Jackie Chan made a number of films for Lo Wei, all of which apart from the last, Fearless Hyena were box office flops. Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin was one of the better early efforts but still lacks in certain areas.
Jackie Chan stars as the young warrior Hsu Yiu Fong. He has been entrusted with the legendary book the “Art of the Snake and Crane,” after the mysterious disappearance of the eight Shaolin Masters who had written it. He must fight off numerous clans who are all attempting to steal the book from him, to find out the true reason for the disappearance of the Shaolin Masters.
The opening of the film set against a red background is stunning. Jackie uses his spear to perfection first with a series of forms then against two opponents using a sword and tonfa. If only the rest of the film could have kept this high standard then it could have been a five star classic. Sadly it gets bogged down with long plot points and introduces many different characters all of whom want the famous book for themselves. The martial arts on display are good if short, until the finale where Jackie must fight main villain Kam Kong and three spearmen, whom you may recognise as the same ones he fought in Fearless Hyena a few years later. The Spear battle is great, choreography is smooth and amazing to watch. The final battle against the main villain is a bit more disappointing, Kam Kong is a good actor and shows a lot of power in his techniques but the fight doesn’t flow very well because the rhythm just isn’t right.
Overall a good early effort for Jackie and director Chen Chi Hwa but it would be a few more years before Jackie finally finds the right vehicle to fully exploit his talents.
The film has been available on DVD for a number of years, mostly in bad quality versions. HK Legends during there final years released a great PAL remastered edition with Mandarin language and subs and an option of the original English dub. No extras sadly. This version is now very rare and can be expensive. Thankfully it was also released in Australia, Region 4 PAL and this is still available. Avoid the early Eastern Heroes release which is not only cut but was cropped to 4:3 then cropped again to make it 16:9!
The older NTSC Region 1 release by Columbia is good, anamorphic with both language options. The new release by Shout Factory has a remastered picture but English dubbed only. It is a double dvd with Magnificent Bodyguards. The film has been released on Blu ray in Japan. No English subs and reports say it is an upscale. Try and get the Region 2 / 4 if you can. (click on the images below for more details..)