'Come Drink With Me'
(Chen Hung-Lieh, Yueh Hua, et al / DVD / NR / (1965) 2008 / The Weinstein Company)
Overview: Nearly four decades before Kill Bill the groundbreaking Shaw Brothers classic Come Drink with Me set the bar for sword-wielding kung fu heroines. "A revelation in martial arts filmmaking" (Ross Chen LoveHKFilm.com) it stars legendary fight queen Cheng Pei-pei (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) as Golden Swallow a deadly agent sent to rescue a kidnapped official from a bandit clan.
DVD Verdict: From the off it is plain to see that the martial arts here in this 1965 film are distinctively different. For its time, it was a breakthrough, with its moving cameras, violence, splattering of blood, as well as fights done with adequate pauses and breaks, like a Western stand off at times, before lunging at each other. The movement, while fluid, is slow compared to these days, then again, having action done too fast would mean either stunt people taking over, or you can't see a thing. The style in this movie struck me as samurai styled swordplay, even though the weapon our heroine used was a pair of short swords rather than katanas. The weapons used too were real, lending a sense of realism when the combatants clash.
There are still some opera influences in the movie, especially when it comes to the music, done with chinese orchestra, and accentuates the scenes like a big opera. Playing in sync to the action on screen, it's an early base on which films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon adopted to great effect. The cinematography is great too, given the many exterior shots in backlots and elaborate sets, featuring classical locales like inns and temples. The introductory scene in the inn will take your breath away, never mind that some cheesy (for today) techniques of stop motion and the reversing of film were used.
Basically, this is a to-the-point story, and excellent martial arts. This is a definite must watch for all martial arts genre fans. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the Special Features of:
Feature Commentary With Lead Actress Cheng Pei-pei and Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
The King And I: Acclaimed Director Tsui Hark Remembers King Hu
Come Speak With Me: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Lady Cheng Pei-Pei
A Classic Remembered: A Retrospective With Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
The Drunken Master: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Man Yueh Wah