Come Drink With Me
Widely regarded as one of the greatest martial arts films ever, King Hu's masterpiece Come Drink With Me still holds up well even today, over forty years since its' initial release. The movie's influence is still very much felt in modern movies, specifically with pictures like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
The film tells the story of Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-Pei), a woman trying to save her kidnapped brother from a group of bandits, who are trying to use him as leverage to gain the release of their leader from prison. Even though Swallow has formidable kung fu skills, her abilities still can't overcome the might of the bandits. After befriending a mysterious beggar named Drunken Knight (Yueh Hua) who decides to help with her problem, the stage is set for a final confrontation.
While that might sound like a very basic plot -- and when it's boiled down to the bare essentials, it really is. But King Hu, along with co-writer Yi Cheung, manage to create some compelling sub-plots that manage to actually enrich the film, instead of simply overwhelming the viewer. With a running time of 104 minutes, Come Drink With Me packs in a lot of story in a very lean package. A lot of modern film-makers would do good to take note at Hu's economic use of each and every scene.
Of course, a kung fu movie is nothing without solid fight sequences, and Come Drink With Me does not disappoint at all. Yes, there might not be wall-to-wall action here, but what is presented is absolutely top-notch. Action director Han Ying-Chieh (with some help from a young Sammo Hung) broke from the norms of the time, which favored static and stagey fight scenes highly derivative of Chinese opera, for fluid and dynamic portrayals of kung fu that are punctuated by flashes of ultra-violence via blood spurts and severed limbs. Those weaned on modern computer-fu films might find the action here a bit slow, but this particular reviewer really appreciated the effort that went into creating the fight scenes.
Some note must also be made of how gorgeous Come Drink With Me looks. Unlike many Shaw Brothers productions that were primarily filmed on generic sets in the "Shaw Town" studios, a lot of effort was made here to film on location, which pays off in spades in the visual department. Even the scenes shot on closed sets still pop out from the screen. It's the icing on one of the most wonderful cakes ever created in the realm of kung fu movies. If you're a fan of the genre and haven't seen Come Drink With Me yet, then you are truly missing out on one of the best viewing experiences you'll ever have.
The new Dragon Dynasty DVD, which uses Celestial's remastered print, looks and sounds great. The only real complaint that could be leveled is against the subtitles, whose translation is a bit rough at points. Extras include a commentary from Bey Logan and Cheng Pei-Pei, interviews with Cheng Pei-Pei and Yueh Hua, a featurette about the film's historical significance, a tribute to King Hu hosted by Tsui Hark, and several trailers.
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