Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin (1978)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2009-04-11
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