Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow (1979)

snakeinthemonkeysshadow

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First the snake fought the eagle. Now, the monkey takes on the snake in this exciting kung fu film from director Cheung Sum.

Ah Lung is a local fishmonger who long to live a dream. That dream is to study kung fu. He tends to go on his deliveries but makes detours to the local school run by Master Ho, who teaches the Drunken Boxing style. When he is late for his delivery, he finds himself bullied by the aristocratic Yan brothers. When Lung attempts to ask Master Ho to teach him, Ho refuses and gets Lung drunk enough to leave him by the countryside. When Lung wakes up, he finds himself confronted by a cobra until Koo Ting-Sang, a hermit, kills the snake with his Monkey style skills.

Master Ho eventually relents and lets Lung stay on but as the janitor of the school. However, when the other students begin to bully Lung, who stands up to them, Ho decides Lung is worthy as a student. When Lung thanks Koo for saving him, Lung is offered to train in Monkey style until he learns the teacher would be a real monkey. When the Yan brothers attempt to take over Koo’s land, Lung is able to use his Drunken Boxing style to stand up to the two. An enraged Mr. Yan, the brothers’ dad, decides to hire two experts in the Snake style to dispatch of Ho first. However, when Koo is killed as one of the snake experts was one he faced in the past, Lung is determined to combine Ho’s Drunken Boxing and Koo’s Monkey style to exact revenge for the two people who gave a damn about him.

Director Cheung Sum joins forces with the excellent Wilson Tong to create this film, hot on the heels of the successful and similarly titled Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, the film that made Jackie Chan a superstar. The film has a similar premise to the Chan film: bullied kid learns to combine two martial arts styles to take on an enemy who is skilled in a different style. However, the twist is that the enemy comes in two with the central villains being two experts in the Snake Fist style.

John Cheung is a highly respected kung fu expert who has appeared in many films. He gets the lead role as the likable Lung, who finds himself living a dream and on top of that, finds himself bullied by two rich brothers. The brothers, played by Cheng Kang-Yeh and future Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Wan Fat, are skilled in their own styles. However, it is when we see Hau Chiu-Sing’s Master Ho using the Drunken style, a form he would use in a Shaw Brothers film that same year, Five Superfighters and Pomson Shi’s Koo Ting-Sang using Monkey Style that the film picks up.

The highlights kick up a notch when we are introduced to the main villains, Hsia Sa and his partner, both Snake experts. Hsia is played by Charlie Chan, not the famous detective, but an actor who played Jackie Chan’s employer in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow while the partner is played by none other than Wilson Tong himself. These two are lethal together and this all leads into a well-choreographed finale that Tong himself is responsible between Cheung and the duo of Chan and Tong. This finale makes the Drunken Monkey style and Snake styles look impressive.

Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow is a pretty good kung fu comedy film that highlights its cast with their impressive skills and makes for a good lead role for John Cheung, who was (and still is) a force to be reckoned with.

WFG RATING: B

A Goldig Films Production. Director: Cheung Sum. Producer: Alex Gouw. Writers: Cheung Sum and Wilson Tong. Cinematography: Tony Fan. Editing: Fan Kung-Wing.

Cast: John Cheung, Hau Chiu-Sang, Charlie Chan, Wilson Tony, Pomson Shi, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Wan Fat, Tong Tin-Hei, Ho Kei-Cheung, San Sin, Nam Wai, King Lee, Chan Ming-Wai, Tsang Choh-Lam.

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