Drunken Master Blu-ray Review
Birth of the Master
Drunken Master marked a breakthrough for Jackie Chan, the second of two 1978 successes that would lead to four decades of entertaining audiences across the globe.Up until this point, Chan had been somewhat walking in the shadow of Bruce Lee - and not by choice - with studios wanting another Lee, rather than something new. With Drunken Master, the world finally got to see Jackie Chan as Jackie Chan, birthing his own inimitable style of comedy-infused kung-fu. Playing the rebellious son of a kung-fu master, Chan - through a series of unfortunate events - finds himself seconded to another master who teaches him discipline and... drunken fighting.There's plenty to appreciate in this early era Chan flick, which boasts lots of the slapstick physical comedy that often made Chan more Chaplin or Keaton than Bruce Lee, although it's likely the fight choreography which will truly impress. There's a vicious beatdown, some fun Karate Kid-esque training, and plenty of comedy antics along the way to a fantastically staged final sequence which shows Chan, even without a budget behind him, in his absolute prime. Without a doubt, a landmark event in martial arts cinema.
Picture QualityDrunken Master comes to the UK on a Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka, who deliver a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded high definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1, coming off the back of a reportedly 'definitive' new 4K restoration.
A strong visual presentation off the back of a new 4K restoration
For a near-forty year old Hong Kong flick, made on a shoestring budget, Drunken Master polishes up as best as can be expected, leaving a presentation bathed in thick but natural, fine grain, slightly soft around the edges, but with some fabulous detail just beneath the surface. It's a suitably filmic look - precisely what you'd hope for from this movie - with a crispness and clarity, and a cleaner image largely lacking in print defects, but not at the expense of too much digital tinkering.
The colour scheme affords healthy skin tones and doesn't appear to display the same sickly green tinge that some earlier masters are reported to have been afflicted by (although no direct comparison has been made). Black levels are strong enough, although falter slightly which is perfectly understandable given the vintage and budget. Overall it's a very nice presentation for this classic film.
Sound QualityThe audio tracks come in a number of distinct flavours. The rare original language 'complete' Cantonese soundtrack should be the first choice for most, provided here through a faithful DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track, which affords the piece strong dialogue delivery, suitably exaggerated effects with a high degree of embellishment and enhancement on the track, and a typically cheesy score behind it all. There's nothing either weighty or immersive, but it's still likely the best the film has ever sounded, and a faithful, natural presentation of the original audio.
A faithful, natural presentation of the original audio that's likely the best it has ever sounded
There's been some consternation over which of the several English dubs made it to Eureka's release and, unfortunately, it's not the old 'bad' dub which everybody has nostalgic memories of, but instead a different version. Either way, the only reason fans wanted to old dub was likely for comedy value (although this is not an unreasonable desire for a 'comedy' martial arts film from this era) and the original track should really be the preferred choice.
In addition, there's a Mandarin dub, which was created for a shorter version of the film and so has English language for the additional segments that didn't have a Mandarin dub. All tracks are English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono.
Interestingly, there are four subtitle options - English for the Cantonese track, English for the Mandarin track, and English SDH for the English dub (subtitles) but, uniquely, also Hong Kong Theatrical Subtitles, which has been transcribed into English with all of the 'inherent spelling and grammatical errors meticulously retained'. This is an intentionally hilarious addition, and should make for a fun alternative experience.
ExtrasEureka deliver a strong selection of extra features, headlined by an older Audio Commentary by film experts but also boasting a series of new Interviews. There are subtitled Interviews with the Director and with Jackie Chan, the latter ported from another release, and a new Interview with film scholar Tony Rayns, as well as a great little Interview with The Raid director Gareth Evans, who discusses the influence Hong Kong cinema and, in particular, Chan had upon his work.
Eureka deliver a strong selection of extras
There's also a single, previously available, Deleted Scene, a 'Kicking Showcase' montage from the film, a UK Music Promo, and the original Trailer, and the package itself comes with a booklet as per the norm for Eureka releases.
Blu-ray VerdictDrunken Master is a landmark event in martial arts cinema
Eureka deliver Jackie Chan's first big success, Drunken Master, with a fantastic new 4K-sourced video presentation, strong and myriad audio options, hilarious subtitle options (literally) and a bevy of extra features. It's a must-have release for Jackie Chan and Hong Kong cinema fans, and let's hope Eureka get the rights to more of Chan's back-catalogue.
You can buy Drunken Master on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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