Snake in the Monkey's Shadow (1979)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2009-07-26
Summary: Just not quite up to par....
Snake in the Monkey's Shadow is a clear attempt to capitalize on the success of Jackie Chans' "Snake in Eagle's Shadow." John Cheung plays Lung, a young man who is beaten and humiliated by the sons of a wealthy business man. Deciding he had had enough, he tries to get admitted to a local Drunken Boxing school run by Teacher Ho (Hau Chiu-Sing) but is only allowed to stay in the capacity of a servant. Eventually he begins to learn the style by watching and mimicking what he sees, and it's not until the two sons come along that he is able to demonstrate what he is capable of. However, in the same encounter, Teacher Ho beats the father (Tong Tin-Hei) rather soundly, and as we all know, people that take beatings in kung fu films hold serious grudges and will do anything to get revenge. The father hires two assassins (Charlie Chan and Wilson Tong) and Snake Style practitioners to kill teacher Ho and they succeed, but not before Lung escapes. He runs into Koo Ting Sang (Pomson Shi), master of the Monkey Style, who teaches Lung enough to combine the Drunken and Monkey style into one unstoppable force and exact revenge.

Being that this film is so similar to the highly superior "Snake in Eagle's Shadow," it's hard to give this a great rating. In my opinion, John Cheung just isn't quite good enough to carry a leading role in a kung fu film. He is quite big and doesn't posses the explosive speed or power of some of the other leading men of the time. His kung fu is good, but still not at the level it should be to make him appear as a master. In some regards, the same can be said for Hau Chiu-Sing as Teacher Ho. His drunken boxing, when paired up with a good partner, i.e. Wilson Tong, is great and makes his battle with Tong and Chan one of the best in the film. When he fights against a lesser skilled actor, the choreography gets much more telegraphed and slow. Of course, this relates to something I've never quite understood about Wilson Tong - how he was never made a leading man when he clearly outshines most of his opponents while he is in a supporting role. His kung fu ability was probably top 5 in Hong Kong during the 70s. Granted he was a prominent choreographer, but he had the style to headline a film. One of the big topics surrounding this film was the oft-cut scene of a real fight between a monkey and a cobra. As bad as it sounds, nothing really terrible happens here, other than the fact that the monkey is put in harm's way. It is interesting to see how the monkey evades the cobra's strikes though, and one starts to see some elements of the Monkey Style. As far as I could tell the Monkey does not get bit. No one seems to care about the cobra though.
One final note, the overused Wong Fei-Hung theme is prominent throughout, as is the main theme from "Enter the Dragon". Apparently copyright enforcement was not up to par in 70s Hong Kong.

6/10
Reviewer Score: 6