Mini-Review: Come Drink With Me (1966)

Come Drink With Me [大醉俠] (1966)

Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Yueh Hua, Chen Hung Lieh, Yam Ho, Yeung Chi Hing, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Ku Feng, Lee Wan Chung, Kok Lee Yan, Han Ying Chieh

Directed by King Hu

Expectations: High.

There’s a reason why Come Drink With Me is more readily remembered as the first Shaw Brothers color martial arts film and not Temple of the Red Lotus. Quite simply, it is leaps and bounds better, in addition to being a unique film unlike any other Shaw Brothers film I’ve seen up to this point. Credit must be given to director King Hu, as the differences and clever touches are predominantly found in the distinct style of camerawork and the excellent lighting, utilizing shadows to great effect.

The plot involves a group of bandits kidnapping a noble in hopes that they can exchange him for the release of their leader from prison. Instead, the Gold Swallow (Cheng Pei Pei) is sent to claim the kidnapped man. If these bandits only knew the shit they were about to be in when the Gold Swallow takes action! Her introduction scene in the barroom when the bandits challenge and test her is excellent, electric cinema; reaching similar heights of taut intensity that Leone achieved in Once Upon a Time in the West.

The fights are fairly well done, with spots of brilliance throughout, but it’s the end fight that is especially great. There is also a surprising amount of blood and gore and it all plays out realistically and effectively, heightening the mood of the picture. The combination of slow, precise sword strikes with the quick motions of Chinese martial arts beautifully couples the feel of a Japanese samurai film with the contained chaos of Hong Kong action cinema. Come Drink With Me is stunning to watch, thanks in part to King Hu’s inspired camerawork and solid acting from Cheng Pei-Pei, Yuen Hua and the wonderful supporting cast of bandits, most notably Chen Hung Lieh as the pasty-faced featured villain. Highly recommended to junkies and new fans alike, as it is well worth your time.

4 comments to Mini-Review: Come Drink With Me (1966)

  • Although this is still a Shaw Bros. film at heart, it really does come from another dimension compared to the Saturday afternoon kung fu films we’re used to getting from them. I get the overall feeling that they knew that this was gonna be an arthouse film from the very beginning. Without sounding too stuffy and elitist, this really is a magical movie in a lot of ways… very romantic and stylized, the singing and even the actor’s heightened emotions give this a definite otherworldly feeling. Very easy to see where a director like Tsui Hark got his influence from.

    Although I’m stepping back a bit from the site and won’t be able to keep my bi-weekly Shaw reviews going, I’m very glad to see you pick up the reigns. Always looking forward to your interesting perspectives on these great movies!

    • Yeah it has a different feel than a standard Shaw picture. I wouldn’t like them all to be like this, but it works for this movie really well. It’s the only king Hu movie I’ve seen so I’m wondering if his others have a similar style and feel. Man, influencing Tsui Hark makes total sense, that never even crossed my mind.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m definitely going to keep putting out Shaw reviews.

  • Richard Li

    This is one good film, Cheng Pei Pei and Yueh Hua were excellent in their roles and the fights were clearly daring and somewhat ahead of their time. Among the villains we get a taste of returning characters from previous films as well as that menacing pasty faced bandit boss, who would continue to play the role of the bad guy for many films to come. The choreography was top notch throughout and the level of suspense was just right to sort of keep you on edge, excellent work by King Hu and I look forward to watching more of his works. Highly recommended and well deserving of the timeless classic status among this genre.

    • Definitely continue with King Hu! I’ve seen his next two films, Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen, and they are both masterpieces. I should re-watch this one again.

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