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Issue #182a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES October 20th, 2003

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
(1978; Seasonal Film Corporation)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Se ying diu sau
Mandarin: She xing diao shou
English: Snake Form Tricky Hand

Alternate English Title: Eagle's Shadow

A surprise box office hit that helped to establish Jackie Chan's new persona, this terrific period kung fu comedy is an excellent vehicle for the fighting and performing styles of Chan and genre favorite Simon Yuen Siu-tien. Shang Kuan I-yun (Hwang Jang-li) has used his deadly eagle claw technique to wipe out almost all the proponents of the Snake Fist style, save for the lazy master Pai Chang-tien (Yuen, in his patented "Ol' Dirty Bastard" persona). Put-upon orphan Chien Fu (Chan) saves Pai's life one day and, as a reward, the old sifu instructs him in some Snake Fist style basics. When Pai is attacked and gravely injured by two Eagle Claw assassins, Chien nurses him back to health and, in return, the old man teaches him everything he needs to know about the Snake Fist. Although Pai orders him not to use his skills in public, Chien disobeys and is observed by Shang Kuan. However, when he sees his cat kill a cobra, Chien creates an even deadlier technique that mixes snake with a new cat's claw style.

Some of the comedy is extremely broad but the proceedings are consistently engaging and the fight sequences are meticulously choreographed by director Yuen Woo-ping and Hsu Hsia (who also appears as one of the villains). Only one complaint: considering the skills of the antagonists, the final battle is disappointingly short. In light of the film's success, Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen, and Yuen Woo-ping were quickly re-teamed for the same year's DRUNKEN MASTER, which is even better. Fung Hark-on has a rare heroic part as the master of the Snake Fist school, while Dean Shek Tien has a more typical role as an incompetent teacher intent on humiliating Chien at every turn. Tino Wong Cheung, Peter Chan Lung, Yuen Yat-chor, and Roy Horan also appear. Viewers sensitive to animal cruelty are warned that the aforementioned battle between feline and reptile is not simulated and has been cut from every version of the film released in Great Britain.

Cover art courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Hwang Jang-li and Jackie Chan. Image courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Simon Yuen. Image courtesy Columbia Tristar.
Columbia Tristar #09258 (U.S. label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Cantonese and English Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean

28 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Frame Grabs

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 1 Only

NTSC Format

97 Minutes

Contains moderate violence and cruelty to animals

DVD menu courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Australia: M 15+ (Medium Level Violence)
Canada (video): PG
Great Britain: 18 [Passed With Cuts totalling 44 seconds]
Ontario: PG
Singapore: PG
United States: PG

While it has enjoyed several North American video releases (not all of them legitimate), Columbia Tristar's anamorphic DVD is easily the best. Light speckling is common and a few mild stains are present but the image, otherwise, looks great for a 25 year old independent production. Detail and color levels are not quite on the level of a Hong Kong Legends restoration but the presentation is very good and this release offers the movie at 2.35:1 (the HKL disc is foolishly cropped off at 1.78). The Cantonese audio is thick and harsh; the English track is crisper and cleaner but still not preferable. As is often the case with Columbia Tristar releases, the subtitles are actually dubtitles (ie. a transcription of the dubtrack and not a true translation). Trailers for Osamu Tezuka's METROPOLIS, THE ONE, and COWBOY BEBOP are included.

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E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com