Come Drink with Me

BUY AT:

See more details, packaging, or compare

Synopsis

Years before Shaw Brothers’ kung fu films made them the biggest film studio in Hong Kong, local audiences flocked to their wuxia pian films: mythic tales of swordfighting (and often gravity-defying) heroes fighting for honor. In his final film for the studio, Come Drink With Me, director King Hu (A Touch of Zen) broke fresh new ground in martial arts storytelling, and catapulted fresh-faced lead actress Cheng Pei-pei to stardom in the process.

When the Governor’s son is taken hostage by bandits, a mysterious swordsman named Golden Swallow (Cheng) is hot on their trail to ensure the son’s release. What the bandits don’t realize, however, is that Golden Swallow is actually a woman, and that the hostage is her brother. Determined to set him free, no matter how many goons she has to fight her way through in doing so, she is aided in her quest by a drunken beggar (Yueh Hua) who may have a closer connection to the bandits’ leader than he initially lets on.

Decades before Ang Lee brought the wuxia genre to international attention with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (in which Cheng played the villainous Jade Fox), King Hu set the original template in what is still considered one of Shaw Brothers’ greatest and most influential action masterpieces.

Picture 7/10

Continuing through the Shaw Bros. library, Arrow Video presents King Hu’s influential wuxia film Come Drink with Me on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. It has been encoded at 1080p/24hz.

The bad news is that the film hasn’t received a recent restoration and Arrow is stuck using an old master that was likely created in 2002, Tony Rayns bringing up a restoration that was done around this time in his included commentary. The good news is that it’s probably one of the better “older” Celestial ones I’ve come across, at least based on what I’ve seen in Arrow's Shawscope set. It unfortunately still has a digital look, thanks mostly to grain coming off a bit blocky, but the fact grain is still there shows that, at the very least, Celestial didn't go overboard with noise reduction, as some of their other restorations show, and the image still offers an impressive level of detail. Outside of some dupey shots the image keeps a sharp and crisp look, and artifacts aren't too problematic outside of that noisy looking grain. Even the smoky interiors come out looking impressive, the smoke in question blending nicely within the environment.

There are some mild pulses and shifts to be found throughout, but the restoration work has touched things up nicely, with very little damage otherwise remaining. Colours lean warm but have a nice look about them, some wonderful blues, reds, and greens popping up. Black levels are generally good, but there is a murkiness to the shadows, which limits details and ultimately flattens the image.

In all, the film is clearly in need of a newer scan and restoration, but of the “older” Celestial restorations and final presentations I’ve seen so far this is one of the better ones.

Audio 6/10

Arrow includes Mandarin and English soundtracks, both in single-channel DTS-HD MA mono. Neither is especially great but I’d say the Mandarin one is the better of the two. It’s flat and lacks range but it’s the sharper of the two. The English track sounds more detached from the material, and that probably comes down more to the recording itself: it really sounds like it was recorded in a studio most of the time and rarely fits the environment. But both end up sounding clean, no heavy distortion or damage present.

Extras 9/10

Arrow puts together a great little special edition for the film, starting things off with a brand-new audio commentary recorded by Tony Rayns. Rayns uses this opportunity to talk about director King Hu and the huge impact this film had, leading to an explosion in what is known as the wuxia sub-genre. From here Rayns then touches on wuxia's origins and how its common traits can be found in Hong Kong cinema going all the way back to the silent era, where even things like “palm power” and “flying” are present. Chang Cheh’s “sequel” The Golden Swallow gets some attention as well, Rayns mentioning the film was released in competition to and as a sort of “screw you” against Hu’s Golden Harvest production Dragon Inn (which Run Run Shaw was apparently able to delay the release of in Hong Kong), an then touching on how that director handles a woman protagonist in that film; I wasn’t surprised to learn she ends up getting sidelined. Rayns also talks about Chinese martial arts serials and how they play into this film (even mentioning Wong Kar-wai’s lampooning of them in 2046) and brings up that there is a new 4K restoration for Hu’s The Valiant Ones, maybe meaning it will be coming sometime soon from some label. As with Rayns’ other tracks it’s well researched and he keeps it engaging, moving seamlessly from one topic to another.

The disc then features a number of archival interviews recorded between 2003 and 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine. There are interviews with co-stars Yueh Hua and Chen Hung-lieh, running about 30-minutes and 44-minutes respectively. The two end up offering overviews of their career, with a focus on their work at Shaw. Chen brings up the unique attributes of his villain in Come Drink with Me, particularly the white face. They’re both excellent discussions but I found two inclusions featuring star Cheng Pei-pei the most intriguing. She first covers her career all the way from her early dance experience to working on Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a lengthy 52-minute interview, with a good bit of focus on Come Drink with Me and the sequel The Golden Swallow. In the case of the latter she was hesitant to do it since Hu wasn’t helming, and she gets more into that film in 11-minutes’ worth of excerpts from a Q&A she participated in at the University of Hawaii in 2016, where she talks about how her character fell to the background due to Chang Cheh just not knowing how to deal with women. She also mentions how she was considered to star in Dragon Inn, but her Shaw contract wouldn’t allow it. If you end up only watching a couple of the interviews, I'd put the focus on her's.

Arrow then includes the second part to the Cinema Hong Kong series (the first of which is found on the King Boxer disc in Arrow’s first Shawscope set), sub-titled Swordfighting. The 50-minute episode ends up focusing on the wuxia sub-genre of martial arts films, delving deep into its film history from the silent era to the then-recent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, examining its roots in Beijing opera and circus acrobatics. In the last section it then looks at how directors would approach these films differently, with Hu going from being interested in the choreography to focusing on camera movements instead, or how Chang Cheh would load his with violence. This is a great little series so far, one I haven’t seen before, but I’m a little surprised they didn’t save it for another Shawscope set, even if it makes sense to have paired it with this film.

The disc then closes with a couple of standard features: a fairly lengthy gallery featuring production photos, lobby cards, posters, and DVD covers (along with what may be a shot from a delete sequence where Hu appears in the film), followed by what appears to be the Hong Kong trailer and a trailer for a digital release. Arrow also includes a trailer for The Golden Swallow, which I assume may appear in another Shawscope set.

Arrow also includes a 42-page booklet, limited to first printings that also come with an O-card. It opens with an essay on the film by Anne Bilson, but the gem in here is the reprinting of a lengthy 2010 essay by George Chun Han Wang about King Hu’s overall career, touching on his issues with Shaw Studios, Run Run Shaw in particular. It’s a great read, expanding on material covered elsewhere in the supplements.

All around it’s one of the better put together set of features by Arrow so far for a Shaw film so far, covering Hu and the film to a satisfying degree, while also providing what is a bit of a crash course on wuxia films.

Closing

Despite being hampered by what is clearly a dated restoration, Arrow has put together a very satisfying special edition for the influential film.

BUY AT:

 
 
Directed by: King Hu
Year: 1966
Time: 95 min.
 
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Celestial Pictures Ltd.
Release Date: March 22 2022
MSRP: $39.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Mandarin 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Brand new audio commentary by film critic and historian Tony Rayns   Interview with star Cheng Pei-pei, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003   Interview with star Yueh Hua, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2007   Interview with star Chen Hung-lieh, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003   Talk Story with Cheng Pei-pei, a 2016 Q&A at the University of Hawaii moderated by George Chun Han Wang   Cinema Hong Kong: Swordfighting, a documentary on the history of the wuxia genre and Shaw Brothers’ contributions to it, produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003 and featuring interviews with Cheng Pei-pei, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Kara Hui, David Chiang and others   Original theatrical trailer   Trailer for the sequel Golden Swallow   Image gallery   Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson, and a 2010 essay by George Chun Han Wang about the relationship between director King Hu and producer Run Run Shaw