Shaolin Drunkard (1983)
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Writers: Yuen Woo-Ping
Starring: Yuen Shun-Yi, Yuen Cheung Yan and Yuen Yat Choh

The Plot: Our story focuses on the peasant grandson (Yuen Yat Choh) of an elderly witch. Together, this odd couple spend their days performing magic and searching for a wife for the young lad. You see, his grandmother fears that the young man will never face up to responsibility and will thus end their ancient bloodline. The boy of course doesn’t abhor the idea of a wife, it just seems that all of the women in his area aren’t quite up to his standards. His granny decides that if he isn’t going to listen to her matchmaking advice, then he must immediately go out and find a wife by himself. With this direct order put to the boy, he heads off into the world. At the same time that the young lad is approaching these new troubles, we meet Ratface (Yuen Cheung Yan) who is employed as a guard for a sacred monastery that holds prisoner the psychotic Evil Magician. After a hidden attack leads Ratface asleep on the job, the Evil Magician escapes and now Ratface has only one month to once again apprehend this powerful magician!

The Review
I originally reviewed Drunken Wu-Tang for Varied Celluloid during the first few months of starting the website, and despite the incredibly amateurish writing it became one of our most popular reviews. Although not every person is going to be drawn to a oldschool Kung Fu film, most film geeks would have a hard time turning down a movie that offered anything as bizarre as the Watermelon Monster. This movie turned out to be my introduction to the Yuen clan, the family troupe whose most famous sibling would be the famed Yuen Woo-Ping. Woo-Ping is of course best known for films such as Iron Monkey, Drunken Master, and for doing the fight choreography in the immortal Fist of Legend. Some readers may not be aware that many members of his family have been in the film industry for a very long time, even though these same readers have probably seen some of the Yuen family pop up in several oldschool martial art films. During the midst of Woo-Ping’s burgeoning popularity (he and Jackie Chan could be considered the pioneers of the Kung Fu/comedy movement) he managed to sneak off and work with his family on some very interesting project. Some were fairly traditional, such as the excellent The Buddhist Fist, but then there were some that were simply too absurd and bizarre for mass-audience appeal, such is the case with Shaolin Drunkard.
This truly is circus level entertainment, as Shaolin Drunkard appeals to the inner child in all of us. If less is really more, then sure enough “more” must be… a lot more! The Yuen clan must have gathered a lengthy list of gimmicks, threw them up on a chalkboard, and then somehow managed to squeeze them all into one movie. Shaolin Drunkard is all about breaking through the boundaries of reality, and presenting something truly outlandish for its audience. If you have seen Drunken Wu-Tang, then you already know just how insane the Yuen clan can be, but Shaolin Drunkard still manages to surprise in the absurdity it manages to present. The introduction for the movie features Ratface running out of wine, which is apparently the worst thing that can ever happen, but he comes up with a rather clever way to remedy this problem. When he sees a painting on the wall that is in the shape of a wine-jug, he quite literally walks up the wall and sticks a straw into the concrete. This of course causes the wall to start pouring out wine for the drunkard, and serves as an introduction for the audience that shows exactly the sort of lunacy that you can expect from this movie.

Ridiculously over the top is the only way to really explain the world of Shaolin Drunkard. The movie throws so much wackiness at the audience that it becomes hard to keep up with. Forget even trying to keep your mind on the actual plot! First of all, there’s so very little actual plot that its easy to become confused, and secondly, as soon as the giant frog monster shows up you will no longer care about simple things such as character motivation or narrative focus. You read that correct, I said frog monster. Although we may lose the Watermelon Monster from Drunken Wu-Tang, we do gain some very new and intriguing creatures. This frog monster is a beast controlled by the Evil Magician, who plays music on his flute and somehow commands a gigantic man-size toad with magical powers. The battles that our leading men have with this toad are rather epic, to say the least. I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say that the climactic battle ultimately revolves around a massive one-man-band and the Wong Fei-Hung theme song, which was popularized in the Once Upon a Time in China series. It is so stupid that it borders on brilliance!

The movie is short on actual martial arts action, which comes as a relative surprise with Yuen Woo-Ping in the director’s chair. This turns out as a non-issue though, because this is not your run-of-the-mill martial arts action film. I don’t think anyone would ever recommend it based purely on its classification as an action film. You go into this one not for the action, but because of how insane it is. In fact, the few times we actually get to see any martial arts action it seems that the combatants have their arms or legs lit on fire! I’m not even kidding. In the same way that Jackie Chan’s original Police Story was nicknamed Glass Story on-set, I think the more apt title for this one might have been Flaming Drunkard. Going over all of the craziness that Shaolin Drunkard provides is an unenviable task that I don’t care to try and attempt, but there are a few odd selections that audiences should keep an eye out for. There is the giant toad monster of course, but equally as awe-inspiring is the Rat-mobile driven by Ratface. Similar to the Batmobile, Ratface’s ride is decked out with an impressive number of gadgets. Also, you can’t beat the style! It’s the only wagon you are going to see that features Yin-Yang rims! There’s also the elaborate room used in order to hold the Evil Magician prisoner early on. Similar to a sequence shown in Drunken Wu-Tang, this room features dominoes that travel across the floor for long periods of time, before eventually setting off the alarm. For instance, the dominoes may knock over a bucket, that bucket bumps into a match that lights a spark, that spark lights a torch and that torch burns a rope, etc. The scene best resembles the board game Mouse Trap, only with flying men using Kung Fu. Finally, audiences should keep an eye out for the Grandmother character who is also played by Ratface himself, Cheung Yan.

The Conclusion
Honestly, how do you NOT like a movie such as this one? Surreal, bizarre, strange, stupid, brilliant, and completely unhinged, these are all adjectives that aptly describe this Yuen clan favorite. I give it a solid four out of five and highly recommend that both martial art fans and general weird-movie-enthusiasts check this one out.

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