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Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
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Simon Yuen and Jackie Chan do the Three Stooges.
Chinese: 蛇形刁手  
Year: 1978
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping  
Producer: Ng See-Yuen
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping, Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen Hsiao-Tien, Hwang Jang-Lee, Dean Shek Tin, Fung Hak-On, Hsu Hsia
The Skinny: The old school martial arts classic that helped make Jackie Chan a superstar. Snake in the Eagle's Shadow is a fun, breezy little film, easily ranking among the best from Jackie's pre-Police Story era.
Review by

After a string of flops with director Lo Wei, future HK megastar Jackie Chan was loaned out to Ng See Yuen's Seasonal Films to headline the company's latest martial arts project. With Chan a seeming box office liability, no one could have anticipated the huge success that Snake in the Eagle's Shadow would become.

Chan plays Chien Fu, a down-on-his-luck orphan who does odd jobs for the local kung fu school. Chien Fu soon meets Pai Chang-Tien (Simon Yuen), a so-called beggar who is, in actuality, a master of the snake fist style. So why the beggar disguise? Well, it seems Beggar Pai is on the run from Shang Kuan-Yin, an eagle claw master played with dastardly aplomb by Korean martial artist Hwang Jang-Lee.

While in hiding from that nutjob, Pai teaches Chien Fu the intricacies of the snake fist style in a series of hilarious, but grueling exercises (i.e., finger pushups over lit joss sticks, no thanks!). Chien Fu soon learns that the eagle claw technique has an effective counterattack for every single snake fist move, so he invents the "Cat's Claw" style to beat Shang for good. Before the inevitable duel to the death, there's eome fighting between rival schools, the appearance of a treacherous Catholic priest, and some possible cruelty to animals (I highly doubt PETA sanctioned the fight between the cat and the cobra!).

The plot is nothing new; in fact, a majority of the cast would return in virtually the same roles in another film with a similar plot: Drunken Master. But even twenty-five years later, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow still holds up rather well. The fight scenes are nowhere near as frenetic or dangerous as Chan's later efforts, but there is a certain charming sprightliness to the action that wins over the viewer's affections. And, perhaps the most endearing aspect of the film is the teacher-student bond formed between Chien Fu and Pai. Simon Yuen acquits himself nicely in a role that would soon become iconic. As the sifu, Yuen mines his part for all its worth, showing a wide range in what amounts to little more than a stock character. And hey, that Jackie Chan guy ain't bad either. (Calvin McMillin 2003)


• Hwang Jang-Lee knocked out Jackie Chan's teeth while making this film. Watch carefully during the final fight.

Region 1 NTSC
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and English Language Tracks
Removable English Subtitles

image courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen