Wednesday, 23 March 2022

The World Of Drunken Master


Slam Drunk

The World Of Drunken Master
aka Jiu xian shi ba die
Hong Kong 1979 Directed by Joseph Kuo
Eureka Masters Of Cinema Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Minor spoilers...
considering the lack of story beats.

The third of the eight movies to be featured in Eureka Masters Of Cinema’s splendid Cinematic Vengeance - Joseph Kuo Blu Ray boxed set release, The World Of Drunken Master, was one of many films to attempt to ride the coat tails of Jackie Chan’s big money spinner Drunken Master from the year before. 1979 saw quite a number of ‘drunken master’ movies made, it seems... this one including one of the actors from the Chan film playing a pre-credits introductory role before his character suddenly has the actor switched to someone else.

And, I have to say that, like The 36 Deadly Styles (reviewed here), I found myself very confused by this one very quickly. It was only about a half an hour before the end of the picture that I realised, from something one of the characters said, that there weren’t two very different stories going on here at all but that I had failed to take into account, once again, that Eastern films seem to go into flashback mode at the drop of a hat with rarely any preamble or indication that they have done so. I’ve seen enough Japanese films over the years to maybe not let this get the better of me but it took me a long time to figure out that the two main goofball, comedy characters in this Hong Kong affair... who are learning ‘drunken kung fu’ while they pay off their debt for stealing grapes from the vineyard that makes the premium quality wine that disciples of The 18 Moves Of The Drunken Immortals prefer... are, in fact, the same two older characters from the bookend scenes of the movie.

So, yeah, the story isn’t as fragmented as I thought it was for the majority of the running time but that really didn’t matter because, as I've seen from this director’s movies so far, I was vastly entertained by the almost non-stop kung fu action sequences which are strung together on, it has to be said, a plot line which is barely wafer thin. The various actors and actresses in these movies are extremely impressive in their ability to perform what always comes across as quite complex and gruelling choreography and, looking at the vast amounts of energy and concentration squeezed out by the performers in these films, I have to wonder if there were also a lot of musicals made in Hong Kong at some point. These must be pretty intense shoots, especially regarding how quickly the director was knocking these out while also maintaining good camerawork and, in this one at least, a semblance of a story line (when it’s identifiable).

The ‘drunken’ aspect of the kung fu seems a little silly to me. I’m not sure the odd swaying around and falling over in drinking poses constitutes a formidable fighting style but, well, there were obviously enough of these made that the writers were invested in this. It’s perhaps not always perfectly performed... in one of the scenes where a kung fu legend is fighting and diving and somersaulting while drinking, his bottle clearly gets tipped upside down on occasion at a speed slow enough to have let the contents out if it had been full for those shots but... well, it’s still all quite impressive and some of the double and triple tumbles where various opponents perform in, around and on top of each other is quite spectacular from a physical perspective.

I also love the various added swishing sounds of hands and feet as they move through the air on these things... not quite as exaggerated as the very slow moving hands, powerfully making slow swishes as the air forms around their kung fu aura in The Seven Grandmasters (reviewed here) but yeah, everything seems to have its own signature sound which is both effective and ridiculously amusing in equal measure, I would say.

The story beats on this also include two masters of kung fu who have been drinking for thirty years because they think the shared love of their life plunged off a cliff to her death. This is shown to both them... and the audience... as being a false assumption by the end of the movie but, at this point, the bitter-sweet news is a little too late and more poignant in its treatment. The film ends on notes of melancholy reflection for what might have been if the two main protagonists could stop quarreling physically, rather than the joyous remembrance celebration the story might have turned to.

And, okay yeah, a short review but I don’t have a heck of a lot to say about The World Of Drunken Master, it has to be said... since these films are mostly just one big punch up leading onto another and so forth. However, because the actors and characters they portray are presented in such a charming manner, the films don’t suffer for any weaknesses in the story telling as they might in the hands of other directors and they more than make up for any shortcomings with the sheer energy of their tireless presentation. So, yeah, I kind liked this one, it has to be said.

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