Before Jackie Chan found his true calling as prince Charming Comedy of Kung Fu (in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, and even more so in Drunken Master) he worked in a number of movies where his talent was – due to director’s lack of eye for his potential – more or less wasted.
Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin (1978) is somewhat an exception, because even though parts of it are drowned in the typical seriousness that was the kung fu movie trademark before Jackie changed it, there are some scenes in which you can actually spot the star Jackie was soon going to become. Especially in the fight scenes, that he choreographed himself, he’s showing off some of the charm and skills that we love to see.
The movie itself is sort of a mystery movie kung fu style, containing several slaughtered Shaolin masters and a stolen kung fu manual – a manual that contains the secret of the “Snake and Crane” martial arts technique. When the young master Hsu Yin-Fong (Jackie Chan) shows up with the book, showing it off to anyone in a particularly reckless way, the question is obvious: Is he the guilty one behind the murders – or not?
Well… not. Needless to say, he’s got nothing to do with the murders. In fact the book he’s carrying around is just a fake, used to lure the real killer out of his hidings. If it works? Well, you’d better watch the movie and see for yourself. Because even if this is not one of Jackie’s better movies it’s quite entertaining at times and by some it’s considered a bridge between Jackie’s old, straight faced (and to be honest rather indifferent) movies and his exploding charms in the movies to come. And I agree. So despite the fact this isn’t one of my favorites, it’s worth watching – if only to see watch a genious in the making. And, of course, his incredibly tasteless hairdo that is sooo 1970’s Kung Fu flicks I just can’t help being overly nostalgic!
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