Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

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Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
Original Hong Kong film poster
Traditional 蛇形刁手
Simplified 蛇形刁手
Mandarin Shé Xíng Diāo Shǒu
Cantonese Se4 Jing4 Diu1 Sau2
Directed by Yuen Woo-ping
Produced by Ng See-yuen
Chen Chuan
Written by Ng See-yuen
Choi Gai-gwong
Tsai Chi-kuang
Starring Jackie Chan
Yuen Siu Tien
Hwang Jang Lee
Music by Chou Fu-liang
Cinematography Chang Hui
Edited by Poon Hung Yiu
Distributed by Seasonal Film Corporation
Release dates
  • 1 March 1978 (1978-03-01)
Running time 98 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese
Box office HKD $2,708,748.20

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (Chinese: 蛇形刁手) is a 1978 Hong Kong martial arts action film directed by Yuen Woo-ping in his directorial debut, and starring Jackie Chan, Hwang Jang Lee and Yuen Woo-ping's real life father, Yuen Siu Tien.

Right after this film, Yuen Woo-ping directed Drunken Master, released in the same year, which also starred Jackie Chan, Hwang Jang Lee and Yuen Siu Tien, and followed a similar plot.


Chien Fu (Jackie Chan), an orphan adopted by a kung fu school, is overworked as their janitor and abused by the kung fu teachers as a walking punching-bag. Chien befriends an old beggar (Yuen Siu Tien) by offering him a meal and a place to stay. Unknown to Chien, the old beggar is actually one of the last surviving masters of the Snake-style of kung fu. The old man is on the run from the Eagle Claw clan, which is viciously killing off all of the rival Snake-stylng spot, but is ambushed by Eagle Claw student Su Chen and an assassin masquerading as a Christian missionary (Roy Horan), and is injured. After being abused once more, Chien later finds him, helping him recover. The old man agrees to give him more lessons, on the condition that he does not call him "sifu" ("master"), since they are friends. The real reason, however, is to keep Chien's connection with him secret from his pursuers.

Chien practices the lessons and learns to avoid being hurt by the school's bumbling teachers. When the school is invaded by the Mantis school, to everyone's amazement Chien easily defeats their master using the snake style. Unfortunately, one of the passing wanderers who witnesses the fight is the high master of the Eagle Clan, who recognizes the style at once and decides to tail Chien.

Chien meets the Eagle Claw clan master, who inquires about the old beggar. The Eagle Claw master lies, saying that he was a colleague of the old beggar and asks Chien to help him find the old man. As a show of 'proof', he easily fends off Chien's attacks. Chien realises that his Snake-style fighting is no match for the style practiced by the stranger, and thus creates a new style from watching his pet cat kill a cobra.


  • Jackie Chan - Chien Fu
  • Hwang Jang Lee - Sheng Kuan
  • Yuen Siu Tien - Pai Chang-tien
  • Dean Shek - Teacher Li
  • Fung Hak-on - Master Chao Chi-chih
  • Tino Wong - Three Provinces Champ
  • Peter Chan - Teacher Lian
  • Hsu Hsia - Su Chen
  • Charlie Chan - Master Hung
  • Roy Horan - Missionary/Russian
  • Fung Ging-man - Teacher Chui
  • Chiang Kam - Ah Kwai
  • Yao Lin Chen - Master Hung
  • Chen Tien Lung - Three Provinces Champ
  • Chan Lung - Substitute Instructor
  • Gam Yam - Chang
  • Yuen Yat-choh
  • Chiu Chi-ling
  • Choi Fai
  • Chan Laap-ban


Prior to Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Chan had worked for director Lo Wei who wanted to make him into the new "Bruce Lee" in films like New Fist of Fury. However, those films yielded relatively poor box office returns. When producer Ng See-yuen decided to make a comedy with Chan as the star, the concept did not initially meet with approval from the film distributors. However, Ng and Chan persevered and together with Drunken Master, this film launched Jackie Chan into national stardom.

The combination of comedy, martial arts, stunts and acrobatics had been done before, in Lau Kar-leung's 1975 film, Spiritual Boxer. However, the release of Snake in the Eagle's Shadow heralded a new direction for Hong Kong action movies.

Ng See-Yuen and Yuen Woo-ping checked over many actors for the part of the old, eccentric, wandering Kung Fu master, before Ng suggested casting Yuen's own father, Yuen Siu Tien. Yuen would continue to reprise the role of Beggar So several more times before his death in 1979.

According to his book I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action, Chan lost a tooth after Hwang Jang Lee kicked him in the face during a fight scene. His arm was also accidentally slashed by a sword that was supposed to be blunt, but while he was screaming in pain, the camera kept rolling.[1]


As well as original music by Chou Fu-liang, the film also features Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygène (Part 2)" and Space's "Magic Fly". Like many Hong Kong movies of the era, it also includes samples from western movie scores, including A Fistful Of Dollars, You Only Live Twice (film), The Spy Who Loved Me (film), and even the Death Star explosion moment from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Film producer Serafim Karalexis got the rights to distribute the movie in America in the 80s, retitled "The Eagle's Shadow". It had a new score made due to copyright issues with the original score.

Box office[edit]

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow took HK $2,708,748 at the Hong Kong box office.


In 1979, a film entitled Snake in the Eagle's Shadow II aka Snaky Knight Fight Against Mantis was released. It was directed by Chang Hsin-yi and starred Wang Tao. However, the film was not a true sequel, rather it was an attempt by the studio to capitalise on the success of the original film. Footage including a montage and a fight scene from Snake in the Eagle's Shadow were spliced into the film. Chan's image was also used on the cover of some versions.

DVD versions[edit]

  • On 7 February 2000, Hong Kong Legends released a DVD containing a number of extras, including a photo gallery, Jackie Chan and Hwang Jang Lee's biographies/filmographies, the English export trailer, and an interview with producer Ng See-yuen. However, it contains a cropped 2:35:1 to 1:78:1 image and the incorrect Mandarin dub with dubtitles. This DVD contains compulsory BBFC cuts amounting to roughly 45 seconds due to animal cruelty. The Chinese credit sequence is used (reverting to 2:35:1 during this section). The English dub is one created by US studios during the film's release there (under the title "The Eagle's Shadow") to avoid copyright issues with music, but everything else is the same as the export dub commissioned by Seasonal Films.
  • On 16 February 2004, Mei Ah Entertainment released a remastered DVD in Hong Kong. It has uncut 2:35:1 anamorphic video. Audio include Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono. Subtitles include Traditional, Simplified Chinese and English. Special features are limited to Cast and Crew Info and Synopsis.


External links[edit]