Top positive review
74 of 75 people found this helpful
Great wuxia story with good DVD quality
on October 19, 2008
This film, Come Drink with Me (Great Drunken Hero), is one of my favorite Asian movies, and I think it is perhaps comparable to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai in terms of its contribution to the evolution of East Asian movies during the 1950s-1970s. I first saw this movie in either 1966 or 1967 at a movie theatre in the Far East, and recently I've seen it many more times on this DVD. The storyline takes place during the Ming Dynasty (either the 15th or the 16th century) in China's Two-River Province. The heroine Zhang, also known as Jin Yan Zi (meaning Golden Swallow), tries to rescue her older brother, the head prosecutor of the province, from captivity by the Five-Tiger Bandits. At the same time, a drunken beggar and martial-arts master Fan, called Da-Bei (meaning Big Drink), has to face the monk Liao Kung (Diao Jintang), his sworn older brother from the same Kung-fu league, to keep the Green Bamboo Pole that symbolizes the leadership of the Green Bamboo League. These two subplots merge together to become the overall story of this film: with the help of the drunken master, Zhang gets her brother back by destroying the ruthless bandits, and the evil-minded wushu master Diao, who turns out to be the real leader of the bandits, is also defeated by Fan in the final battle.
The story line appears somewhat simple, but it is meaningful in a sense that a wuxia story is told in a traditional Chinese way. The film is composed of beautifully choreographed sword fight sequences, seasoned with a subtle undertone of a romantic (although platonic) relationship between Zhang and Fan. The carefully designed costumes representing the Ming Dynasty period, combined with the Beijing opera style music embedded in the early part of the movie, give the impression of being in genuine traditional Chinese scenes. The three songs sung by the drunken master in the inn, with background chorus and music performance by ten beggar children, enhance the exotic nature of the film. The first song introduces Fan himself, by revealing his view of life as a vagabond and a beggar, suggesting that life is momentary and empty, fame and fortune are meaningless, and all the sorrows of life can be forgotten by drinking. The second song describes Fan's concern about the current perilous situation of the Two-River Province under the rule of lawless bandits. The third song shows his intention to help Zhang rescue her brother, by providing a hint for Zhang to decode regarding the location where her brother is being held by the bandits. An additional genuine Chinese element of this film is that the two masters of martial arts (Fan and Diao) possess and use a mystical power (ch'i kung) in battle, which commonly emerges in many Chinese wuxia novels. I like the slow pace of the sword fighting in the movie, much better choreographed than the battle scenes seen in many later wuxia films where the super-fast sword fighting sequences give the impression of being fake, artificial, and robotic.
While living in the Far East during the1960s, I became addicted to Chinese movies and saw over two dozen films (mostly dramas, epic and fantasy films by the Shaw Brothers). These included four wuxia films: Great Drunken Hero (Come Drink with Me), Dragon Gate Inn, One-Armed Swordsman, and Golden Swallow, in chronological order. While all these four wuxia films are interesting, Great Drunken Hero is the best made, and in my opinion far superior to over-hyped modern successes in the West, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With the role of heroine Zhang in this movie, Cheng Pei-Pei obtained fame almost comparable to that of superstar Li Ching among movie-goers in East Asia during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The quality of this DVD is very good, including well-restored sharp images, in light of the fact that the film is more than forty years old. Having seen this movie in different versions with subtitles in English and other languages, I think the English subtitles in this DVD are clear and straightforward. Personally I don't like to watch a dubbed version of foreign movies, and that holds true in this case, too. You get the impression in the English dubbing of this DVD that words were chosen so that the sound matches the lip movements rather than delivering the literal meanings of the actors' dialogues. One thing I should mention here is that, in the English dubbed mode, the bandits recognize the heroine as a woman from their first encounter. This is erroneous, since the bandits actually do not realize that the heroine is a woman until they meet her again in the temple. You should watch this film in the original Mandarin soundtrack with English subtitles.
I believe this DVD definitely deserves a five-star rating