Swallow’s acute embarrassment. This sets up the scene later where Fan Da-Pei is forced to suck the poison from her chest wound. It may seem tame by today’s standard, but this is really intimate stuff here, and should be taken in context of the era in which this film is set. To have a man see, let alone touch, such an intimate part of a woman’s body was not to be taken lightly in those days.

Surprisingly, subsequent viewing reveal more than the odd instance of intentional humour – and in particular a sense of irony. This is not quite as straight-laced as it first appears, and not as doom-laden as films by, say, Chang Cheh, who would pretty much dominate Shaws during the early 70’s.

If you really wanted to poke holes in the film, you could do – it’s not perfect. The bandits are a bit of a weak spot, admittedly, as you never do know what it is they stand for. They’re certainly nasty enough (they kill a small child, leading one monk to bemoan: “You’re too ruthless!”). However, on the whole, it has stood up remarkably well.

There are quite a few groundbreaking films from Hong Kong that shaped the industry. In the sixties and early seventies, you have a veritable bucket load (including ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN, CHINESE BOXER, VENGEANCE, THE BIG BOSS, and KING BOXER). But COME DRINK WITH ME is one of the more entertaining, and definitely the best looking, of the lot.

As a footnote, there was a “sort of” sequel made (called simply GOLDEN SWALLOW) in 1968,which was helmed by Chang Cheh. I found it disappointing despite being a bit of a fan of his films.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 02/03/2006
Summary: A groundbreaking film that still influences today...

Come Drink With Me is the classic wu xia film by King Hu that inspired and influenced filmmakers for year to come. The ethereal Cheng Pei-pei (just 19 at the time) plays Golden Swallow, a fighter-for-hire who has been contracted by the local government to retrieve the governor's kidnapped son. Holding him is a group of rebels who are demanding that their leader be released from prison in return for the captured son. After a brief encounter with the gang at a local restaurant, Golden Swallow is aided by the drunken wanderer Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua), who turns out to be a kung fu master searching for the monk who betrayed his teacher and school. As luck would have it, the monk turns out to be in contact with the gang, allowing Golden Swallow and Drunken Cat to band together and accomplish both their missions.

For the time in which it was made and even today, Come Drink With Me is an excellent film. The comparisons in style to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have been numerous, but after seeing CDWM again, they become more evident. The fight in the restaurant is very similar to Zhang Ziyi's brawl in CTHD, as is the chase across the rooftops in both films. Ang Lee's film owes much to King Hu's, and fittingly CTHD pays more tribute to CDWM than steals from it. Hu's filming and editing may seem a bit jumpy, but given the time at which this was made and the complete lack of special effects, the typically wu xia-style super-human abilities that he is trying demonstrate come across quite effectively. In these times of CGI, we have gotten spoiled by lavish visuals and effects, and sometimes lose the ability to use our imagination to fill in what we don't see. Come Drink With Me is a great example of a film that you have to suspend your beliefs enjoy what the story provides for you: a great adventure with colorful characters, an exciting story and the ability to enter the wu xia world as it had never been shown before.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 09/18/2004
Summary: To be the future , you should know the past.

I have heard this movie called the greatest of all-time. By today's standards that comment would be considered ridiculous. Yet in 1966 nothing like this was ever seen before. King Hu brought a vision of Martial Art films that would inspire all the truly great films we see now.

The plot was extremely basic overall. The one slight twist to it was the relationship of Drunken Cat and The evil Abbot. The film had a couple of Surprising scenes as well. First was when the young monk was blinded by the Jade-faced Tiger with a needle. Asian films have always suprised me with the willingness to show graphic violence against children. I'm not speaking out against it. It's just that I really don't see anyone else do that. Secondly was the scene where Drunken Cat sucks the poison from Golden Swallow's chest. The shot was done in my opinion with a hint of sexuality in it. Now again by today's standards it could've been shown on a children's show. In 1966 however, I would think that it would have definately been viewed as much more.

The acting was fine nothing too remarkable. Cheng Pei-pei was the highlight in that department. For those that don't know, she was the villianess in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Overall this film may seem outdated to you, but I think it's good to see how it all began. This is not King Hu's best work in my opinion. So I would sugest seeking out some of his later work as well. While not the greatest, this still should be seen by fan's of the genre.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/12/2003
Summary: Ordinary!!

Unfortunalty i agree with the review below me and at the bottom. This movie does seem dated.

I guess in it's time it was great but the japanese samurai style fighting (basically people being killed off with one sword blow) is not very entertaining.

The one thing going for it is Yuan Hua's character, though it seemed out of place.

Once it was great but now it is just another movie


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/30/2003
Summary: Charming but very dated and looks pretty bad now....

Hmmm, charming in ways but very dated in filming techniques and fights. Pretty bad looking now actually although not without it's appeal. Obviously it is a cinematic landmark and an interesting watch, but don't expect something like Clans of Intrigue which holds up pretty well now.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/11/2003
Summary: The one that started it all

This is the movie that started it all, the watershed wu xia movie in Hong Kong to which pretty much all the kung fu and wire fu movies owe a debt. King Hu was the visionary director who introduced this new style of movie making to the world, and Come Drink With Me is the movie where he first did it.

Such an important movie in HK history was clearly going to be one of the jewels in Celestial Pictures' remastered Shaw Brothers series, and indeed it was chosen as the flagship title - a restored print did a small tour of the world to build up interest in the catalog and secure distribution. The DVD was one of the first released, and is a very nice package with beautiful picture and sound quality, great subtitling and an interesting set of interviews. After so many years it's great to see the movie looking and sounding so good.

Come Drink With Me begins with a group of bandits attacking a government party and capturing an official, who they hope to use as a hostage exchange for their leader, currently in prison. The government sends out an agent to negotiate the deal, the legendary swordsman Golden Swallow. Golden Swallow is played wonderfully by a young Cheng Pei Pei, in the "woman dressed as a man" character that would become a regular wuxia feature. They first meet in an inn that strongly resembles that from Dragon Inn (1992), where they engage in a battle of words and martial arts prowess that leaves the bandits in no doubt that Golden Swallow is not about to let them get away with their plans.

Like seemingly all King Hu movies, the plot is layered and intricately woven, full of intrigue and politics and power plays. There's always more going on than meets the eye. It manages this without being at all difficult to follow though, unlike many of its imitators and successors.

Come Drink With Me is full of colourful characters, such as the cheerful bandit Smiling Tiger or the singing drunken beggar played by Yueh Hua. Without a doubt the movie belongs to Cheng Pei Pei though, who is beautiful, graceful, fierce and proud, and a tremendous fighter. It's easy to see why audiences loved her, and her character left such a lasting influence on the wu xia movie.

The production values in the movie are very high, with beautiful sets, locations and costumes and very nice cinematography. King Hu's skillful camera work is legendary, and the imagery is not as memorable as the imagery in Hu's later work such as A Touch Of Zen it is still of very high quality and way above its peers.

The action scenes are probably the main legacy that Come Drink With Me left behind it though. As all the interviews on the disc agree, Hu's approach to choreographing and filming the sword fights raised the bar of Hong Kong martial arts movies to unparalleled levels, and really started the 'fight scene as art form' philosophy that would quickly come to be the defining characteristic of the colony's cinema. By todays standards there is no question that the fight scenes look slow and crude, and are a long way from the grace and beauty that the wu xia movie would eventually achieve under directors such as Tsui Hark and Ching Siu Tung (who has a small part in the movie as a child actor!). However, many of the cinematic styles and techniques were making their first appearance in this movie, so it is fascinating to see them and imagine how exciting they must have been to audiences at the time. The image of Cheng Pei Pei with her twin short swords is one that will linger in the memory for some time even now.

Come Drink With Me had quite a reputation to live up to, and the difficulty a keen viewer had in seeing it until now doubtless enhanced that. Probably there will be many viewers that wonder what all the fuss was about, but I think few could dispute that it is a well crafted movie even without considering its historical importance. As is obligatory with any King Hu review though, I do have to point out that it is not as good as A Touch Of Zen

Recommended viewing, and if you're interested in checking out some of Celestial Pictures' new remastered Shaw Brothers, Come Drink With Me may well be the best place to start.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 12/13/2002

The Jade Faced Tiger (Chen Hung Lieh), leads his mountain gang to capture a government official's son (Wong Chung). The Jade Faced Tiger and his gang have plans to use the governor's son as bait to get their leader back in an exchange. The Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei), a renown swordsman (in fact a woman!), arrives in town to get her brother back at any cost but finds out the task is tough. Luckily for her, a nosy drunkard named Fan Ta Pei aka Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua) is always at the scene to lend a helping hand. Ultimately, the Golden Swallow is able to rescue her brother, but when a nemesis (Yang Chih Hing) of Fan Ta Pei’s past appears on the scene, the Drunken Cat must do away with his sympathies and realize its kill or be killed.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 09/12/2001

In this much-acclaimed swordplay epic, a group of bandits kidnap the governor's son, demanding their clan brother be released in turn for the release of the gov's son. Golden Swallow enters the bandits' world in search for his brother, the governor's son, and in hope to bring the evil-doers to justice. However, the task isn't as easy as Golden Swallow had hoped, and to accomplish it she needs the help of an old drunk, who also posesses a complicated identity. In the end it's the usual "good guys win, bad guys die" scenerio.

Come Drink With Me introduced the beautiful Cheng Pei Pei to the world & made an instant star out of her. It is directed by mega veteran King Hu, that being why it was so widely acclaimed. I do feel that it is somewhat overrated. The pacing is terribly slow, especially during action settings. A group of bandits can surround Golden Swallow for 3 minutes, all holding their swords, without a single move. Such creates tension and suspense, but can result in a LOT of fast-forwarding for the viewer; it is also a reference to many of King's other movies, most noticeble being Dragon Gate Inn, which actually had better swordplay. Speaking of swordplay, I guess I'm pretty much used to the lack of skills from the cast and directors. Just keep in mind that you're watching a movie from 35 years ago, when wire was nearly unheard of. But if only some wire was used to ENHANCE the fight scenes like I had hoped before laying my eyes on the old school films of this era and disappointed more than ever...

Now, Cheng Pei Pei; she is something special. The scene when she first arrives in town, wearing a large traditional Chinese hat & sitting in the inn seems identical to Brigitte Lin in Tsui Hark's Dragon Inn. In fact, my guess would be that Cheng Pei Pei was one of Brigitte's influences. Their natural appearances are quite similar, too, especially with that hat... you really couldn't tell who was who without careful examination had those 2 fine ladies been placed in the same room.


Reviewer Score: 6