Review of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)

27 May

Se ying diu sau also known as Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) is a Hong Kong martial arts/action/comedy film.

Directed by Woo-ping Yuen (True Legend (2010), Iron Monkey (1993)).

Written by See-Yuen Ng (No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), Drunken Master (1978)), Chi-Kuang Tsai and Shiao Loong.

Starring: Jackie Chan, Siu Tien Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek, Roy Horan, Hark-On Fung, Lung Chang and others.

So here we are, quite early in Chan’s career and his first hit movie. It’s the first of his signature action comedies and the first straight out martial arts comedy. We open up to the opening credits in front of Chan just doing various kung-fu moves with exaggerated sound effects. Spending my childhood watching action movies set me up for a huge disappointment when I saw actual fist fights, which had no punching sounds or choreography.

The fights are really good here, fast, interesting, tightly edited. Of course, the most impressive parts are not the bare-bone fist fights, but the slapstick parts, where everyday objects are used to show the most imaginative ways of using them. And the best part is that unlike modern action or fight scenes it has these long takes, so you can just enjoy the dazzling choreography and not go into an epilepsy seizure.

There’s a lot of good things about the movie, but some are just odd. First of all the scene editing sometimes makes very little sense. Or the one not-asian actor in the movie playing a bad guy who is disguised as a priest. Or an old man getting stabbed and then somehow just healing up in a couple of hours. Also for some reason when Chan sees that his mentor is stabbed he just starts picking his nose. Because, that’s what people do in a situation like that. Time is used very abstractly in this movie, Chan’s character becomes a master fighter in just one day.

The score at times goes insane. Whenever Chan is learning something, we get these trippy late 70’s techno pieces, which are really jarring in a period kung-fu flick.

It is paced in a way that you don’t have to wait very long for the next fight, because honestly that is why you’re watching a movie like this. Some of them are funny and some of them are important to the plot and serious.

The whole ending is just so incredibly absurd. Just to give you a taste of it, I can tell that I learned that pressing down on one’s head and then kicking them in the crotch, while doing cat sounds, will make the one die or maybe black out.

Overall, entertaining and very wacky, although I enjoy Chan’s 80’s films quite a bit more, still if you like him, this is one of his early career’s better movies. Recommended.

“Hey, look, I’m doing kung fu moves in a red room! There’s no reason for me to do this, except that they didn’t want the opening credits on a plain black backround, so watch!”

2 Responses to “Review of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)”

  1. Aloha Mister Hand May 28, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    Haha, very interesting! I didn’t know you were a Jackie Chan fan! Nice post! :)

    • karlails May 28, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks. Oh, yeah, I used to love him when I was a kid. Chan, Schwarzenegger and Stallone were my three favourite actors. It’s safe to say that I learned to appreciate actual acting abilities later on.

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