(Pictured Above, Jade Faced Tiger and Golden Swallow face off)
In 1966 “Come Drink With Me” was released in Hong Kong and began King Hu’s forays into Wuxia style films. It has some amazing action for the time and, by utilizing the grace of Chang Pei Pei’s dancing background, Hu was able to create some great sequences. Compared to more modern Wuxia and action films the fight sequences in “Come Drink With Me” play out very differently. There is a great sense of timing and pacing to create tension in each sequence. This is one of Hu’s strengths and his camera cuts and edits come slow, then fast to create a great sense of rhythm to everything.
The edits in “Come Drink With Me” are of special interest to me. It seems like there was a lot of experimenting going on with the editing, especially for the fight sequences. Through creative edits and camera placement various actions are felt by the audience without needing to show the action itself. This can be seen very early on in the film in one of my favorite sequence of quick cuts, when Jade Faced Tiger kills the captain of the guard in the opening scene. Check it out below-
It’s a great sequence (and Jade Faced Tiger’s grin is amazing). Starting with the over the shoulder view of the guard we see Jade Faced Tiger’s thrust then quickly cut to a shot inside the carriage where the sword bursts into view of the noble, we get a moment to register his surprise before we cut back to the outside and watch the guard fall. It is a brutal death all conveyed without us actually seeing any gore or the sword piercing the man who died.
Edits like this abound throughout the film, sometimes it seems to be in service of avoiding complex sequences but to still give the audience the feeling of something epic occurring. We see this in the bar fight scene when Golden Swallow fends off attacks from multiple directions with a flurry of knife parries. It’s obvious to us as the audience as to what just occurred, but dangerous stunt work was avoided for Chang Pei Pei because of the cuts. Check it out below-
Again a sequence of two cuts, giving us three distinct shots. We jump from the establishing shot, to a new medium close up, back to our establishing shot. It set’s up that Golden Swallow is about to be attacked, we see the clash, then back to the aftermath of all the attackers stumbling back while she is in a graceful pose, completely at ease.
As before, we get the immediacy of the action without actually seeing it unfold. For a modern audience this might not be engaging or good enough, but for me it was a great choice and a good idea to explore. Edits like these make a great rhythm and stand as a great counterpoint to the slow build up that occurs before each burst of action. Despite hiding certain things from the audience, edits like this show that with some creativity you can sell action without needing to deal with dangerous stunt situations or extremely detailed combat choreography. I should note that there is still good combat choreography in “Come Drink With Me” and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing how King Hu’s films continue to develop in terms of combat and the fantasy world of Wuxia.