PictureAlthough presented with a non-anamorphic 2.35:1 image, it is impossible to complain about the glorious visuals on offer here. The first ten minutes or so of Come Drink With Me will convince you of the awesome restoration job that this movie has undergone. The picture is literally ravishing, with colours that are simply irresistible. Full of bright costumes, flashing sharp-edged hardware, spurting blood and lovely blue skies - you would swear that this didn't actually hark from all the way back in 1966. You'll be pleased to know that colour is accurately locked in with no evidence of bleeding or smearing. If the NTSC transfer is slightly soft, you'll really only notice this a couple of times with some complex backgrounds appearing vaguely blurry. Check out the marvellous transition from bright sunny hillside to smoky, fire lit interior. The spectrum is always warm and delightfully inviting.
The level of detail is better than expected, too, with only the occasional shimmering apparent on intricate patterns - wicker blinds for example. The woods are resplendent in the sunlight, too. Full of lush green detail. Blacks are nice and deep, providing a fabulous sense of shadow and depth in the tavern and night time scenes are never swamped or obscured with multiple layers of grey murk as may have been expected. Well done.
There is some print damage displayed, but this is really just the odd hair on the edge of the lens type of effect and, to be fair, should not detract from anybody's enjoyment of the otherwise smart presentation. With no grain apparent, zero pixilation or blocking either, it is somewhat of a shame that the movie is so heavily edge-enhanced. Now, I know that this doesn't bother a lot of people (me included, most of the time) but here it really bugged me, becoming the only real visual defect in an otherwise exemplary spruce-up. Let me stress though that this probably only niggled me because I was otherwise so impressed.
Also, it is worth mentioning that the optional English subtitles are a hoot. With the usual grammatical errors and a vaguely irritating habit of repeating lines a couple of times, they also seem to want us to believe that the clientele of the tavern all think that the gorgeous Golden Swallow is actually a man! What's that all about then?
SoundWell, one thing is for certain. This is a very loud mix indeed. The musical score alone will bounce you off the walls if you're not careful. Although supposedly a Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, this soundtrack is definitely most aggressively utilised across the front three speakers and the sub. Taiko drums literally assault you in a frontal charge, harsh steel on steel clangs across the speakers with a dynamism that'll leave your ears ringing. All very, very powerful and enjoyable ... but surround, it isn't. During the storm that rages outside the tavern, the rain certainly lashes in waves towards you and there is a wonderful and realistic sense of the pitter-pattering taking place across the living room floor, but you'll still crave a little bit of activity from the rears. They only seem to come into play when padding out the odd song and dance routine, or the musical score itself. Ambience is hardly used - or if it is, it is perhaps drowned out by the phenomenal attack coming in from the front soundstage. Despite all this aural aggression dialogue never suffers, though.
Another peculiarity comes much later on in a sequence that sees Drunken Cat confronting a blast from his past. There is a curious buzzing on the soundtrack that lasts for a couple of minutes. Now, let me state that this is probably not a fault and is, in fact, the chirping sounds made by crickets or some other insects but it comes through so loud and constant that it did leave me wondering if there was some sort of technical defect on the mix. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else has noticed this or whether this particular swarm is localised just to my disc.
All in all though, this is a spectacularly robust and bold mix that manages to showcase the terrific score and the great action sequences with vigour and, for a film that is nearly forty years old now, that can't be bad.
ExtrasCelestial Pictures have done Come Drink With Me proud with a great set of extra features. First up is the wonderful Commentary Track with Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, actress Cheng Pei-Pei herself and Cheng's own daughter Marsha Yuen. This is a sterling track, folks. Logan always gives value for money and here he is on top form, no doubt rising to the occasion with two such lovely ladies beside him. Lots of fun, he is of the fast fact delivery service and doles out detail, anecdote and background with a joyful relentlessness. The girls, too, dish out a wealth of information - Cheng Pei-Pei struggles a little to get her points across but is always interesting and Marsha is really just there to provide the giggles, and she does this very close to the microphone so watch out. Boy, is she loud! Logan clearly relishes being near his heroine Cheng although it is blatantly obvious that he is smitten with the Golden Swallow of the sixties. Top stuff.
Next up there is a nice selection of Interviews. Cheng Pei-Pei has 18minutes of two interviews spliced together. Fond of discussing how movie styles differ between then and now, she gives a good overview of her involvement in Come Drink With Me, her big break. And guess what ... she's still a stunner now, a very far cry from her turn as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger. Drunken Cat's Yueh Hu has 4.45 minutes to reminisce but sadly he speaks only in Chinese and is strangely un-subtitled. A shame. Marsha Yuen gets 6.30 minutes to talk about her mother and the movie that launched her sword-swinging career, film critic Paul Fonoroff gets almost 10 minutes to discuss the impact of the film and give an overview of King Hu's output and then it is down to good old Bey Logan to provide 5 minutes of adoration of Cheng Pei-Pei.
We are also provided with the original 3.40 minutes Theatrical Trailer with its dated telegraphing of the movie's highlights - “Fantastic Swordplay!” and “Vengeance and Violence!” and the dynamic new trailer for the restored version. And finally we get a selection of Colour Stills, the original poster and a fairly thorough set of Filmographies and Biographies for all the main players. Oh, and the trailers for The Warlord, Love In A Fallen City, The Heroic Ones and Hong Kong Nocturne.
No Making Of, then. But the interviews and the commentary track more than make up for this. Quality.
VerdictIt might be considered slow by today's standards but Come Drink With Me is a splendid example of early wuxia, with its welcome element of humour, colourful characters and elegantly staged set-pieces. Cheng Pei-Pei gives a performance that marked her out for stardom, attaining cult status with style, charm and beauty. A classic of the genre that truly paved the way for Asian cinema to become the force that it is today.
Beautifully presented here and bolstered by some top notch extras this stylish gem from the Shaw Bros archives is a release that no self-respecting fan of wuxia can afford to miss.
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