One of the most beloved classic wuxia pian (heroic chivalry) marked the debut of a young ballerina turned legend. Her name: Cheng Pei-Pei.
“Golden Swallow” Chang is the daughter of the local governor who is sent on a mission. Her brother, Master Chang, has been kidnapped by a group of bandits led by the devilish Jade Faced Tiger. Master Chang is held in exchange for the release of Jade Faced Tiger’s leader. During her travels, she is followed by the mysterious Drunken Cat, a beggar who seems to quite an expert with the staff.
During a confrontation at the local temple, Golden Swallow finally comes face to face with the Jade Faced Tiger. When they fight, he uses a poisonous dart to wound her. Drunken Cat comes to her rescue and it is soon discovered that the beggar was once a bandit himself. However, growing tired of the bandit lifestyle, he resorts to being a beggar and hero. When Drunken Cat is challenged by the bandits, Golden Swallow arrives and hatches a plan to stop the bandits and rescue her brother while Drunken Cat must live up to his past to once and for all move on.
Directed by the legendary King Hu, this classic swordplay film has proven over the course of time to become of the well-loved films of Asian cinema. Aside from its Kurosawa-esque influence, the film’s major highlight is that of Cheng Pei-Pei. The ballerina turned actress gives out a superb performance as the young Golden Swallow. Under training from the legendary Han Ying-Chieh and a young Sammo Hung, Cheng performs well with the sword and even dishes out a little kicking at the same time. She proves that women can be equal to men in the martial world.
As for Yueh Hua, he does great as the mysterious Drunken Cat. As a beggar, he follows Golden Swallow around at times like someone who is madly in love or someone who respect her as a swordswoman. He goes as far as helping her when she is poisoned. Despite his eventual secret being revealed, he truly shows he is a man of honor. While Cheng Pei-Pei leads the film, it is Yueh Hua who gets the final fight of the film, against the notorious leader of the bandits.
The swordplay sequences are a delight to watch, notably that of the one against many fight at a local temple. This scene is where fans see Cheng at her best. Taking on the late Chan Hung-Lieh (who whiteface looks like he can pass as a wuxia version of the Joker) and goons, she dishes out punishment with the use of two daggers. What is interesting is the tension that builds before the punishment. This is where the film has that Seven Samurai feel to the film. That is, before she is nearly killed by the poisonous dart of the Jade Faced Tiger, setting up the climatic battles of the film.
A sequel, Golden Swallow, would be released two years later as more of a vehicle for Jimmy Wang Yu, but Come Drink with Me is definitely Cheng Pei-Pei’s show. She is truly a delight to watch and any martial arts film fan wanting to see a classic will enjoy this one.
WFG RATING: A
A Shaw Brothers (H.K.) Ltd. Production. Director: King Hu. Producer: Sir Run Run Shaw. Writers: King Hu and Ting Shan-Hsi. Cinematography: Tadashi Nishimoto. Editing: Chiang Hsing-Lung.
Cast: Cheng Pei-Pei, Yueh Hua, Chan Hung-Lieh, Lee Wan Chung, Yeung Chi-Hing, Hao Li-Jen, Wong Chung, Cheung Hei, Tony Ching, Alan Chui, Mars, Han Ying-Chieh, Simon Yuen, Ku Feng, Fung Ngai.