Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow Blu-ray Review

Overshadowed

Note: This Blu-ray is available directly from Twilight Time.
Masterfully twisting Sleeping Beauty into an Eastern martial arts comedy farce, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow designates Jackie Chan as beauty, fighting his way through bullies. It’s not an uncommon kung-fu spectacle – warring schools, bearded masters, clashing ideologies, and a plethora of impromptu fighting. Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow is to Airplane as Airport is to Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection.

If the genre felt lost after Bruce Lee’s passing, Chan’s invigorating style and fight creativity energized the seemingly routine punch/kick/flip formula. Drunken chopstick fights, teacup hunts, elaborate brawling styles, and other clever hokum give identity to Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow.

Waning story or not, this earns a quintessential stamp, too enthusiastic to ignore, too smart in its action to write off. Chan plays a convincing, floor scrubbing pauper, granted near super human fighting capabilities after a chance meeting with a roaming beggar – who doubles as the elderly master trope.

Kung Fu Panda, Karate Kid; they owe debts to Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. While the formula was already set in place by 1978, popularization (and appropriation) branched from Chan’s lively outing, his first starring role but no less significant.

It’s old-fashioned heroism. He’s eaten down and brought back up to slay the bad guy

Time between fights passes quickly, or maybe the fights occur in such succession, the film never truly slows. A few decades of audience expectations between Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and today make it look as if Chan plays at half-speed. In reality, the deliberate, balletic motions prove elegant, and those more sinister strikes hold for a millisecond longer. Appreciate the impact – it’s not only about flash. Plus, Chan is still seeking his breakout style. Some of it is here, but the any-object-is-a-weapon routine and near deadly stunts needed a few years still.

In-between Chan’s comedic battles, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow pokes fun at American imposition on Hong Kong culture. The turn-of-the-century setting means a Catholic priest, touring door-to-door, is lambasted for his efforts. It’s subtle and sly, berating cultural intrusiveness as much as those western studios hacking up martial arts imports before their Stateside distribution.

Just five years on from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, Chan already reached superstar status, even if audiences didn’t know it. Like Lee, Chan needed only one starring role. Locked in an otherwise routine character journey, down to the training montages, Chan’s Chien Fu becomes an exuberant hero; bumbling but pure; sloppy yet smart; passive and brave. It’s old-fashioned heroism. He’s beaten down and brought back up to slay the bad guy. Even without a risky script, the tonality and personality grace Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow with vivid, stand-out, and lasting style.

Video

For Jackie Chan fans, this is like heaven. After shelf-hogging public domain DVD releases, seeing Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow via this stunning widescreen print is all joy. Push aside the imperfections for a moment. Soak in the unusually authentic transfer for what it represents.

From Twilight Time, the feature comes on a shared disc with Drunken Master. The space appears to be the culprit of some compression issues. Notably, the opening credits and the bright red background beckon artifacts. They show up, and do so periodically elsewhere.

That said, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow deals with some particularly heavy grain in its shadows. As with the rest of the grain structure, the disc handles these spikes marvelously. Preserved is substantial detail. If this is not utilizing the latest high-resolution scan, then it’s just a generation or two off. Pleasingly rendered close-ups and a climax set in a field of tall grass offer measurable definition.

The source print suffers little to no damage. All instances of dirt and scratches were removed. Certain scenes flicker and fluctuate color, a clear attempt to offset some lasting wear. It’s negligible. Saturation keeps the clean color of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’s costumes, ranging between vibrant blues and reds. They’re quite natural in appearance.

Audio

Look at things this way: The vast majority of Chan’s output on Region A Blu-ray is dubbed – and only dubbed. At least Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow has the two original audio tracks, Cantonese and Mandarin in DTS-HD mono, along with the dub.

Quite frankly, the original language tracks are gone. The unsettling weariness of the score is akin to a live cat being eaten by locusts. If the volume is up during the opening studio logos, turn it down immediately.

Garbled dialog barely registers at times. This is likely the Cantonese and Mandarin track’s final resting place, short of a miraculous restoration. Note both of these tracks were dubbed. Mandarin came first for the Hong Kong market. The native Cantonese came a few years later. Note the inclusion of an isolated score is always welcome, even in a case like this.

Dire as some American dubbing is during this movie, the loss of fidelity doesn’t pierce the eardrums with scratchy treble. The English track is, sadly, the best choice. It’s still rough and dated, but to an acceptable degree.

Extras

Nothing to see here.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 15 Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 6,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.