Hong Kong Cinema

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

  • Made: 1978
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: 2
  • Release Date: 28/02/00
  • Company: Hong Kong Legends
  • Length: 94
  • Picture: 16:9
  • Language: Dual
  • Extras: Trailers, Interview, Bio, Filmography
  • Classification: 18

Director: Yuen Woo Ping

Cast: Jackie Chan, Hwang Jang Lee, Dean Shek, Yuen Siu Tien, Roy Horan, Tino Wong, Fung Hark-on, Wong Ching-Lei


Is this a good film? No... it's a classic, one of the best, a seminal moment in Kung Fu Cinema. This film can accurately be traced back to the beginning of Jackie Chan's domination of the Hong Kong movie scene. After this film, a new heir to the King of Kung Fu was born - a seat vacant since Bruce Lee's unfortunate death in 1973. This film was made in 1978, produced by Ng See Yuen and directed by Yuen Woo Ping. People may have heard of Yuen Woo Ping after his involvement in ..... - well to be honest you really should know by now which films he's done, unless a closet has been your home for the past 3 years. Against the advice of fellow directors and producers, Yuen cast Jackie Chan as the star of this movie (Chien Fu), who was loaned to Seasonal Films after appearing in some low budget, and poorly directed Lo Wei movies, that flopped at the box office. The film was an instant hit, and took HK $2.7m, outperforming classics such as Five Venoms, Invincible Shaolin and Born Invincible that year (and convinced Lo Wei to release all the Jackie movies he had previously shelved).


Jackie helps Yuen Sui Tien


Hwang Jang Lee - the greatest kicker in Kung Fu - plays Lord Sheng Kuan(Eagle Claw master) and who is eager to destroy the Snake Fist fighters. One of his targets is Yuen Siu Tien (Yuen Woo Ping's dad), who plays a genre defining role as Pai Cheng-Cheh. Jackie plays the punch bag at the local Kung Fu school but befriends Yuen Siu Tien by trying to help him in a fight and is taught the Snake style so he can stand up for himself. Dean Shek also plays a seminal role as the cowardly wimp of a Kung Fu teacher who enjoys making Jackie's life a misery. The end result is lots of very very cool fights including many animal styles (snake, eagle, cat, mantis), arguably some of the best animal fighting on celluloid ever? Jackie has a classic fight at the end with Hwang Jang Lee and saves the Snake Fist by combining it with his Cat's Claw!



Jackie learns the Snake Fist






This film absolutely rocks and has some of the most graceful and memorable fighting I can remember. I think it is when Jackie goes to fight the Mantis master (Tino Wong) that your jaw really begins to drop and the realisation that you are seeing something truly exceptional begins to dawn. Unlike most of his contemporaries from Bruce to Gordon Liu, they all fought with a stony face or with anger and rage, but here we see Jackie fighting with a chirpy grin and youthful exuberance, a wonderful tonic! On top of the regular and magical fight scenes, we also witness a slap-stick style present pretty much throughout. Although many Hong Kong experts will go: "Well actually there was comedy in this earlier movie...." or "this movie was the first to have slapstick...", I have yet to see a movie which such a consistent level of 'goofy' humour. You can tell everyone is enjoying themselves and a really light-hearted atmosphere runs throughout.

Jackie's relationship with Yuen Siu Tien (old master and young and troublesome student) is also important as this spawned hundreds of similar movies that flooded the HK market for 7-8 years after this was released (Magnificent Butcher, Drunken Master, Mystery of Chess Boxing, Knockabout, Drunken Tai-Chi etc etc etc). To note the final, climactic fight scene, HJL and Jackie let rip in a sensational end fight, with some breath taking kicks, and one of Jackie's teeth being knocked out (for real!). I think this fight is just slightly eclipsed by Jackie's next movie when he takes on HJL in Drunken Master, but this is not far off, and really showcases Yuen Woo Ping's talent as an action (and comedy) director. Did I also mention loads of cool training sequences?



Painful training sequence!!!




The Mantis Master feels the force of Jackie's Snake Fist


This is one of the early HKL titles, and it pretty well done, the frame has been reduced from 2.35:1 to 16:9 which is anamorphic widescreen, which is a shame. The picture is very acceptable, but far from perfect and the dual language feature is always welcome. The cat vs. cobra fight (the actual animals, not styles) was cut by the BBFC and it seems that the cat won (by a T.K.O in Round 5). The other features are standard for HKL - trailers, interview, biography, filmography - but we must not forget this is a very high standard that HKL have set and we are eternally grateful.


Absolute classic, really good fun and delightfully amusing. However the slapstick is complemented with some of the greatest martial artists showing off how it should be done (look for a Fung Hark-on cameo). Furthermore, some of the classic Kung Fu roles of the late seventies are truly established here, by Jackie, Yuen Siu Tien, Dean Shek and Hwang Jang Lee. This film is possibly over looked by many due to the prominence of Drunken Master, but although I personally prefer Drunken Master it is a photo finish and both should be watched regularly!





HJL and Jackie do battle to the death