After the failures of the studios doing the stupid thing of trying to turn Jackie Chan into the next Bruce Lee, Chan took a different direction. Working with Ng See-yuen, Jackie worked on a new type of Kung Fu film that revolved around comedy. This movie was the first, followed by Drunken Master.
Snake in the Eagles Shadow made Jackie Chan a big name in the business, and was the first big break he made before working his way through to international stardom.
Jackie Chan plays Chien Fu, an adopted orphan at a kung fu school. The master who adopted him is away, and so one of his students is in charge and running the school, using Chien as a punching bag for all his demonstrations.
Chien submits and cops the beating each time, but is depressed over what life seems to have dealt him. When he stumbles upon an old man in a fight, who appears to be losing, Chien does the honorable thing and tries to help out, but is no match for the men. Little does he know the old man, a beggar, is extremely well versed and helps Chien by teaming up to fight off his attackers.
Chien and the beggar become close friends, and eventually the old man teaches Chien a little bit of Snakefist style – a style of Kung Fu he has mastered. Chien uses what he’s learned at his school and defends himself, hurting his abuisive training partner. His master however is furious and beats him up.
So Chien ventures off and learns the Snakefist style properly, and becomes extremely skilled before a man comes into to town trying to kill the old man. So it is up to Chien and the Beggar to defend themselves and defeat the man after them, who is the master of Eagle Claw clan.
‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’?
Funny name, I didn’t quite get it at first but all is revealed when watching the film!
(spoilers) When Chien is learning his Snake fist style, he is defeated by the head of Eagle’s claw, who also knows the style very well. He then finds a Snake in his room which was killed by his cat. Putting two and two together, Chien adds Cat movements to balance out the weaknesses of Snakefist style, and the Begger declares that the name of the style should be ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’, after using it to defeat the head of the Eagle Claw clan.
What I find most interesting about the movie is that satisfying period of time when Chien goes form being the punching bag to the guy hitting back. Being as innocent and kind natured as they come, Chien is a character you really feel for early in the movie.
As usual however there is the montage toward the end of the film with Jackie learning the Snakefist style and the formula is pretty stock standard, but it was put together in a way which doesn’t seem like ‘another one of those movies’. Much like Drunken Master after it, there’s a classic feel to this film which transcends some of the more dated aspects of it.
The Action & Martial Arts
The pace is the typcial stop, go stop go pace of 70’s Kung Fu movies, with a little Jackie Chan stuntwork thrown into the mix.
It is still the early days however, and Jackie hasn’t yet developed that fantastic action style which sets his films apart from the other movies made in Hong Kong. In saying that, seeing the difference in Kung Fu styles is always interesting, especially when Jackie is comparing his Snakefist style movements to that of the cat.
The action is decent, however dated, but fits in perfectly as the story seems to do agood job of keeping you interested. I can see why Jackie Chan did well with film.
An old skool classic! Not for the fans of adrenaline charged fights, but defintiely for the fans of older Kung Fu movies and cinematic history!
On DVD -
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Snake in Eagles Shadow