Drunken Master (Kong Kong 1978)
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen (Siu Tien Yuen), Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek, Casanova Wong
Drunken Master was Jackie ChanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s breakthrough film along with Snake in the Eagles Shadow. Both films are directed by Yuen Woo Ping, and also feature the same main cast. Many actors are have very similiar roles in both films. In Dunken Master Chan plays young Wong Fei Hung who has to spent a year practising kung-fu as an punishment for bad behavior. His master is a sadistic old man (Simon Yuen) with a long reputation for crippling his students.
Wong Fei Hung is actually a real person, a chinese national hero. I think thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s has been more than 100 movies about him (including Jet LiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Once Upon a Time in China). As thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not much information about the real Wong Fei Hung, the movies of him are mostly fiction. The name of the character is probably the only link between the real Wong Fei Hung and this film.
As previously mentioned many of the actors that were in Snake are also in Drunken Master. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually pretty cool and I wish they had done more films together. Many actors have very similiar roles in these films (for example Jang Lee Hwang) but also many have the opposite roles. ChanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s character is no more a sympathetic loser, instead heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a mischievous young man. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kind of a bad thing but on the other hand it makes this film different and interesting. The best thing in Drunken Master is definitely Simon Yuen. His performance as a mean and sadistic kung-fu teacher is simply awesome. The character he plays is without a doubt one of the most memorable ones in martial arts movie history. Jang Lee Hwang is pretty good as a villain, but mostly because of his physical ability. 95% of his on-screen time is about fighting. Unlike many other old school films, Drunken Master doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feature a single irritating character.
The action scenes are excellent. The fight choreography is top notch, especially at the end of the movie. Training scenes are cool, but not as good as the ones in seen Snake in the Eagles Shadow. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mostly because Snake had a mind blowing soundtrack to accompany those scenes. But the soundtrack of Drunken Master is by no means bad. It works well and also features the famous Wong Fei Hung theme music. The comedy scenes are pretty funny, too. Overall Drunken Master is not only one of ChanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best films but also one of the best films of the whole genre. I personally prefer it to the exellent sequel Drunken Master 2 (also known as Legend of the Drunken Master). This film has a timeless mix of action, humour and memorable characters.
The DVD: Columbia R1 vs. Mei Ah R0
Mei Ah provides a really good transfer. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not on the level of Celestials dvds but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not too far from it. Considering the age of the film this is an excellent presentation. Columbia also surprises with their good transfer. I think Mei Ah is a bit better, but ColumbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s transfer is very good, too . Both dvds are anamorphic (2.35:1).
Both soundtracks are incomplete. ColumbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dvd uses the english dub for damaged dialogue scenes. Mei Ah uses mandarin dub for those scenes. For some reason Mei Ah has re-dubbed the first scene and the voice sounds totally different (modern and clean) that the original soundtrack (old and worn-out). I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be sure about this but it looks like both dvds occasionally use the english dub for sound effects like Ã¢â‚¬?ArghÃ¢â‚¬? and so on. This is the most disturbing thing in both dvds. These sound effects are irritating and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit together with the original voices. Both dvds are equally bad when it comes to this matter.
ColumbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dvd features the Ã¢â‚¬?uncutÃ¢â‚¬? version ot the film. The film was originally longer but some material has destroyed and isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t available in any dvd release. Mei AhÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s version is cut in two ways. First comes the dialogue scenes. When thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a scene with incomplete soundtrack, a yellow logo appears in the top right corner. If you press enter the scene will start from the beginning with mandarin dub. If you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t press enter the dvd will skip that scene. There is no way to stop that logo appearing, not even it you watched the whole film with madarin soundtrack. ColumbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dvd simply changes between the different language tracks which is much more preferrable.
Mei Ah has also, for some reason, cut a second off here and there. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how much cuts there are in totall, I just happened to notice a couple of them by accident. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also possible that these are just different versions of the film but either way columbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬?completeÃ¢â‚¬? version is much better.
Mei Ah is quite poor in extars. Just data bank and a useless collage of scenes. Columbia features trailers for other release and an audio commentary by Ric Meyers.
Both dvdÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s have a great picture quality and equally terrible soundtrack. Mei AhÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mandarin dub makes a bit more sense (this being a chinese film) than ColumbiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s english dub but it really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t much better. The Ã¢â‚¬?cutsÃ¢â‚¬? on Mei Ah dvd make that dvd hard to recommed. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a UK release by HKL but that is both cropped (to 1.85:1) and dubbed (mandarin). HKL might re-release this film as a 2 disc platinum edition, but there hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been any official announcement. Right now Columbia seems to be the best choice.
Mei Ah: 2/10
Image comparison (note, it’s not exactly the same frame):
Mei Ah (logo and subtitle sample)