With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ACF 122: Come Drink With Me

Come Drink With Me / Da zui xia
Directed by King Hu
Hong Kong, 1966, 91 min

Dragon Dynasty has again brought forth a dynamite DVD of one of the Shaw Brothers immortal classics, a single DVD of Come Drink With Me that's packed with terrific extras.

Cheng Pei-pei stars as Golden Swallow, the daughter of a provincial governor. Disguised as a man, she is sent on a mission to rescue her brother. A gang has kidnapped him, hoping to exchange him for their boss, a prisoner who is to be executed. Fan Ta Pei (Yueh Hua), also known as Drunken Cat or The Drunken Hero is a top notch martial artist who assists her. The Chinese title is literally translated as "Drunken Hero" and this character comes to dominate the latter part of the film.

I first saw this film at Lincoln Center a few years ago in the Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film series. That series also included the only surviving episode of the 13-part serial Red Heroine and the 1930 feature Swordswoman of Huangjiang. These films demonstrated the long history of female warriors in Chinese martial arts cinema.

Cheng Pei-pei carried forth this tradition in stellar form in Come Drink With Me, which was her first martial arts film. Oddly enough, it was also King Hu's first film in this genre. And though there names are strongly associated with one another, this is actually the only film they did together.

Some consider this film a masterpiece. I don't think it quite qualifies as one, but it definitely is a great film, an important film, and a classic film. Every Asian Film Fan should at least see it, and given this DVD release, it really deserves a place in any decent collection.

The extras (listed below) are consistent with the outstanding offerings typical of all Dragon Dynasty releases. I found it particularly interesting that in their separate segments, both Cheng Pei-pei and Bey Logan spoke of King Hu's sense of rhythm, most specifically in regard to the action scenes. Cheng, who trained as a dancer from a very young age, describes how King Hu would play a drum to demonstrate the rhythm of the movements and how this had much more of a jazz beat then a conventional Chinese drum would normally have.

The one thing I didn't have a chance to do yet is watch the film with the commentary by Cheng and Logan. I'm really looking forward to that at some point in the near future.

Dave Kehr wrote a review of the DVD in the New York Times of May 27th, before I'd received my review copy. While acknowledging that the use of the original English subtitles (what I like to call "Chinglish") preserved a kind of grindhouse tone, he felt that King Hu deserved "something more respectful." His point is well taken. Dragon Dynasty has done updated subtitles on other releases. Perhaps the decision was made that, since the film is a classic, it should be presented in its original form.

What I'd like to see, and DVDs certainly can do it, is the option of watching the film with either the original subtitles or with new ones that make sense and are grammatically correct. It'll be interesting to see if this happens with future releases, especially when these films are re-released on Blu-Ray DVDs.

I rate the film at 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.

The Special Features get a 4 out of 4 star rating, outstanding, stellar.

DVD Basics:
Price: $19.95
Languages: Mandarin Mono, English Dolby 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Runtime: 91 min
Screen Format: Widescreen
Rating: NR

Special Features:
- Feature Commentary With Lead Actress Cheng Pei-pei and Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
- The King And I: Acclaimed Director Tsui Hark Remembers King Hu
- Come Speak With Me: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Lady Cheng Pei-Pei
- A Classic Remembered: A Retrospective With Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
- The Drunken Master: An Exclusive Interview With Leading Man Yueh Wah
- Trailer Gallery

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