Needless to say Jackie Chan’s breakthrough came with the kung fu comedies Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. But there are some interesting flicks among his early ones, and this one is a lot better than it sometimes gets credit for.
Jackie plays a mute young man who is a disciple at a Shaolin temple. He is seeking to learn kung fu to revenge his father’s death, but is given a hard time by his fellow students and makes little progress in training -until one day, when he finds an imprisoned old man in a cave close to the temple. Being a kind and good hearted boy, he starts to bring the prisoner bread and wine and in return the old man teaches him his own special style of kung fu.
Suddenly things take a turn for the better for the young disciple, and eventually he’s ready to take on the temple’s most deadly rite – a chamber of mechanic wooden shaolin men who are extremely hard to beat. Much to all the teachers’ and the other students’ surprise, the mute young man defeats the wooden men and is ready to leave the temple.
On his way out in the world he promises to do a favour for his imprisoned teacher. But as it turns out the prisoner is not the harmless old man he appears to be. And the young mute soon finds the worst is still ahead of him…
Although it’s obvious Jackie has not yet found his true persona in this movie you can still spot the greatness to come. He’s lovable and charming and performs some great training sequences as well as some good fighting. The main difference is that this is a serious film, without the comic elements we’re used to from his later movies. But for those who are into some serious kung fu fighting, and a deadly and violent plot, this is well worth watching.
There are also some interesting characters appearing in the movie,
including a drunken monk. Watch him carefully and you’ll notice that some of his moves inspired Jackie later on, in the 1994 masterpiece Drunken Master II.