If a movie is the most entertaining film in the most entertaining screen genre, is it QED the most enjoyable movie ever made? I wouldn’t go that far on behalf of Come Drink with Me, but if you consider the martial-arts movie to be the apex of cinematic fun, seeing King Hu’s 1966 spectacle for the first time is a revelatory experience. Come Drink with Me is to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon what the matinee serials of the 1930s are to Raiders of the Lost Ark: It’s a now hokey-seeming work that exerts enough primal appeal to make the idea of a highly polished tribute seem logical instead of loopy.
The lovely Cheng Pei-pei (still a stunner at 60, as a 2006 interview on the disc reveals) plays Golden Swallow, a swordswoman seeking to free her brother from a bandit clan with the help of an alcoholic beggar (Yueh Hua) who is actually the leader of a “drunken fighting” martial arts sect. Although with slight tweaks, the plot could have been set in feudal Japan or medieval Europe, the film created a sensation in Hong Kong because, as latter-day filmmaker Tsui Hark says in an interview on the disc, it was the first movie that really brought to life the impossible feats described in pulp wuxia novels. Dragon Dynasty’s DVD, which features the restoration of Drink seen at the 2002 New York Film Festival, features a commentary by Cheng and scholar Bey Logan, in addition to the aforementioned interviews (plus a conversation with Yueh).