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Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

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Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
Original Hong Kong film poster
MandarinShé Xíng Diāo Shǒu
CantoneseSe4 Jing4 Diu1 Sau2
Directed byYuen Woo-ping
Produced byNg See-yuen
Chen Chuan
Written byNg See-yuen
Choi Gai-gwong
Tsai Chi-kuang
StarringJackie Chan
Yuen Siu Tien
Hwang Jang Lee
Music byChou Fu-liang
CinematographyChang Hui
Edited byPoon Hung Yiu
Distributed bySeasonal Film Corporation
Release date
  • 1 March 1978 (1978-03-01)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryHong Kong
Box officeUS$2.95 million (est.)

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (Chinese: 蛇形刁手) is a 1978 Hong Kong martial arts action-comedy film directed by Yuen Woo-ping in his directorial debut. It stars 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. It followed a similar comedy kung fu film style.


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, with the school's cook, Ah-Wu (Tino Wong), being his only sympathizer. 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 Pai Cheng-Tien, one of the last surviving masters of the Snake-style of kung fu. Pai is on the run from the Eagle Claw clan, which is viciously killing off all of the rival Snake-style masters, 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 Pai and helps him recover. Pai 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, Sheng Kuan (Jang Lee Hwang), who recognizes the style at once and decides to tail Chien.

Chien meets Shang Kuan, who inquires about the old beggar, claiming that he was a colleague of Pai's. 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.

Later on the Eagle Claw conspirators track down Pai, who manages to kill Su Chen. He returns to Chien for hiding, but it is then shown that Ah-Wu is also an Eagle Claw conspirator as he puts poison into their tea. Chien rushes to fetch Sheng Kuan, but sensing danger, Pai flees, with his enemy in pursuit. As Chien hurries after them, he finally learns the truth behind the conspiracy, and eventually challenges Sheng Kuan to single combat after Pai is brought down. Apparently at a disadvantage in the initial phase, Chien brings his new 'Cat Claw' technique—against which Sheng Kuan knows no defense—to bear, killing him. When Ah-Wu shows up after the fight and reveals his true allegiance, Chien and Pai trick and slay him, as they have by chance avoided ingesting the poison. Afterwards, the two friends wander off to refine Chien's new technique, giving it its titular name.


  • Jackie Chan – Chien Fu (as Cheng Lung)
  • Hwang Jang Lee – Sheng Kuan
  • Yuen Siu Tien – Pai Chang-tien (as Simon Yuen)
  • Dean Shek – Teacher Li
  • Fung Hak-on – Master Chao Chi-chih
  • Tino Wong – Ah-Wu
  • 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


  • Producer: Ng See-yuen
  • Executive Producer: Chang Chuan
  • Screenplay by: Hsi Hua-an, Tsai Chi-kuang, Ng See-yuen
  • Asst. Directors: Hsiao Lung, Ho Tien-cheng
  • Film Editing: Pan Hsiung-yao
  • Cinematography: Chang Hai
  • Lighting: Lin Wei
  • Music: Chou Fu-liang, Jean-Michel Jarre, Didier Marouani (both uncredited)
  • Costume Designer: Kung Chuan-kai
  • Set Design: Union Design
  • Art: Ting Yuan-ta
  • Props: Yang Shih-cheng
  • Costume: Pao Kuo-lan
  • Sound Effect: Wu Kuo-hua
  • Sound Recording: Universal Recording Co.
  • Fighting Instructors: Yuen Woo-ping, Hsu Hsia
  • Asst. Fighting Instructors: Yuen Chen-wei, Yuan Hsin-yi, Yuan Kuei
  • Director: Yuen Woo-ping


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 You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Carrie, and Star Wars.

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. The U.S. film and its promotional materials billed Chan as "Jacky Chan."

Box office

At the Hong Kong box office, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow earned HK$2,708,748.20[2] (US$578,792),[3] becoming the 13th top-grossing film of the year.[4] In South Korea, it was the second highest-grossing film of 1979 (behind Jackie Chan's Drunken Master), with 765,930 box admissions in Seoul,[5] equivalent to an estimated gross revenue of approximately 1,148.9 million[6] (US$2,373,760).[7] Combined, the film grossed an estimated total of approximately US$2,952,552 in East Asia, equivalent to US$12 million adjusted for inflation.


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

  • 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 18 June 2002, Destination Films released the first legal DVD in the United States. Despite having uncut status and a full 2:35:1 image in the correct Cantonese language, it still contains dubtitles. The English dub (and credit sequence) is the export one and intact.[8]
  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ Jackie Chan. "Jackie's Aches and Pains: It Only Hurts When I'm Not Laughing". Random House. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978)". Hong Kong Movie DataBase. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Official exchange rate (HK$ per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1978. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  4. ^ "【ジャッキーチェン興行成績】 第8回:香港での興行収入" [(Jackie Chan Box Office Results) 8th: Box Office in Hong Kong]. KungFu Tube (in Japanese). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  5. ^ "【ジャッキーチェン興行成績】 第10回:韓国での興行収入". KungFu Tube (in Japanese). 5 September 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Asian Culture Quarterly". Asian Culture Quarterly. Asian Cultural Center. 11-12: 20. 1983. The average admission fee in 1979 was 1,000 won for national films and 1,500 won for imports. (In 1982, the average increased to 2,000 won, or US$3.)
  7. ^ "Official exchange rate (KRW per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1979. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Snake in The Eagle's Shadow : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 7 February 2014.

External links