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蛇鶴八步 (1978)
Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/20/2010

By the late '70s Lo Wei had all but given up on molding former stuntman Jackie Chan into the hotheaded filmmaker's new cash cow and began to farm the pigeonholed martial artist out to other directors. For "Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin" Chen Chi Hwa simply allowed Jackie Chan to be Jackie Chan; a gratuity repeatedly denied by Lo in their preceding collaborations that usually found Chan cast under duress as a quasi Bruce Lee. And while this is Jackie Chan as we know him today in his infancy the net result is a small step in the right direction.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 04/11/2009
Summary: The final time for a serious Chan...

Eight masters put aside their differences and converge to create a style that can dominate all others. Mysteriously though, the masters all disappear and the martial world is thrown back into turmoil while people search for the book that holds the secrets of the Snake and Crane Arts. Hsu Yin-Fung (Jackie Chan) appears in a small town and rumors start to fly that he is the holder of the manual. After a few encounters, Hsu carelessly lets the book fall into plain view, confirming the ideas of men looking for the secret. Soon he is being challenged at every turn, defeating each, but looking for one master in particular. It turns out that Hsu rescued one of the masters after the group was attacked and killed by a cloaked master with a mole on his shoulder. Hsu has intentionally shown his hand in order to draw the culprit out into the open and destroy him for revenge. With the help of a young pickpoket (Yellow Pearl) and the flute-yielding Tang Ping-Er (Nora Miao), Hsu battles all-comers until he finally meets up with the original assassin.

Snake and Crane Arts was the end of an initial career that saw Lo Wei trying to showcase him as a successor to Bruce Lee. His role of Hsu was largely dramatic, but there are flashes of the comedic touch that would propel Jackie to the top of the movie world in later films. For the most part though, Chan plays the straight man to Lee Man-Tai and Miu Tak-San, making the comedy less than stellar. There are also some of Chan's trademark martial arts style that would make him so popular. You can tell that for the most part, other than his semi-final fight with the Hsiang West brothers, he has to slow his movements down to match his opponents. It's unfortunate and degrades the overall choreography a bit. Nora Miao is a real standout though and wields her flute with speed and precision. Its obvious that she had a fair amount of training for her role. Kam Kong, Chan's final opponent, is very powerful but lacks the speed to match Chan and bring the fight to the next level. For the most part though the movie is fun and has enough better than average fights to move it into the realm of recommendable. What is more interesting though is the fact that Chan was about to be lent to Seasonal Films for a two picture deal under the wing of Yuen Wo-Ping, together creating the classic Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master. The rest, as they say, is history.


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 09/24/2008
Summary: I still don't GET it...

Eight masters of Shaolin mysteriously disappear, apparently taking the secrets of the hybrid “Snake and Crane” style of kung fu with them. When Hsu Ying-Fung (Chan) is seen carrying a book entitled “The Eight Steps of the Snake and Crane”, all manner of interested parties show up wanting the book for themselves.

SNAKE AND CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN is seen by many as a bit of a “bridge” in Jackie’s oeuvre, from his straight-faced films with Lo Wei to the comedic films that would make him a star. What strikes me looking at the film now is the difference in tone between the action scenes (choreographed by Chan) and the rest of the film (directed by Chen Chi-Hwa, who would go on to direct Chan’s full-on comedy HALF A LOAF OF KUNG FU). While the action scenes are quite light and sometimes overtly comic, the rest of the film is drowned in its own seriousness.

The film is a confusing tale of gangs and individuals who all want Jackie’s book, and it would probably have worked better as a farce, instead of this attempt at drama and intrigue. I’ve seen this one perhaps half a dozen times now and I still have trouble working out who wants to do what to whom and why. It all adds up to a bit of a disappointing mess, in truth, although not as bad as some of Jackie’s other films for Lo Wei.

The action scenes are ridiculously plentiful – this is one of the most action packed films I’ve ever seen. While this sounds like a recommendation, it all gets a bit much after a while and ends up like: meet, fight, talk, fight, meet someone else, fight, talk, get betrayed by former friend, fight, fight, talk, meet someone else, fight them for no reason, talk, fight etc, etc. Also, I was amused that the martial arts shown in the opening title sequence (as usual, against a red backdrop in a studio) have no relevance to the film.

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m never going to like SNAKE AND CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN all that much, despite being frequently referred to as one of the better films Jackie made under Lo Wei. It’s too draining on both the eyes and the noggin, and the 96 minute running time becomes more like an endurance test than entertainment.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: steve_cole1
Date: 05/08/2007

average film average fights laughable dubbing (if you have eastern heroes version)
watch only if have to see every JC film

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 05/03/2005
Summary: A transitional film for Jackie

Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin is mostly known for being a transitional movie for Jackie. He did not play the grim Bruce Lee archetype that Lo Wei tried to mold in him, but was the start of a comedic and lighter hero for Chan. Snake and Crane was a box office failure in Hong Kong, but it got Jackie recognition in Hong Kong. It also showcased his increased intricate and atypical fight choreography with an increase of humor and props.

There is really much to like in this film. Chen Chi-hwa (Half a Loaf of Kung Fu) did an excellent job of direction with beautiful wide-screen shots of gorgeous scenery and elaborate placement of camera position. I wish he directed more films. Jackie's choreographed fight scenes are also very good. Like many of the martial art films of this time, the plot is the rub. Though I did like the first half of the plot.

The film starts with Jackie displaying his various knowledge of weapons including the spear (I cannot believe they lifted music from Monty Python and the Holy Grail for this scene.) The aerobatic display that Chan does (along with others) is far superior to any martial art action done later in the film.

Jackie stars as Su Yin Fong, a sarcastic and most excellent Kung Fu practitioner who has possession of the book "The Eight Steps of the Snake and Crane." A manual of techniques that was thought, along with the Dragon Spear, to be in the possession of Master Lin. It was created and collaborated by eight masters of Shaolin who mysteriously vanished. Or did they? Being in possession of such a prize and openly flaunting it, Su finds himself the target of many ruffians. He is jumped by the Ting Brothers while fishing. He is attacked by the Wu Tang Clan while eating. Later he is attacked by various members of the Black Dragon Clan, Beggar Clan and the Flying Tiger Clan. His only ally is Fong Sie Pin of the Ere May Clan who killed Lady Suon and her minion after Jackie Chan had already defeated them.

Su is also looking for a shoulder-scarred man. He will not let anything stop him from this goal. This includes advances from Tang Pin Nhur (Nora Miao) and her offering of a treasured golden peacock! Now that is a lot of fortitude (or else he is eunuch.) Nora actually has some decent fight scenes in this film. But the plot winds down with too many obvious turns (like who the shoulder-scarred man is and what happened to the Shaolin monks.)

I do feel like this film is worth watching. In addition to the beautiful photography and the actors I have mentioned there are great characters like Lu Lo Qui (with his cursing match against Su), Hong Tu (Gam Ching Lan) who is a pretty petite female pretending to be a male, and Chien Tse (Kam Kong.) If only the plot was stronger (and possibly Lo Wei had less influence on the story) then this film would be mentioned more often and I could create a more cohesive critique. But for historical purposes it will always have its place as a transitional movie in Jackie Chan's illustrious career.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/04/2003
Summary: Oh dear, lets not go here...

This is pants, rubbish fights, monotonous story, and well, it's just pants! Don't bother.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/16/2002
Summary: A better Lo Wei

This is one of the last old Jackie Chan movies I need to reveiw I think, but nothing more special than the average 70's movies he was in. I have just wathced this again before reveiwing, to to keep it clear in my mind. The version I have is unsubtitled, and in Mandarin. Unlike Cantonese, I don't understand any Mandarin, so I had to work out a lot of it in my mind. Still, from what I saw, there is nothing much to understand, as it's quite obvious what is going on most of the time.

A slightly better attempt at a kung fu movie by Lo Wei, but the standard in movie is only slightly better than his worst ones. So, if you happen to find it and think about watching it, I could recommend a lot more. However, there are definitaly worst ones out there.

This martial arts movies packs a lot more realistic fighting scenes into it, unlike the slower obviously faked fight movies. It's about a man (played by Jackie) who steels a book from a temple about the Shaolin styles of Snake & Crane. The temples send several people after him in order to get it back. It's actually not that bad once it gets going.

All in all like I said, it's nothing special, so don't rush to see it.

Rating: 3/5

(This rating is based on the years release & genre, it's not being compared to movies made before or afterwards)

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

The _Esseintial Guide To Hong Kong Movies" says this is "without doubt the best Jackie Chan period film as far as showcasing his martial arts is concerned...".

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

When the Shaolin Masters have just perfected a new style of kung fu they are brutally killed by someone. Chan flaunts the manual to this technique in order to flush out the murderer. In the process he must contend with many others who desire the book. Eventually he locates the killer and must put to use the "Eight Steps of the Snake and Crane" in order to extract his revenge. Plenty of kung fu in this fairly routine tale of revenge.


[Reviewed by Dave Warner]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A warrior is unjustly accused of the murder of a number ofShaolin masters and is pursued by warriors, but has to survive long enough to prove his innocence. Another fast-paced and enjoyable Jackie Chan adventure.


[Reviewed by Elliot's Guide to Films on Video]