Saturday, 4 October 2008

Come Drink with Me (1966)

Come Drink with Me (Da zui xia) is one of the legendary movies in the canon of Hong Kong martial arts cinema. This Shaw Brothers production is also arguably the first of the great Chicks with Swords epics. Dating from 1966 it naturally can’t compete with later movies of this type when it comes to breath-taking action sequences. It does however have its own very definite charms.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this genre but to me it seems even more stylised than later Hong Kong action movies. It has a very operatic feel to it. The characters are types rather than people. The sets look artificial. That’s not to say the movie looks cheap or shoddy. Far from it. It looks magnificent. The artificiality appears to be deliberate, especially the scenes in the house near the waterfall. At one point the heroine is supposed to be disguised as a man. In fact she’s not disguised at all and still looks completely female but the other characters are all fooled by her. Again, all very operatic and stylised, and rather appealing.

The action sequences are neither as fast nor as spectacular as later movies, but they have a wonderful elegance to them. There are also several songs, adding a wonderful touch of strangeness to the proceedings!

Cheng Pei-pei stars as Golden Swallow, a famous and exceptionally formidable swordswoman whose task it is to bring to justice a gang of notorious bandits who have kidnapped the son of the provincial governor. This unfortunate young man just happens to be Golden Swallow’s brother. The bandits are demanding the release of one of their own men. Golden Swallow manages to find herself an unlikely ally in the form of a disreputable alcoholic beggar known as Drunken Cat. The bandits discover to their cost that there is more to this shabby beggar than meets the eye. There’s also an evil Buddhist abbot, and an army of women warriors.

The plot is simple to the point of minimalism, but this is a movie that relies on style, and style is something it has in abundance. I caught up with this movie on cable on World Movies although I believe it’s also available on DVD. The print screened by World Movies looks absolutely superb. I found myself loving this movie.


houseinrlyeh said...

I agree with you about the use of artificiality with you. Interestingly, this space would be explored even further in most of the Shaw Brothers films by Chor Yuen, while Come Drink With Me's director King Hu would go on to make heavy use of real Taiwanese landscapes.
I can highly recommend Hu's next film Dragon Inn to you, and of course what is considered his masterpiece, A Touch of Zen.

dfordoom said...

Unfortunately it seems that none of his movies are available on DVD in this country. I'll just have to hope they show up on cable on World Movies at some stage.