Starring Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Tien Feng, Feng Feng, Wei Pei, Shih Kien, Lily Li Li-Li, Hwang In-Shik
Directed By Jackie Chan
Dogged for years by contractual obligations and careless mismanagement of talent, Jackie Chan finally broke free of the substandard Lo Wei cycle of pictures in 1980 and began his long-term partnership with Golden Harvest. Chan was able to impart at least marginal creative input into the Lo Wei films, separating himself somewhat from the pack, but it was only after finding total freedom with The Young Master that the public first got a glimpse of his unique take on kung fu films, done “The Jackie Chan way”. No longer would we be forced to waddle through total misfires like The Killer Meteors, or face frustration by “almost there” glimmers of hope like Spiritual Kung Fu. No longer stifled by studio politics, Jackie was able to create a film on his own terms, finally unleashing the storehouse of talent that would pave the way for one of the great bodies of work in martial arts cinema.
The plot, which finds Jackie as a goofy kung fu student in search of his expelled brother is merely there to string along his trademark slapstick humor and inventive choreography. But as a director, he has a genuine feel for each scene and deftly weaves comedy and kung fu into the story without making it feel forced or unnatural. I’ve always felt that Jackie’s genius in creating naturally comedic situations was always underappreciated. Take for example when he finds himself pursued by the District Marshall and finds respite in a young woman’s home. While she leaves for the market he decides to bathe in an enclosed shower stall. Unknown to him, the young woman was actually the Marshall’s daughter and while he’s enjoying the bath, the Marshall himself walks in and chooses the neighboring stall. Jackie is forced to improvise while the bathing Marshall blindly reaches into his stall, feeling around for soap and a rag. It’s a very logical turn of events that manages to build tension as well as laughs.
The Young Master also marks Jackie’s first teaming with fellow opera school pal, Yuen Biao, who plays the Marshall’s son. The two have a pretty good bench fight together which features plenty of great acrobatics and the chemistry they share on screen together definitely hints at better things to come. Also worth a mention is Jackie’s cross-dressing skirt battle against Shaw Bros regulars Lee Hoi-San and Fung Hak-On. Donning the bright red skirt, he manages to make total asses of the two heavies as well as himself while matador inspired pasodobles play in the background.