Issue #240a       HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES          November 29th, 2004

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Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin
(1978; Lo Wei Motion Picture Co.)

Cantonese: Se hok baat bo
Mandarin: She he ba bu
English: Snake Crane Eight Step


RATING: 5/10


Those put off by the humor in Jackie Chan's work might enjoy this early period film, in which the star largely plays it straight. Eight Shaolin martial arts masters invent a new form of kung fu called "The Eight Steps of the Snake and Crane" and record all of the training techniques in a book. Shortly thereafter, all eight of the masters and the book disappear. It turns up in the hands of Su Yin-fong (Chan), a cocky lad who has mastered all of its secrets. Representatives from various clans try to steal the book but this is actually all part of a plan devised by Su's master, the sole surviving member of the original eight, who seeks to find the man who killed his peers.

Jackie Chan Nora Miao Kam Ching-lan

Under the direction of Chi Chen-hwa, Chan gets to display his proficiency in various styles here, most notably during an exciting climactic fight against three spear-wielding killers and, then, the main villain (MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE’s Kam Kong). Unfortunately, while the choreography shows some imagination, the storyline is numbingly routine and no more than an adequate framework for the kung fu (which includes Chan fighting against women, which is quite unusual for his movies). The stock music includes a cue some viewers might remember from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL! Lo Wei regular Nora Miao Ker-hsiu co-stars as a beautiful, spirited clan leader, along with Kam Ching-lan (in male drag much of the time), Lee Man-tai (as the slovenly leader of the beggar clan), and Miao Tien.

Kam Kong Lee Man-tai Jackie Chan


This DVD offers SNAKE & CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN’s first widescreen release and the revealing of the entire scope frame makes for a much more pleasing viewing experience. It also allows English speakers the welcome option of watching the movie in Mandarin with English subtitles (well, dubtitles actually), which sure beats the wretched English dub (both sound adequate). The 35mm print is chock full of stains and scratches, hues are generally light, contrasts are weak, the image is sometimes overly dark, and heavily damaged sections have been artificially slowed down to hide missing frames. However, such complaints are relative when it comes to martial arts movies from this era. For a 26 year-old independent production, the presentation is above average and Old School collectors will find it more than satisfactory. The keepcase promises "theatrical trailer," but doesn’t mention that the spot in question is for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON! Note: As with the other Lo Wei titles issued by Columbia Tristar in 2002, SNAKE & CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN is now out of print. Copies are still floating around, but as of this writing, they are commanding a much higher price than the other Jackie Chan titles in this category.

Scott Napier wrote in to say that this version of SNAKE & CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN is missing approximately 5 minutes of footage. More details can be found here. My thanks to Scott for passing this along.

This DVD is available from Amazon:

Images in this review courtesy of Columbia Tristar. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 1 Only
  • Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment #08199
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Mandarin and Dubbed English Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Spanish, Portuguese, French English Closed Captioning
  • 28 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 95 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: PG
  • Great Britain: 15
  • Manitoba: PA
  • Nova Scotia: 14
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: G
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful