Before CGI, wire-fu and bullet-time could make anyone a Kung Fu fighter, and before Jet Li and Jackie headed west to find fame and fortune in Hollywood, martial arts movies were a different kettle of fish.
The heroes were always poor, the baddies always had evil laughs, the master had grey hair (preferably long and paired with impressive eyebrows), someone nearly always inexplicably had a red nose or a hairy mole, and every move had a terrific sound effect.
Snake in the Monkey's Shadow is the daddy of old school kung-fu and, although missing a red-nosed or hairy moled character, it pretty much has all you would want from a film of this nature.
The film opens with a great scene where we are introduced to Khoo, a master of monkey style, and the evil Shao, a snake style fighter. The two fight in a forest and Shao is defeated, but swears revenge. The action here is great, with Khoo leaping from tree to tree and Shao's moves accompanied by snake hisses.
Three years later, Khoo is befriended by a young man, Liang, who is learning drunken style from his master, Ho (who has grey hair, but average sized eyebrows). Liang beats two bullies in a fight, so their father hires two experts in snake style kung fu (yup, nasty Shao and his equally nasty friend) to attack Ho's school. Ho is killed and Liang is injured.
Liang goes to Khoo, who teaches him monkey style kung fu. Soon enough Shao and his buddy turn up to fight Khoo, and despite Liang helping, Khoo is killed. Liang swears revenge.
Liang witnesses Khoo's monkey fighting a snake, and develops his own unique style - drunken monkey kung fu! He is now ready for a final deadly showdown.
All of the action is great - some really acrobatic stuff from all involved - and it makes you realise how crap wire-fu really is. This is pure martial arts, unaided by modern technology.
And, although I usually prefer my foreign films subtitled, the dubbing on this one only makes it better! Movie purists should be aware that many modern prints of this film are missing one vital scene - the monkey killing the snake is cut (I understand why, but it does ruin a pivotal moment in the film).
This film is perfect for a night in with a few mates and some beers. Don't miss it!