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K (1978)
Drunken Master

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/20/2006
Summary: Great Stuff

Hot on the heels of Seasonal Films’ Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master was released in the same year and with largely the same cast.

The film’s premise is one that perhaps needs a little explaining to fully grasp the originality. Until Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Kung Fu films had been largely devoid of humour, and any attempt at trying to be funny was looked down upon quite severely. In fact, Lo Wei shelved Jackie’s film “Half a Loaf of Kung Fu” saying that it was disrespectful to martial arts. However, after Snake and Drunken Master became hits, he suddenly decided it wasn’t disrespectful anymore and released it – becoming a hit and making Lo Wei a fair amount of money in the process. Funny, that!

So the premise of showing the greatest folk hero in Chinese folklore (Wong Fei-Hung) as being a naughty youngster was quite a gamble. Until now, the subject of Wong Fei-Hung had been treated with only the highest reverence, and things could have backfired quite severely.

Fortunately, people took Drunken Master in the spirit it was intended, and another Jackie had another big hit on his hands.

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint why this film is better than its predecessor. Maybe it’s the script, or it could be the great use of the Wong Fei-Hung theme tune (On the General’s Command), or any number of other factors. But the fact is that Drunken Master remains the archetypal Kung Fu comedy, and should be seen by all.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 08/04/2005
Summary: Classic Martial Art Film

After the local success of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Seasonal Studios decided to follow it up with another kung fu comedy. The new film would use much of the same plot, director (Yuen Woo-Ping), actors and of course Jackie Chan. The difference would be an irreverent look at the growing up of the legendary Wong Fei-Hung a famous herbalist, teacher, physician and kung fu practitioner of Hung Gar. This character has been portrayed in a plethora of films and would continue to be though for many this character is synonymous with Kwan Tak-Hing and the original series of around 80 films he portrayed him in. According to Jackie, “...rather than show him as a heroic adult, we would explore what he was like as a young man before he grew into his legend – lazy, naive, ignorant, and rebellious.” This humanizing of a legend, immensely popular in Chinese culture, allowed people to relate to this story and it was a gigantic hit. It is one of my favorite Kung Fu comedies and along with Fist of Fury (American title: The Chinese Connection) one of the most beloved of the Hong Kong Kung Fu films.

Jackie stars as Wong Fei-Hung a troublesome teenager who cannot please his father, the venerable Wong Chi-Ying (played by the venerable Lam Kau who seems more like his dad than Ti Lung in Drunken Master II), the master of the Po Chi Lam studio and clinic. He goofs off, picks on Dean Shek (in a very familiar role) and attacks his Aunt. The fight scene where he takes on actress Linda Ling Ying (unknowingly his Aunt at the time) is excellent because of her flexibility and martial art skill. Too bad it is so short. But this confrontation and other misgivings eventually leads to Chi-Ying hiring Su Hua-Chi to train, a nomadic and curmudgeon man who has been rumored to maim and destroy his students. Hua-Chi was played by Simon Yuen Siu-Tin, the director’s father, who was unfortunately nearing the end of his career though rising in local popularity. He brought a sadistic yet comedic touch to the role of the elder master of the drunken style.

Wong did not want to train under such a wicked man, so he ran away from home. Unfortunately, Su saved him from a massive beating after Jackie could not pay for the food he ate at a restaurant. Fei Hung later realized that the old beggar who saved him was the old man who was supposed to torture and school him in the martial arts. Wong did not like the initial training so he ran away after tricking Sifu Su into a water container. While trying to dry his clothes he ran into Thunderleg (the awesome Korean kicker Hwang Jang-Lee) who mercilessly beat him and made him crawl between his legs for being impertinent and not leaving his dingy area. This upset him, but what angered him the most (this seemed funny) was that he burnt his clothes. After being destroyed physically and emotionally he went back to Master Su to train some more.

Like many of the earlier Kung Fu films Chan’s training sequences are awesome to behold. Jackie being in excellent shape and having masochistic tendencies brought on from his younger days under Yu Jim-Yuen, would be tortured by Sifu Su by being his puppet, doing upside down sit-ups while bringing small water cups from barrels below to barrels above and a variety of evil exercises to get him into excellent shape. Though Kung Fu columnist Ric Meyers has stated that the training scenes, and other scenes from this film especially the beginning fight scene between Thunderleg and Chen Kuo-Wei, were originally a lot longer and that the original print has possibly been lost, several critics think he is confused by similar scenes in Snake in Eagle's Shadow.

All of this training was so Wong Fei Hung could learn the secret of the Eight Drunken Gods: The God Lu – the drunkard with internal strength. The God Li – a drunken cripple with a powerful right leg. The God Fat Han – a drunkard holding a pot in his hands. The God Lan – a drunk with a deadly waist attack. The God Chang – the drunk with the swift double kick. The God Tso – he has a powerful throat lock. The God Han – A drunken flute player with powerful wrists. And the God Miss Ho – a drunken woman flaunting her body. Wong learnt all of these fluently, while being inebriated, (along with the snake and crane forms he already knew) except the Miss Ho forms which he felt was sissy, though in later films Jackie would have no problems fighting as a woman --Young Master.

All of the training, scenery and Cantonese comedy is fun to watch, but the main reason most people love this film is because of the awesomely choreographed and directed martial art scenes. The highlight is the sublime showdown with Thunderleg. It is Chan’s Drunken style versus Hwang’s Tae Kwon Do (Jackie calls this his fourth favorite fight scene in “I am Jackie Chan.”) Hwang’s use of the “Devil’s Kick” and the “Devil’s Shadowless Hands” is superb with his adroitness. I also like the fight scene with the Bamboo King (Hsu Hsia) and, well, just about all of them and there is a lot in this nonstop action film and yes I even like the scrap with Bolo lookalike Lee Chun-Wa.

This film was so successful that it helped ignite Jackie’s career (made him 50,000 HK dollars) and gave more recognition to Yuen Woo-Ping whose contribution to this film is Titanic. Drunken Master influenced many future HK films (of course Drunken Master’s plot was not original either) and helped HK get over it post-Bruce recession. This film also influenced directors such as Quentin Tarantino who made his actors on Kill Bill watch scenes from this movie. It is also responsible for another great martial art film – its sequel. Though the irony is that this film was only initially seen in grindhouse theaters and occasionally mentioned in martial art magazines; it was not seen as much by western audiences until its sequel Legend of Drunken Master (Drunken Master II) came out to world-wide acclaim.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/25/2003
Summary: Still entertaining

Youc an see where Jackie Chan developed his now famous action comedies. The action is fast and very watchable (though at times a bit long) but the problem with my viewing was the dvd i saw, the sound alternated between dubbed english and chinese, and the Dvd jumped/skipped a few times. So i guess my judgement of this movie is tainted.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/25/2003

Chan stars as Wong Fei-Hung, a hot-headed teenager who loves to fight. After screwing around in his dad's school, Fei-Hung is sent to train with his crazy uncle, who is known for crippling his students. Fei-Hung promptly runs away, but after being beat and humiliated by a thug, he comes back to his uncle to begin his training in earnest.

Drunken Master was Chan's second big hit (the first being Snake in the Eagle's Shadow), and it was the first Chan movie to fully integrate the comedy and kung fu genres. It still holds up quite well today. The comedic bits (especially the ones involving Fei-Hung's crazy uncle) are pretty funny, and the fights are staged well, though not quite up to the level of some of Chan's later films. Worth checking out, but beware of the many shoddy copies floating about.

Reviewed by: SteelwireMantis
Date: 08/23/2003
Summary: One of Chan's best movies ever!!!

After the surprise success of 'Snake in the Eagle's Shadow', Ng Seen Yuen hired Chan from Lo Wei once again to make a comic spoof about the legendary Wong Fei-Hung.

Wong Fei-Hung (Chan) is always landing into trouble and his arrogance only looks for even more trouble. Being the son of Wong Ki-Ying, he reckons he is the best martial artist in his town. When he tries to molest a girl, her mother beats him in public, which then leads him inot another fight with the son of a rival master. After beating him he goes home and discovers that the old lady that beat him in the market was his auntie. After being fed up with his sons behaviour, he is sent to be trained by Su Yat Chi (Yuen Siu Tien), an old kung fu master famous for crippling his students. After escaping from his training camp, Fei-Hung runs into an assassin (Hwang Jang Lee) who beats the crap out of him. Fei-Hung returns to Su and learns the art of the 8 Drunken Fairies to face the assassin again.

Like many of Yuen Woo-Ping's films, this is an old school gem. The fights are well choreographed, the acting is good, and the comedy is hillarious. Chan and Yuen Siu Tien expand on their master-student chemistry shown in 'SITES', where as Hwang Jang Lee steals the show as the best performer out of all the cast with his impessive kicking style, although Chan gets to add a bit of comedy into the fights which he was given privilege to help choreograph. It is a truly enjoyable movie which won't disappoint.

One of the best old-school Chan flicks, 'Drunken Master' remains a classic in every way.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/26/2003

The old school classic that helped launch Jackie Chan into superstardom "Drunken Master" is the fraternal twin of "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow" but with tighter choreography and better direction.

The script casts legendary nationalist Wong Fei-hung during his formative years who Chan plays for laughs as a mischievous brat.

Following a prank gone awry which inadvertently involves Wong's aunt and beautiful cousin the gung fu delinquent finds himself under the tutelage of his uncle, Beggar So (Simon Yuen), master of drunken fist boxing.

"Drunken Master" topped the massive earnings of its predecessor (the aforementioned "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow," released earlier that year) and ultimately ended Jackie Chan's career in chop sockey quickies and Bruce Lee rip-offs and is easily Chan's best film prior to joining Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest Studios in 1980.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/23/2002
Summary: Top Kung Fu film. Buy

Good Story, hilarious comedy, great fights, and highly amusing characters. Watch it, you'll love it.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/03/2002

A below average old school kung fu comedy, which is not to say this movie isn't good--It's quite good actually--it's just that the bar for this kind of movie is quite high too.

With the exception of Magnificent Butcher, all old school kung fu comedies had really crappy beginnings, and this one has the best example yet: slow pacing, a lot of now-silly moments and Jackie Chan doing the worst action I've ever seen him doing. It does get better though, thankfully. It's always nice to see how he originally learned the Drunken techniques. Drunken Master 2, the sequel, is better than this original in every way, especially action-wise. The 2 movies have barely anything in common.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Jackie Chan at his BEST

My all time favorite Jackie Chan, Martial Arts, and alltime favorite MOVIE! This is just my opinion though, and is probably because it was the first HK movie I ever saw, all those years ago. It left a lasting impression on me, and whenever I watch his 60 or so movies, I always have to compare them in my mind to this.

Martial arts and comedy finally came together great for the first time in Drunken Master. This is a classic, it really is. Jackie has done close to 80 movies I reckon, and all the ones I've seen (most of them), this is his best.

My rating (out of 5): 5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewed by: Ryoga
Date: 12/24/2001

Very good film! Jackie is a foolish Wong Fei Hong who gets into all sorts of trouble. He ends up getting beat up by Hwang Jang Lee and now learns Drunken Boxing!

Reviewed by: DrunkenMonkey
Date: 12/12/2001
Summary: Jackie Chan's First Hit

Finally, in 1978, Jackie Chan was out on the reach of Lo Wei buttery hands. Following his hit, he made this film: the broke-all-Hong Kong-box-office-records film, "Drunken Master". Jackie is a young, mischievious Wong Fei-hung, who is taken to his uncle, Sam Seed (the wonderful Siu Tien Yuen) to learn Drunken Fist. Very good, suprisingly good for such an early Chan film.

Reviewed by: dragyn
Date: 03/24/2001
Summary: Kung Fu Comedy To Die For

Up until 1978, Chan made movies for Lo Wei Studios, and although he churned out movie after movie, he never had a single hit. Then his boss loaned him out to another studio, Seasonal Films, and he had two hits straight off. These hits came in the shape of "Snake In The Eagle's Shadow" and "Drunken Master", and they were made under the direction of the now legendary Yuen Woo Ping, who went on to choreograph the fight scenes in films such as "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

Both "Snake In The Eagle's Shadow" and "Drunken Master" broke a seemingly unbreakable mould. Since Bruce Lee's death in 1973, the Hong Kong movie industry had been searching for a new Bruce Lee, and as yet, no one had been able to fill his shoes. Chan himself had been shoe-horned into those shoes many times, and they didn't fit him either. He wanted to be famous for being the first Jackie Chan - not the next Bruce Lee. The only way he would be able to do it would be to come out with a comletely new style of Kung Fu movie - as different from Lee's distinctive style as possible.

With his two films with Seasonal Films, he finally realised his goal. He created a unique blend of action and comedy that had never been seen before. Hong Kong audiences saw him as Jackie Chan for the first time, as apposed to Jackie Chan trying to be Bruce Lee.

So "Drunken Master" is important because it is the movie that broke a mould no one though would be broken. It is also important because it is one of the finest Kung Fu movies ever made. The plot is as flimsy as can be expected, but Chan himself shines throughout, delivering his now trademark comedy scenes with ease, and his fight scenes with even greater ease.

The legendary end fight sees the rubbery Chan pitted against the awesome kicking talent of Korean Teakwondo exponenent Hwang Jang Lee. Chan is elastic, fast, and funny - unbeatable!

"Drunken Master" is now considered to be a true classic; the yardstick by which every other Kung Fu movie us measured.


Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Jackie Chan's original irreverent take on the "Wong Fei Hong" legend... Jackie beats up another guy's son. Other guy hires assassin to kill Jackie and his father. In between, and leading up to the final showdown with the assassin are a series of wonderful training sequences and misadventures as Jackie gets whipped into fighting shape by the unorthodox old drunkard who happens to be the one living master of the 8 Drunken Styles... A true classic, and still enjoyable to watch today.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This is a classic from 1978. Those great, cheesy sound effects that you made fun of when you were little (move a finger and here the windushing type stuff) had to be my favorite part of the movie. Or was it the extremely bad soundtrack? Seriously, Jackie Chan does some kick ass work in this film. The plot is.....well, the plot is not the main focus of this movie, and it shows. What this film has is one fight after another after another, and they are all great! The training sequences are even cool. If Jackie would stick to more kung fu oriented films like this and Drunken Master II, I would be a huge fan. He has the skills and the acting ability, but instead chooses to do his own car stunts or boat stunts or falling stunts; who says you can't fall all over the place in a kung fu flick, if falling is so important to him? Argh, I just see so much more potential.


[Reviewed by Dale Whitehouse]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A student learns a style of combat in this martial arts movie of enjoyable but uninspired action.


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

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Jackie Chan plays Wong Fei Hong (a decade before Jet Li), in thismovie an idle layabout who isn't conscientious enough to learn his father's style properly. After various defeats, he is sent to become the pupil of a "drunken style" kung fu master, a short, sadistic beggar. Although a little plain by today's standards, this is a classic kung fu film and a classic Jackie Chan film, with comedy and quite authentic martial arts sequences. There is some minimal continuity with the sequel.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

I believe the beggar's name (at least in the movie) was So Hak Yee (Hak Yee being "Beggar") so the beggar was actually the famous Beggar So!

[Reviewed by Jay Fong]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Jackie Chan is spectacular in this witty, fast-paced assemblage of fight scenes linked by the flimsiest of plots. Baddie Li Man-Hao has hired a nearly invincible kung-fu hitman to push Huang Fei-Hong (Jackie) and his father from their coal-rich land. Blaring music, chop-socky sound effects, and brilliant martial arts scenes make this an experience not to be missed.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7