Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)

Reviewed by: ororama
Date: 03/01/2013

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow stars Jackie Chan as a servant at a Kung Fu school who serves as a punching bag to assist the school's teachers to attract and keep wealthy students with minimal skills. Chan provides his usual mix of impressive acrobatics and goofy comedy, and Simon Yuen is fun as the master disguised as a beggar who teaches Chan the Snake Fist style.

The ambitions of the movie are modest, but director Yuen Wo-Ping creates a satisfying mix of action and comedy, and it serves as a strong early showcase for the talents that made Jackie Chan a major star.

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 11/20/2008
Summary: The legend begins...

An unofficial prequel to Drunken Master, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow follows the trials and travails of Chien Fu, a servant and "walking dummy" in a town's kung fu school. He is regularly bullied and made to act as a punching bag for students and instructors that want to show their skills to prospective clients. He befriends an old beggar named Pai Chang Tien (Simon Yuen) who is the last known master of the Snake Fist style. He is being hunted by Eagle Claw master Shang Kuan Yin (Hwang Jang Lee), who is determined to wipe out all Snake Fist practitioners. Seeing that Chien is an able student, Pai decides to pass the knowledge onto him, thus continuing the style's tradition. Before long though, Shang catches up to both of them, and they must battle him and his students to protect the Snake Fist style from extinction.

This first collaboration between Jackie Chan and celebrated choreographer/director Yuen Woo-Ping is an absolute gem. Although not quite as polished in the choreography and timing of the subsequent classic Drunken Master, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow gives you a real preview of the magic that both these men would make in the following decades. Chan's trademark slapstick antics are evident for the fist time here, and would dominate his roles from this point on. Yuen, although having done action choreography for years, is finally given a chance behind the lens and does a great job. Hwang Jang Lee also stands out, as he usually does with outstandingly powerful kicks and fighting speed. Another point to mention is the music, which ranges from very trippy synthesizers to a variation on John Williams' Star Wars music from the scene in which the Death Star is destroyed! Eclectic to say the least. A must watch for all fans of either Chan or Yuen, and really the start of an era for both. Highly recommended!


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/25/2007

Breezy, campy, and soft "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow" was Jackie Chan's first taste of domestic popularity. While it lacks the sophistication and panache of Chan's future releases and ultimately pales in comparison to its fraternal twin ("Drunken Master") "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow" is still even by contemporary standards a fun way to knockout 90 minutes of your day.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/03/2006
Summary: Laying the foundations

In 1978, with his career going nowhere, Jackie Chan was loaned to Seasonal films for a two picture deal. The company wanted Fu Sheng, but due to other commitments, he was unavailable. The company begged the producer (Ng See Yuen) not to hire Jackie, stating that no film of his had ever been a hit, but Ng See Yuen liked what he saw, and a legend was born…

The film does not open promisingly. Hwang Jang Lee talks to Fong Haak-On (in the only good-guy role I can recall seeing him in) and they spend the first two minutes of the film hurling every chop-socky cliché imaginable to each other (you know the sort – “so…you must be tired of living!” etc etc). However, from there, it picks up tremendously (Fong Haak-On gets killed horribly, by the way. Seems that playing a good guy doesn’t agree with him).

Although not every element works well (the humour can sometimes grate), what you have here is the blueprint for virtually all of Jackie Chan’s films ever since. Along with Hwang Jang Lee (or “Korean Superkicker Hwang Jang Lee”, to give him his full name) as the bad guy (a role he would reprise in the sublime Drunken Master), Yuen Siu-Tien plays the beggarly mentor (who also reprises his role in Drunken Master) and Dean Shek plays the moderately villainous Kung Fu school teacher (who also…you get the idea). In fact, the whole film seems like a dry run for Drunken Master!

The synth score is actually quite memorable. I’m not a fan of 70’s synth music, but I believe strongly that it was performed by Jean Michel Jarre. I have no doubt that all the correct permissions for its inclusion in this film were granted in the correct manner *winks conspiratorially*.

Also in attendance is Roy Horan as the Christian Missionary. He’s a good guy, and there’s nothing funny about him whatsoever, honest. While I’m on the subject, this film really does showcase the three rules of Kung Fu cinema:
1. Never trust a man with facial hair.
2. Never trust a foreigner.

In seriousness, though, Roy Horan gives a good account of himself, and even spends the entirety of his final scenes fighting with a dislocated shoulder (for real).

The showdown is just what you’d expect from a film such as this – long and bloody (although it should be pointed out that Jackie apparently used a double for a couple of shots). Also, rumour has it that Hwang Jang Lee accidentally knocked a cap out of one of Jackie’s teeth in this scene, leading Hwang Jang Lee to be excluded from any of Jackie’s future projects after he gained more control of his destiny. If this is true, then it really is a shame.

Finally, a small note on animal violence. As a cat lover, I cannot condone the use in this film of a real live cat to be pulled about on strings to simulate a fight against a cobra. It’s sick and disgusting, even if the cat wins in the end. This is one of the few times I’ve been grateful for a cut version of a film.

If you can get past that, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this very important film. If it wasn’t for this film, we probably wouldn’t have heard about Jackie Chan at all.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/24/2003
Summary: I agree with balisto

The movie did seemed dated but you can see the trademarks comedy/action of Jackie Chans in this early film. The action is quite good if long at times. Almost plotless, but isn't all movies around this time period!!!


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: SteelwireMantis
Date: 09/04/2003
Summary: A Classic

After years of struggling under the ill-fated contract of Lo Wei, Chan was hired out to Seasonal Films and made two films. Surprisingly SITES turned out to be the first movie to break Bruce Lee's box-office record and gave Chan some recognition in Asian cinema.

Shang Kuan (Hwang Jang Lee), head of the Eagle Claw sect has killed most of the Snake Fist Clan. Pai Chang Tien (Yuen Siu Tin) is one of the last two remaining Snake Fist Masters and is on the run in a small town. Chien Fu (Chan) is a young orphan working as a servant at a kung fu school and is used as a punchbag by Master Li (Dean Shek). After helping Pai Chang Tien in a fight against a rival school, Chien Fu takes him to his home to stay. Pai sees how Chien Fu is picked on and decides to teach him the Snake Fist. When Shang Kuan and Pai Chang Tien go head-to-head, Chien Fu adopts the Cat's Claw and combines it with the Snake Fist to save his master.

The plot is pretty cheesy, but this is one of the most enjoyable kung fu flicks ever! The student/master chemistry is shown really well by Chan and Yuen and the fight scenes are very entertaining. Although it doesn't have as much comedy as 'Drunken Master' it proves to be a classic.

An entertaining flick from the 70's with garuanteed satisfaction.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 05/27/2003
Summary: Liked it but Drunken Master is 5 times better...

This film did seem a bit dated, it has very strange music! I liked the characters and the fight scenes are very good, if a bit mind numbing. I just don't think it has the variety and quality of Drunken Master, but it's still worth a watch!

Reviewed by: DrunkenMonkey
Date: 02/04/2002
Summary: The Perfect Old School Kung Fu-Comedy

Finally, in 1978, after making such horribly stupid films with Lo Wei as "Killer Meteor" and "To Kill With Intrigue", Lo finally got tired of Jackie (then going as Cheng Lung). So he sent him on loan to Season Pictures.
His first film, "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow", is definately an entertaining film. There is comedy, but not too much (and it's not vulgar comedy either, like "Drunken Master").

SITES tells the story of young Chien Fu (Chan) - bullied by the kids, and mis-treated by everyone. He's signed up for a kung fu school - only to end scrubbing the floors. Then, one day, good-hearted Chien Fu sees an old beggar getting attacked. The beggar turns out to be the last living master of the Snake Fist style (Yuen Siu Tien). The beggar takes pity on Fu, and teaches him the Snake Fist style. But an evil master of the Eagle's Claw (Hwang Jang Lee) tricks Chien Fu, resulting in the Eagle's Claw master fighting with the Snake Fist master.

Meanwhile, Chien Fu has seen his best friend, a cat, fighting a snake in the alley. He studies the cat's attack, and decides to make a style out of.

So, after the beggar/master has been beaten, Chien Fu uses his Cat's Claw style and the Snake Fist to beat the Eagle Claw master. In the end, the Snake Fist master and Chien Fu name the style Snake in Eagle's Shadow.

A very good early film, with great fights, fine music and plot, and good story.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/13/2002
Summary: GOOD

One of the worlds favorite Jackie Chan movies I think, and I would have to agree. A funny martial arts comedy. Hwang Jang Lee is on the prowl, so Jackie better watch out!

Rating: 4/5

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Magical Rice
Date: 07/07/2001
Summary: Worth renting, at the very least...

This is a good martial arts flick.

I love the drunken style and this movie makes very good use of it.

It's very "schticky" with lots of cornball sound effects (Doing! Boink Boonk Twoing!) and makes desperate attempts to humor the viewer but falls about five beers short of a six-pack comedic masterpiece.

This is the earliest Jackie Chan movie that I've seen so far and I think that if you can look past the film quality and all of the other things that turn most people off to older MA flics, you'll really enjoy watching Jackie Chan in action. The old man who trains him is VERY good, too.

There are some memorable scenes, including one we've all seen before with a rice bowl, but with a few unique touches added to it.

Note that you can rarely find sloppy cuts in this film during the fighting sequences. Rare for a 1978 kung fu movie.

Also note that the director for this movie (Yuen Wo Ping) is the same guy that choreographed The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dragyn
Date: 03/24/2001
Summary: Ballistic Elastic

Strangely, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW is one of my personal favourite Jackie Chan movies. I am still unable to work out why; I consider myself a lover of intelligent, complex films on the whole.

So why, then, do I repeatedly insult my intelligence with an hour of pure campy, cheap, cheesy chop-socky madness?

And the answer must be that I'm just one of those strange people who LIKES the campiness of it. I actually ENJOY watching 70's and early 80's Kung Fu flicks, despite the fact that everything about them is crap - apart from the martial arts. And let's face it, the martial arts is the only reason to keep watching a movie like SNAKE; things like plot, dialogue and drama don't actually exist, it's just action.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who has a passion for Jackie Chan or Kung Fu; it has a great deal of both at their best. Jackie Chan resembles a punchbag for the first half of the movie, and an amazingly supple, fluid piece of elastic in the second. It is hard to believe that he is even human; he does things that defy everything, including things like gravity.

I give this movie 9/10 for pure Kung Fu fighting and Jackie Chan, both of which are enough to sell me a ticket any day.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

Chien I Kun, master of the Eagle's Claw, seeks to destroy all practitioners of the Snake Fist. Only Pai Chian Tien remains. Meanwhile, 'walking target' Chien Fu, lowly janitor of the local kung fu school, keeps getting picked on by the students. When he saves an old man from bullies at another school, he is taken in and taught the Snake Fist style. One of Jackie's earliest, this film is more a 70s 'you killed my master, now you must die' than a Jackie Chan film. Still, there is ample evidence of what was to follow.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

The last remaining master of the snake style of kung fu,decides to take on a student to ensure the survival of this style of combat. A vigorous blend of kung fu and comedy, the first film of this type starring Jackie Chan.


[Reviewed by Elliot's Guide to Films on Video]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

The opening credits aren't promising -- Jackie Chan doing kung-fu exercises against a newly painted wooden backdrop for five minutes, followed by a chop-sockey duel with those patented cheapo camera zooms. Yet, the movie wins you over, scene by scene. Chien-fu (Jackie) is an orphan whose job consists of scrubbing the floors for a martial arts school, and standing in as the occasional practice dummy. After he befriends a kindly old martial arts master, he gets a chance to save the man's life (the old guy's stabbed by a Russian kung-fu Catholic priest!). This begins Chien-fu's martial arts training in the Shake Fist, which can only be beaten by the Eagle's Claw, which is exactly why villains are out to challenge and vanquish the old man and extinguish his style (okay, maybe these characters kill for some ridiculous reasons). Each of the fights is lovingly choreographed, and dramatic, and frequently witty -- it's a look at how good this genre can be when done well. After seeing his cat attack and kill a (real!) King Cobra (animal rights activists, divert your eyes), Chien-fu devises a new technique for which there is no defense, and it turns out to be the only way to save his master. Campy? You bet, and it's also fight-intensive, jam-packed with all the old elements (including glaring color) --but what great fun! The only thing missing is martial arts babes.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 8