The World of Drunken Master (1979 according to HK Cinemagic, 1982 according to IMDB)
Director: Joseph Kuo
Writers: Joseph Kuo
Starring: Simon Yuen, Jack Long, Mark Long and Li Yi Min

The Plot: Beggar Su is back yet again! We meet Beggar Su at two intervals in his life. The first time we meet him is when we are also introduced to Fan Ta-Pei (Jack Long), his best friend from youth. These two meet due to Fan Ta-Pei being hunted by rival kung fu experts. Though you might think that there are more pressing issues at play, these two instead embrace and reminisce about old time. From here on out, the remainder of the film is told in flasback as we see how Fan Ta-Pei and Beggar Su first met. As it turns out, each man was a hustler of sorts. After stealing barrels worth of fruit that were not their own, the two men initially fight over who should be allowed to sell their stolen fruit in the local market, but they soon learn that they are too alike to share any disdain. Eventually the two are picked up by an elderly beggar who instills some maturity in the men by teaching them kung fu. Seeing their honest hearts, this beggar decided that these two buffoons could do more good than bad with their martial knowledge. Thus begins their training, but even with such an intense friendship, even a woman may drive them apart.

The Review
Although The World of Drunken Master is not as well known as many other monkey-style kung fu titles, it is one that has been sitting on my “to watch” list for quite a while. As a longtime fan of The Mystery of Chess Boxing, as well as the work of Joseph Kuo, this teaming up of so many talented artists was something that I felt I needed to see. Although it was shot on a minimal budget, within a genre well known for its minimal budgets, it still manages to establish itself as a important piece of film history. In attempting to tell the story of young Beggar Su (aka. Sam Seed, Beggar So), the film looked to capitalize on the much more popular films that also featured this character (more on this shortly). Although this concept might seem slightly deceptive, and surely it is, the movie is handled by true professionals who look to inspire their best work. Are they successful? Well, it turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag all around, but even in a bad movie Joseph Kuo still remains a fairly interesting director. Featuring knockout fight choreography and a intriguing synopsis to go with the story, The World of Drunken Master is another film in a long lineage of strong titles out of this director’s filmography.

If there’s one thing that is true about the introductory dialogue in The World of Drunken Master, it is that Beggar Su truly is a legend within the fighting world. More specifically, this character is a legend in the world of martial arts cinema. Originally appearing in Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master, the role was made famous by Simon Yuen for nearly the duration of his short career. A breakout role for the elderly actor, he decided to make good with a popular character and give the people precisely what they wanted. At some point, Yuen began working with Taiwanese director Joseph Kuo, and I assume that he must have agreed to use his likeness in order to sell this picture. Looking to capitalize on the popularity of Jackie Chan’s breakout films, Kuo tries to take a small cameo by Yuen in order to establish his feature film as a legitimate prequel of sorts. This “origins” story would prove to be only one variant of the Beggar Su character within cinema, as his popularity still remains to this very day. In fact, the latest directorial title from Simon Yuen’s son, Yuen Woo-ping, also features a more modern re-telling of Beggar Su’s origin story. Woo-ping’s True Legend may seek to continue his father’s legacy to a degree, but the modern aesthetics come off feeling false, and indeed World of Drunken Master seems to be a more true ode to Simon Yuen’s most glorious character.

Although these Taiwanese productions are so often left in the past, if you want to look at the positive side they do seem to sell for relatively cheap prices in comparison to the Shaw bros. movies that are now floating around. The Taiwanese market has unfortunately not found the popularity that the Shaw Bros. film studio has had with modern martial arts film fans. This isn’t entirely due to a lack of quality, however. Celestial, a large distribution company in China, purchased the rights to the Shaw Bros. library which was fairly well preserved in comparison to the Taiwanese market, and it seems fair to assume that this catalog contains innumerable lost films as well as a messy assortment of copyright issues. So, the prints are not in as good a shape as the Shaw films, but at least the films are available for cheap prices. In fact, if you own a Netflix streaming account, you can (as of this date) watch The World of Drunken master for free. Unfortunately, the lack of a large production company behind these movies also leaves many viewers in the dark when it comes to understanding the cast and crew who made these films. Jack and Mark Long are two notable actors who unfortunately have never been given their due. Featured in several Joseph Kuo titles, they are two of the lost talents of martial arts cinema. The World of Drunken Master is nothing short of a demo reel for their talents.

Featuring much of the same cast and crew who brought the world Mystery of Chess Boxing, the film works as a continuation of that magic. Likely made back to back, the two films together make for an excellent overview of independent martial arts action during the late seventies and early eighties. If these films were made back to back, and if I trust Cinemagic’s dating for the film (they have both films being made in 1979), then it seems likely, it is amazing to see how completely dissimilar the films are from one another. Focusing on entirely different plots and providing entirely different characters, The World of Drunken master is a slightly more whimsical feature than even Mystery of Chess Boxing proved to be. While Chess Boxing may have attempted a more humorous approach, The World of Drunken master is a more heroic and dignified version of the same silliness.

The Conclusion
With a all-star cast, and a whole lot of promise, The World of Drunken Master is unfortunately a bit disappointing. What problems it tends to have comes from its slow-burn pacing and the lack of connectivity within the plot. While I would like to say that story is of little importance within a kung fu title, that would be a disservice to martial arts cinema. Marginal coherence is certainly a necessity! Still, the movie does manage to pack in a great deal of action and is thoroughly entertaining. I give it a decent three out of five.