After witnessing his fathers death when he was just a child, Ah Wen (Billy Chong) wants to learn kung fu but is looked down upon by the local martial school. After Ah Wen unsuccessfully tries to sneak in under the guise of a martial master, the teacher decides to let Ah Wen into the school, but mainly shoves him in the kitchen where he does menial grunt work. Luckily the cook (Simon Yuen) is a skilled and powerful martial artist in his own right, but it takes much convincing and some kitchenary bonding before the cook relents and begins to train Ah Wen. Meanwhile, the deadly Phoenix Eye master roams the countryside with his two henchmen, a blind fighter and a deaf fighter. They are looking for the Eagle Claw master that fought them in the past, deafening and blinding the henchmen. And that master of course, just happens to be the cook, and Ah Wen will need to learn the Shadow Eagle Claw in order to defeat their lethaly enemy.
The original Yuen Woo Ping/ Jackie Chan/ Simon Yuen Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagles Shadow were films that spawned many, many imitators, recycling the comedic stylings and master-student relationship, many of which cast Simon Yuen as the old, scrappy kung fu master. Jade Claw (aka. Crystal Fist), I guess, is a pretty fair imitator, though it is nowhere nearly as good, sort of the idiot cousin to Drunken Masters favorite son. I mean, I wasn't exactly thrilled with Jade Claw, but in chop socky circles it is praised as one of the better imitators, particularly because of its charismatic star, Billy Chong, who briefly shined on the independent circuit as a pretty big martial, action-comedy lead. Billy is affable enough, good looking, handles himself well in a fight, but I think only Lueng Kar Yan (in Sleeping Fist) really matched Jackie when teamed up with Simon Yuen.
A hero is only really interesting when pitted against a decent villain, and Phoenix Eye is a good villain. Pheonix Eye definitely has two of the most memorable henchmen I've seen, and they almost could carry a film on their own. Well, that a pretty big "almost", but I enjoyed them. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for any handicapped fighter, be he one-armed, blind, hunchback... Director Wang Wa Yat also directed Billy Chong in Kung Fu Zombie and Sun Dragon. While not having the benefit of the big studio sets, and budget (which is saying quite a lot), he does pretty well and unlike other imitators had the benifit of some Yuen Clan choreography on Jade Claw. Despite all of the well worn formula plotting and predictable sequences, the film moves nicely and entertains without becoming boring.
The DVD: Xenon presents a pretty good, budget priced, older kung fu transfer.
Picture- The box says fullscreen, but it appears to be slightly widescreen. I'm guessing, but there looks like far too much image to be a matting job. Regardless of the ratio, it looks great and you can see a lot of image, no fighters disappearing out of the frame. The sharpness and color are nice. Taking into account the horrible kung fu transfers out there, a great print with very little wear and tear. There are a few minor glitches and it may be a bit too dark in the night scenes, but overall this was a nice surprise and is one of the better cheap old school kung fu DVD pictures out there.
Sound- 2.0 mono, English dub, and the track overall has quite a bit of distortion, like its a struggling transistor radio. Dialogue is still clear, but its just not the best audio track, and it particularly suffers with the music, the high ends screeching and the low ends muffled.
Extras- Besides chapter selections, the only extras are 15 mins of fight footage from other Xenon releases, Invincible Obsessed Fighter, Jackie Chan's 36 Crazy Fists, Wu Tang Champ Vs. Champ and Eagle VS. Silver Fox
Conclusion- Fair enough, but I can see why one could live without it. If you are a fan, it's pretty cheap, by all means pick it up. Those new to the old school world of kung fu should check out Drunken Master or Snake in the Eagles Shadow, the master-student films that spawned imitators like Jade Claw.