Following the box office success of 1978's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, director Yuen Woo-ping and star Jackie Chan immediately set about producing a second film together. And while it followed a very similar formula, Drunken Master (released later the same year) proved to be an even more accomplished blend of action and comedy.
Taking the exploits of real-life martial arts master and folk hero Wong Fei-hung as its starting point, the film casts Chan as a younger, more irresponsible version of the character. After embarrassing his father, Wong is punished by being sent away to study martial arts under the notorious Beggar So (Yuen Siu-tien), master of the 'Eight Drunken Gods' kung fu techniques. But can even Wong's newly acquired skills save the day when his father is targeted by a deadly assassin (Hwang Jang Lee)?
Taking almost three times as much money at the domestic box office as its record-breaking predecessor, Drunken Master established Yuen Woo-ping as one of the world's leading action directors and catapulted Chan to superstardom. It's not hard to see why, either. Even today, nearly 40 years after it first hit screens, Drunken Master remains as fresh and funny as ever; the outrageous physicality of the comedy and breathtaking staging of the action making it an irresistible treat for lovers of old-school kung fu cinema.
Picture: Based on a new 4K digital restoration, this Blu-ray is a real knockout. There are a few source-related issues along the way (not least the odd out-of-focus shot), but these are hardly unexpected in Hong Kong cinema of the time. What really stands out is the sharpness and clarity of the image, with tight detailing adding a sense of volume to a richly-coloured 1080p presentation.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: Licensing issues have prevented the use of the original English dub, which many fans on these shores grew up with. Masters of Cinema has still put together an impressive set of LPCM mono soundtrack options, though. As well as the Cantonese-language track and a newer English dub, there's a Mandarin version (produced for a shorter cut of the film, so it reverts to English for the missing bits). There are separate subtitles for the Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks, and the disc also recreates the original Hong Kong theatrical subtitles, complete with all spelling and grammatical errors.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: In addition to the multitude of audio and subtitle options mentioned above, more traditional extras include a fact-packed expert commentary, a recent interview with Chan, an appreciation by Gareth 'The Raid' Evans and a deleted scene.
Extras rating: 3.5/5
We say: This old-school kung fu comedy still hits the spot and now looks even better than ever.
Drunken Master, Eureka – Masters of Cinema, All-region BD & R0 DVD, £20
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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