The Legend of Drunken Master – Jackie Chan, Blu-ray (1978/2009)

by | Sep 16, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Legend of Drunken Master – Jackie Chan, Blu-ray (1978/2009)

Studio: Dimension Home Video/Miramax Films  101508 [Release date: Sept. 15, 09]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: “Behind the Master:” Interview with Jackie Chan (6 min.)
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: *****

This was the breakthru film for Jackie Chan, and it endeared him to his fans all over the world.  He says in the interview he thought perhaps this was a good time to reissue it.  He’s right, with his recent Hollywood efforts rating a ho-hum at best. Though he was about two decades older in l978 than his son-of-a-Chinese-physician role in the film, his self-done acrobatic stunts and kung fu choreography are an amazing sight to behold. It reminded me of Buster Keaton, who also was known for carrying out all his own stunts.  Except that I don’t recall Keaton ever crab-walking across a bed of firery hot coals as Chan does in this film.

Many fans consider this to be the best martial arts film ever made. Considering that almost no wire technology – as widely used today – was used by Chan, and he did all the fight choreography himself, it is packed with (as Roger Ebert put it) “jaw-dropping action scenes.”  He plays a young rascal with the healer and martial arts chops of his physician father plus the impulsiveness of his conniving step-mother.  Actress Anita Mui must have watched lots of I Love Lucy, because her goofy fake crying when around her husband looks exactly like Lucille Ball. Young Wong Fei Hung (Chan) lands himself, due to various mixups, in the middle of a gang of British smugglers who are stealing valuable Chinese treasures and mistreating workers at an iron factory they own. The fights – first by himself, then with the help of some friends, and finally going solo again in a ramped-up violent finale – are spiced up by occasionally by use of his “drunken boxing” style.  I don’t usually find actors playing drunks to be funny, but Chan brings it off.  The idea is that the more he drinks the more agile he becomes and the less he notices the pain of being knocked around.

There is plenty of opportunity in between the melodramatic scenes for Chan’s usual physical comedy, and the failed attempts at some of the stunts are shown behind the closing credits, as Chan normally does. Having the detailed hi-res images and being able to step-frame some of the fight sequences forward and back will entertain martial arts fans endlessly. There are some complaints online – especially from Chinese-speakers – about the lack of the original Chinese soundtrack here and the poor job of matching the English-dubbed track to the on-screen action and mouths. There were some translations that seemed very stilted and un-Chinese to me.  Perhaps this increases the desirability of the film for a general audience, but with all the storage space on Blu-ray I can’t understand why an option for the original soundtrack is not provided.

 – John Sunier

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