New on DVD: Come Drink with Me

Come Drink with Me may resemble some of the recent Chinese epics to grace the big screens; but over 40 years ago, it was the first of its kind.

Director King Hu has been credited as the pioneer of this style of film. He was the first to combine realistic martial arts and fantasy and magic; to choreograph fights to poetic rhythms; and plan detailed backgrounds as well as foregrounds.

In this story, a gang of bandits have taken over a temple and are holding the governor’s son hostage, in hopes of exchanging him for their leader. The Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-pei) comes to rescue her defenceless brother from the criminals and bring them to justice. During her journey, she aligns with Drunken Cat (Yueh Hua), who is more than he first seems. By the end, the good triumph and the evil are defeated.

This film set the bar for future samurai flicks and is the predecessor to movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with its wire stunts and balletic performances. Thus, in watching Come Drink with Me, the same pleasure is derived as from viewing one of the more recent Chinese action fantasy pictures. Pei-pei became regarded as the “samurai queen;” she was only matched decades later with the emergence of Zhang Ziyi.

The DVD special features are virtually a deserving ode to King Hu and his innovations, as all the interviews tend to turn the focus back to the greatness that was Hu – as a director and man. The commentary by Pei-pei and Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan provide small details of the production; however, it is unfortunate Hu had not recorded a commentary before passing as it would probably have been far more informative.