AKA: Eight Steps of the Snake and Crane Arts
Director: Chan Chi Hwa
Writer: Cheung San Yee
Producer: Lo Wei
Cast: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao Ke Hsiu, Kam Kong, Gam Ching Lan, Lau Nga Ying, Miu Tin, Lee Man Tai, Miu Tak San, Tung Lam, Wong Gwan, Chiu Chun, Hoh Gong, Kim Wang Kuk, Margaret Lee Din Long, Li Min Lang, Liu Ping, To Wai Wo, Wong Chi Sang, Woo Hon Cheung
Running Time: 96 min.
By JJ Hatfield
Although Chan Chi Hwa directed the movie, this is another film Lo Wei credits himself for; however it was all Jacky (as spelled in the Simitar DVD) fighting during a fair portion of the movie. This was shot almost back to back with “Dragon Fist”. Both films feature many of the same people but in different characters you probably will not recognize, and truthfully it isn’t important in the beginning.
An old fashioned treat comes on before the film even starts. The older movies often showcased the lead stars talents and abilities. At one time these were on many movies with a red or sometimes black screen behind them. This might be Jackie’s coolest – he fights two guys armed with spears, short staff and a bit of hand against weapons. The musical accompaniment is ripped from, or certainly sounds like it – Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The plot is not especially cerebral but it is different from solely revenge and fight. At the beginning of the movie the viewer is told that the Grand Masters from eight different clans gathered together in a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation to develop the absolute most effective fighting style – “The Eight Steps Of The Snake and Crane.” They had to be clandestine about their work because there were many clans, gangs, and individuals who would want to use the new technique for evil deeds. Suddenly all the Grand Masters disappeared along with the book. No one knew what had happened to the men or the book.
Before long the book is seen being carried by Hsu Yin-Fung (Jackie Chan) Yin-Fung was trained by the Grand Masters and is excellent at fighting and defending himself. He never worries about being on the losing side of a fight, no matter how many opponents.
Soon most of the nearby clans and families were headed into massive fighting in order to get the book. Carrying such a book seems to be not the best of ideas however it does provide for plenty of action in the form of Yin-Fung fighting and in a very different manner than usual for these films. He is cocky and prefers to not injure or kill unless it’s necessary. He stands with his hands at his sides while someone starts to punch him and he is already hitting them. Jackie in his youth was incredibly agile and excelled in using small props as something to flip over!
The acrobatics help to show some creativity in the fight scenes. And then when the guys are no threat Yin-Fung assumes a cool looking position – negating them as a problem making them lose face. Jackie does things in this film he hasn’t shown before or much afterward. More finesse at times but mostly wailing on bad guys, and he does smile in this one, actually he usually has an arrogant smirk on his face. At one point Yin-Fung says, “Having that book does give me a certain charm though.” Indeed.
Yin-Fung also fights women in this movie, although they were not much of a threat.
Jackie never did like to fight women and made it a policy to never have his role fighting women in the future. He always wanted there to be a woman or kid he had to save. No way would he accept someone like Michelle Yeoh to be his opponent. I think he made a mistake and could have extended his genre’s a tad to include women who can fight.
Unfortunately in this film you don’t see great fighting by women much but that’s okay because Jackie is fighting. Nora Miao is a clan leader who can fight, and looks gorgeous.
There is the Wei humor but much of it surrounds a young guy Kam Ching-lan (no she doesn’t look like a guy either) who follows Yin-Fung around.
Yin Fung only knows one thing about the person who knows what happened to the book and Masters. So he engages everyone to see if they have the clue. He manages to piss off most of the people he meets. Even the women. He is so charming to the ladies by saying such things as “women are just like children. Too vague and indecisive.” on his philosophy of not doing business with women.
I think all the one liners are in the dubbed version “But still though”. I prefer bad Chinese dubs to bad English dubs although the subtitles are a bit confusing. The plot is ambitious because after all he is only one man. A specially trained man but still though…
There are more tricks and double crosses than you can count. Some clans work together and then get into a fight and another clan will start to fight all over again.
The dialog mostly consists of the following:
“You need a lesson!”
“You are asking for a lesson!”
“I think you need a lesson!”
“God Damn It! You need a lesson!”
…Oh and “You must be tired of living!”
For those with a low tolerance for Lo Wei humor this movie is a good choice after “Dragon Fist”
Jackie’s character is a real jerk and brags to all he will beat them and win, and then they attack him and he beats the daylights out of them. With so much going on there is no need for much humor. For those liking that style of humor there is some but best to go with another choice, perhaps “Fearless Hyena” or “Half a Loaf Of Kung Fu”. Some people actually enjoy HLKF. But Snake and Crane is a much better movie because of the fighting, minus most of the “humor”.
I have the old, old VHS copy of this film which is 14 minutes longer than the Simitar DVD. There isn’t anything earthshaking cut out mostly a few more punches here or there and exposition between the clans. It doesn’t harm the movie but I wish to hell companies would stop chopping up movies!
The picture quality is better on the Simitar DVD but that isn’t saying much. There are a few scenes that are faded, a scratch or two but not at all bad for an old movie and a cheap release.
The sets are nothing special but there are a few brief shots of a snowy landscape and a gorgeous waterfall which is known to appear in a number of films. There are a couple of very brief scenes which seem almost slo-mo blurred. I had to search and search to find out what I was seeing. Finally I found two specific references to this film having a couple of areas of damaged scenes that were artificially slowed down to “hide” missing frames. This doesn’t happen enough to be any sort of problem but at least you will know you aren’t having a flashback.
Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin is a solid old school good time.
JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 7/10
A more appropriate title would be “Jackie Chan vs. The Peoples’ Republic of China.” This Lo Wei effort has even more fight scenes than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands. Jackie is a wandering fighter who claims to possess a secret Shaolin technique instruction manual which everybody wants (and nobody gets). Numerous characters hunt him down and confront him for a chance to win the prized book. The most annoying of them by far is the cross-dressing girl (I jumped for joy when the main villain offed her). The guy who only speaks in two-syllable sentences was pretty funny, and I really liked the way the last Shaolin master said “Buddha bless you” (twice!).
My only gripe about this movie is that much of the combat is very one-sided, with Jackie pretty much beating the crap out of all who oppose him. Fights where the adversaries are more evenly matched, like at the end of Dragon Fist, are much more interesting to me.
Numskull’s Rating: 7/10
This is the first Jackie Chan movie I bought along with Dragon Fist. Many people may disagree with me, but I enjoyed this movie. The opening scene where Jackie shows off his kung fu skills is amazing (How can you complain about it?). In the movie, Jackie’s character basically walks around and fights with everybody while trying to conceal the book. There is nonstop action and some sarcastic humor from Jackie. There are some misleading issues such as the Dragon Spear, but it doesn’t seem to care to me.
The ending is pretty spectacular as well. He first fights three guys each with a spear (single-handedly) and once he beats them up he fights the Black Dragon guy (whatever he’s called) using the snake and crane form. Because it was a Lo Wei production, I had to make my rating a little lower because the movie isn’t up to par with Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow in size.
Sifu’s Rating: 7/10
Contrary to popular opinion I think this movie is pretty bad. This may sound very negative but I really didn’t find any good moments in this film. Here are my reasons for not liking this movie. Hopefully after you read this you will see my point of view.
- The begining sequence in this film is not all that its cracked up to be. All Jackie does is swing a spear around. After a couple minutes I had to fast-foward it because that red room was giving me a headache.
- The dubbing is REAL bad (Where do they get these guys! Some of the voices sound like they belong in a cartoon).
- Jackie screwed up the fighting in this movie, BIG TIME! He barly did any Snake or Crane style in this movie. All he did was slap people and wiggle his hand afterwards. After he did that, that crossdresser wanted to see how he did it. So Jackie lifts up this paper and slaps it and it tears. Then he says this lame speech about how you should never hit to hard, COME ON! The monk who invented that style should start laying off the moonshine (No offense SHAOL!N DRUNK MONK).
- The co stars in the movie are ridiculous. A Bum, a crossdresser, a old man who keeps messing with his iron balls (Sounds kinda like Lo Wei), and whole bunch of other dorks.
- In the beginning they kept talking about a Dragon Spear, But they never showed it or mentioned it in the end. This movie is not good.
Don’t waste your money on it. Unless you LIKED To Kill With Intrigue, then that would make this a master piece.
Cody’s Rating: 3/10 Buddha Bless You!
If I were seling old two-packs of Lo Wei films, I’d do two things right off the bat: First, I would stop sellng all the pathetic two packs out there. Then I would bundle this one with Shaolin Wooden men, and sell them together for about ten bucks. I think they make an interesting combination, because both of them fail where Dragon Lord succeeds. In this film there were too many characters and plot twists, while in Shaolin Wooden Men there weren’t enough surprises.
I really need to watch this one again to figure out what was going on, and to try and make some sense out of it. Acting was of acceptable 1970s quality and the action was about the same. Not a great deal of comedy in this film, but that was forgivable since Jackie spent so much time fighting off all these different gangs. There were so many bad guys that I think one of them escaped in the end. Sequel? Hah it wasn’t that good.
Andrew’s Rating: 6/10
By The Great Hendu
Now this is a movie! This sucker was filled with great fight scenes, excellent choreography, not bad acting and a better than average plot. You can see some of the comedy more evident in Jackie’s later films. I laughed, I cried, I got pumped, I went out and got another movie. P.S. Check out the fight scenes that roll behind the opening credits. COOL!!
The Great Hendu’s Rating: 7/10