Color, 1966, 94 mins. 48 secs.
Directed by King Hu
Starring Cheng Pei-Pei, Yueh Hua, Yang Chih-Ching, Elliot Ngok
88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Dragon Dynasty (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Celestial (DVD) Hong Kong R0 NTSC), Edel (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

One Come Drink with Meof the shining gems of Shaw Come Drink with MeBrothers’ golden era of martial arts classics, Come Drink with Me is a pioneering showcase for a female action star – in this case Cheng Pei-Pei, who made this back to back with Princess Iron Fan and The Monkey Goes West, went on to make a sequel with 1968’s Golden Swallow, and starred in dozens of martial arts films all the way through her vivid turn as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As lyrical as it is exciting, this was an early breakthrough film for director King Hu and paved the way for such masterpieces as Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen.

To gain a bargaining chip when one of their own gets arrested, a gang of criminals ambushes a caravan and kidnaps one of the men responsible. His sister, Golden Swallow, happens to be a formidable martial artist and more than up to the task of taking charge of the situation. She ends up crossing paths with drunken fighting master Fan (Ngok) in her quest to bring down the gang headed by the nasty Jade-Faced Tiger, with enough high-flying fighting action to keep any action fan satisfied.

Surprisingly gory for a ’66 Shaw Brothers film, Come Drink with Me has a bit of a Sergio Leone feel at times with its trio of diametrically opposed main characters and mythic setting. Come Drink with MeThis is really Pei-Pei's show all the way even when her character gets temporarily sidelined a bit near the end, and even when sitting silence and perfectly still, she's Come Drink with Mea compelling heroine and one of the era's best martial arts protagonists. This film would also mark a turning point for Shaw Brothers, setting the stage for the action films that would become their most enduring cinematic contribution with titles like The One-Armed Swordsman and Cave of the Silken Web following soon in its wake.

First released in an English-friendly DVD edition in Hong Kong as part of the groundbreaking early wave of Celestial editions, Come Drink with Me received its first special edition In 2008 when Weinstein Company brand Dragon Dynasty brought the film to U.S. DVD featuring an audio commentary with Pei-Pei and, uh, Harvey Weinstein associate Bey Logan, as well as a Tsui Hark appraisal of Hu’s output ("The King and I," 13m55s) and interviews with Pei-Pei ("Come Speak with Me," 16m41s), Logan ("A Classic Remembered," 17m24s), and Yueh Hua ("Return of the Drunken Master," 17m51s).

The transfer was excellent at the time and still holds up nicely today, though it's bettered by the 2020 Blu-ray from 88 Films which features the same color timing, framing, etc. but offers a nice uptick in detail with more fine film grain. Come Drink with MeThe Come Drink with MeEnglish dub (2.0 stereo) and original Chinese-language track (mono, with optional English subtitles) both sound solid. It's worth noting that the English subtitles are newly translated and fare better here with a more thorough translation of the dialogue and a better grasp of the nuances throughout. A new audio commentary by Samm Deighan is another one of her excellent solo outings as she tackles the history of the wuxia in literature and film, the director's importance, the strong presence of female heroes in Eastern cinema at the time, the lack of comparable Western representation that decade, and much, much more. Also included is the original Hong Kong theatrical trailer ("Female knight's exciting exploits!").

Reviewed on March 16, 2020