Bright Lights Film Journal

DVD of the Week: Come Drink With Me (1966)

It’s not the typical kung fu movie in that the action is not very well choreographed. I don’t think actress Cheng Pei-pei could do too many stunts. But director King Hu turns his liabilities into assets by focusing more on the before and after of battle. Only in Sergio Leone’s westerns or maybe Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films is so much time spent on the “squaring off” portions of fight scenes.

If you’ve ever done much fighting yourself you know that it’s all “in the eyes.” That means that you keep your cool and your calm by deadlocking your opponent in the eyes, no matter what, which then betray their slightest plan or thought of movement. A good fighter learns to be poker faced about when they attack, squaring off for long stretches of time to wear down their opponent’s focus, then suddenly launching into a furious assault.

I don’t know, that’s my strategy anyway. Now you know, but I’ll still fight you. Why not? You chicken? Meanwhile, here’s COME DRINK WITH ME, starring the chick who would grow up to play Jade Fox in Ang Lee’s CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Thanks to some great colorizing and cleaning on the part of the Weinstein’s Dragon Dynasty label, the film looks gorgeous, with a strong sense of 3-D spaciousness to the large sets, which include a spacious inn, a Buddhist temple and a kung fu master hideout replete with indoor on-set waterfall. Seeing it on my big screen projector, I could practically feel the mist. Mario Bava fans will be thrilled by the excellent use of blackness and colored gel spot lighting in the elaborate sets, and the way Hu keeps his camera relentlessly tracking into and out of buildings, following action up and down and red all over.

The bad fighting skills are all on display as little effort is made to “hide the seams” as it were, so we know for example how the throwing stars wind up in the wall next to our heroine, since the framing stutters around her (indicating they had her stand very still while they stopped the camera and a technician ran up and stuck a star in the wall, then ran out of the frame and they shoot, stop, repeat with another star, etc.) That’s all for the good, as there’s dozens of great Shaw Brothers action flicks, but only one COME DRINK WITH ME!