Shawscope Volumes

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feihong
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#26 Post by feihong » Sun Jul 11, 2021 5:43 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Jul 11, 2021 1:14 am
As someone who’s only seen 36th Chamber (and remembers very little), how do these films compare to other martial arts/violent movies? Or to ask more broadly, what makes them special?
In terms of what makes Shaw Bros special, the production values are generally higher than in other martial arts films of the 70s. By the 80s these films, with their reliance on the same sets and locations they've been using for almost 20 years, start to look more dated––especially compared to the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark films of the 80s. Shaw in general produced a pretty high-quality martial arts film for their time, and that generally meant a decent level of script sophistication, colorful production design, and a pretty high level of actors and stunt performers. They never had a martial arts performer on the level of Bruce Lee, or a fight performer on the level of Jackie Chan, but they had fantastic choreographers––principally Lau Kar Leung and Tang Chia––who made many of their fight scenes play as dynamically as the singing/dancing musicals of the 50s, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. There is a theatricality to many of these movies, that is undercut or modulated in key ways by distinctive, individual directors. In this set the prime example will be Chang Cheh, who brings his own set of themes and aesthetics to the films (I often prefer Sun Chung's approach, but Chang has great movies to his name, especially early on, and provides what becomes the general template for how the films are made). The films are often compared to the English Hammer films, whose take on horror offered a similar level of consistent quality and vivid theatricality, but Shaws reaches greater heights, to my mind, because some of the films and filmmakers aspire to more sophisticated themes, which transcend genre more effectively than anything produced by Hammer. In this set, that innovation is embodied in the films directed by Lau Kar Leung.

Thematically and stylistically, the films in this set are a pretty broad mix. King Boxer is unlike all the others. Based on a Japanese manga, it is a somewhat dull martial arts movie until the midpoint, when the more cartoonish characters from the manga start appearing. By the end the action is very exaggerated, lurid, and striking. Mighty Peking Man is essentially a King Kong movie starring Evelyn Craft as a lady Tarzan and Danny Lee as Sir Handsome. I remember it being more fast-paced and fun than I expected it to be.

Boxer from Shantung, Five Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Temple, Chinatown Kid, The Five Venoms and Crippled Avengers are all Chang Cheh movies. They exemplify most of Chang Cheh's particular traits as a director. He likes visceral violence and gore. He likes male characters bonding (the homosocial relationships in John Woo movies come directly from Chang Cheh's films, on which Woo was sometimes an assistant). In terms of handling drama, when the men aren't staring each other down with looks of pent-up desire, Chang's films play more slowly. He films splashy action, but he's not a martial artist himself and he has not much appreciation for the individual characteristics of the choreography. He is interested in history and literature, and so the subjects of these films are sometimes interesting. Though honestly, none of these are the Chang Cheh films I find most striking (Vengeance, Four Riders, The Angry Guest, Legend of the Fox, Ten Tigers of Kwangtung, Shaolin Rescuers, The Daredevils, House of Traps...even The Anonymous Heroes), but these are all pretty fun films, and none too taxing on one's intellect. Boxer from Shantung is probably the most interesting story of the group, about a poor boy who grows up to dominate his town with his fierceness––this was later adapted into the Cory Yuen movie, Hero, with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Yuen Biao. In the Venoms films (The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, and, to a certain degree, Chinatown Kid and Shaolin Temple), the acrobatic prowess of the venoms performers are kind of mesmerizing to watch, as is Chang Cheh's fetishizing of the spectacle.

The best in the box, to my mind, are the Lau Kar-Leung films, which include Challenge of the Masters, Executioners from Shaolin, Heroes of the East, and Dirty Ho. As a director, Lau Kar Leung is kind of late in the cycle of Shaw Bros (and closes it out with Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter). He was a choreographer––particularly for Chang Cheh––and his filming of action goes beyond what the other Shaw directors did before him. His camera moves gracefully to delineate the focus of particular choreography. He gives visual weight to important movements through framing (something Chang Cheh often ignores). But more than that, the films are creative from a narrative and thematic point of view, adapting the kung fu idiom to story forms more varied than his predecessors. And as a director, he is more expressive and in control of his themes than most of his Shaw predecessors.

The standouts that exemplify that in this set are Dirty Ho and Heroes of the East. Dirty Ho is somewhat an adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper, featuring a cultured prince in disguise running into a wiseacre ruffian who he opts to civilize (the "Dirty Ho" of the title). The prince's uncle has sent assassins to do him in, and the martial arts scenes of the film evolve out of the prince evaluating art and the like (the merchants he deals with turn out to be assassins). These scenes are clever and amusing, with the prince trying to hide from Dirty Ho the fact that the merchants are trying to kill him. Heroes of the East has Gordon Liu as the kung-fu-crazy son of a merchant, who gets married to the daughter of his father's Japanese business partner. He's reluctant at first, but the daughter turns out to be just as crazy about karate as Gordon is about kung fu. At first a source of excitement for both of them, their mania for combat and comparison leads to strife in the bedroom, because the couple can't agree on whose martial arts customs are superior. After a particularly vitriolic fight, Gordon sends his wife packing. She returns to her brother in Tokyo, who is a ninja, and who is convinced by what his sister says that Gordon has challenged the worth of all Japanese martial arts. He recruits a band of different Japanese martial artists to go with him to Hong Kong to challenge Gordon to a series of duels. The lead challenger is played by Japanese star Yasuaki Kurata, who joined the film at the expense of a more lucrative movie deal, because he felt the subject matter––and the theme that Japanese and Chinese relations needed to improve with greater dialogue––was important to him.

Challenge of the Masters is one of two Wong Fei Hung films Lau Kar Leung directed (Martial Club is the second). It depicts a young Wong Fei Hung, desperate to compete in a lion dance. The problem is that his father refuses to let him learn kung fu (prerequisite for the competition). The film is one of the best delineations of one of Lau Kar Leung's enduring subjects––that of the lone, youthful enthusiast, pitted against the structures of tradition/family/society. It's Lau Kar Leung's assumption that youthful vigor must win out, regardless of its degree of tempering. That is explored more thoroughly in movies like Mad Monkey Kung Fu, Disciples of the 36th Chamber, and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, but Challenge of the Masters gives us a Wong Fei Hung who first rails and rebels against his father's edict, and then manages to reason with his father. With the help of an eccentric martial artist uncle, he is able to study and excel at kung fu. This is contrasted with the journey of an outlaw martial artist, played by the director, who uses an underhanded kicking method (he has a brass toeclip with sharpened edges) to defeat opponents. While Wong grows morally through the study of kung fu, the outlaw becomes increasingly hounded and pursued, and is forced to abandon what moral nature he has left. This eventually leads to an exciting lion dance and then to a wonderful showdown in which Wong has to subdue the rogue kung fu master fugitive while still exercising compassion for his opponent's humanity. That need to recognize one another's humanity is a shared trait of the Lau Kar-Leung films. It's a feature entirely absent from the movies of his former boss, Chang Cheh (who is interested in history, patriotism, homoerotic bonds, and brutality, but not in any shared humanity between people––this is especially evident whenever he features a Japanese character in any of his films), and Challenge of the Masters is one of the films where that theme of Lau's is best exemplified. It illuminates how much that theme is present in all the Lau Kar Leung movies. It's why the striking brutality at the end of Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is so clearly a cry of pain from the filmmaker, rather than an exultation of valorous slaughter. A similar scene in a Chang Cheh film might be gloatingly cruel. But because we know Lau to be a director much more interesting in human compassion, the cruelty at the end of Eight Diagram Pole Fighter seems so strained, so much a product of despair and anger (possibly because of the senseless death of it's co-star, Alexander Fu Sheng, during the production).

Executioners of Shaolin is Lau's film that deals most directly, I think, with the burning of the Shaolin Temple. This legend serves as the basis for the Chang Cheh movies The Shaolin Temple and Five Shaolin Masters, also in this set (and also Heroes Two and a host of others Chang Cheh movies), and it was allegedly suggested to Chang by Lau as the subject for a film. Five Shaolin Masters chronicles the spreading of martial arts through China by the five Shaolin masters who allegedly escaped the burning of the temple. It is a hypnotically repetitive and dull film to my eyes. Lau's Executioners of Shaolin has much more story and more interesting themes, following the Shaolin masters who escape the temple through decades of their lives as fugitives. Chen Kuan Tai plays the lead, as a Shaolin master determined to gain vengeance specifically on the white eyebrow priest, a traitor who participates in the murder of his fellow martial artists. Over the decades Chen challenges the priest to single combat again and again, always barely escaping with his life. His wife, a southerner, offers to teach Chen her Southern martial arts forms, so that he can combine them and defeat the priest, but Chen refuses, believing he must defeat the priest with his own techniques. Eventually Chen has a son, who is I think the first in this line of youthful imp characters Lau so loves to use in his movies. The son is demented and screeching (my one practical problem with watching these characters), but he eventually learns both his father's kung fu and his mother's styles as well, and ultimately he succeeds in this generational quest for vengeance because of his synthesis of styles and his own radical personality disorder. In most of the Lau Kar Leung films, the themes are rich and this one, of children succeeding their parents, of achieving victory through a mix of impudence and combined knowledge, is pretty absorbing stuff. Executioners is less amusing than Heroes of the East or Dirty Ho––its' more apocalyptic take on the destruction of the Shaolin Temple (Chang Cheh usually treats the burning of the temple like a sort of a western "Indian Raid" sequence and a call to valor) is pretty strikingly bleak and violent––speaking to Lau's later Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter and its alarming brutality. But it's the rare kung fu film that reaches for subject matter into the close quarters and the sometimes awkward bonds of family, and acknowledges it as a source of pain as well as validation. It may be hard to see the Lau Kar Leung movies as profound right off the bat––but in comparison against other kung fu movies it becomes very clear how much Lau is concerned with particular subject matter, precisely articulated and given Lau's unusual, personal perspective. His views on the nature of family are so much less tidy and Confucian than most Chinese filmmakers. His view of the study of martial arts as enlightening and ennobling is always tempered by his certainty that someone's innate personality is not transformed by greater knowledge or more honed temperament. If you don't like the standard 70s kung fu film, Lau is the filmmaker that really transcends that milieu, with films that have unique things to say, and style and aesthetics beyond what the other kung fu filmmakers were doing at the time.

A word or a few here also on The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. This is a movie that is, to my mind, not properly appreciated as maybe the greatest movie in film history to chronicle an education as its subject. I put it that way because other films about education by and large focus on the idea of an emotional connection between a teacher and a student forging the necessary bond for education. As if the process of learning was something the student did simply by concentrating hard, alone with their books, and what that took was only proper motivation from a concerned and emotionally available/connected teacher ("You're the man now, dawg!"). Any film from Dead Poet's Society to Stand and Deliver to Dangerous Minds offers this approach to some degree, and most of these films forgo the process of education itself as something tedious, which happens off-camera.

Challenge of the Masters also offers that teacher-student emotional bond, but the bond between Wong and his uncle in that film is presented more as proof that Wong is finding his way to a philosophy of compassion through his study of kung fu––he learns to see his uncle as a human, capable of being hurt, which in turn leaves him reticent to fight him full-on. French films about education sometimes offer a "student in the real world" component that adheres somewhat to the Piaget theory of education––so that we see the student trying to put their education into practice in the real world, going through fits of progression and regression that map somewhat to the learning process Piaget describes. But none of these movies diagram the totality of an education in the way 36th Chamber does.

The film is about a young revolutionary, indoctrinated, ironically, by his academic classroom instructor. This results in the massacre of his teacher, friends & family, and to his retreat to the protection of the Shaolin Temple. He has trouble being accepted there, because his soul burns bright with the fires of revolution still. He wants to learn martial arts like the monks in the temple, because he wants revenge on the Yuan dynasty for the murder of his family, and he still burns for the goal of freedom which he's absorbed––and which he seems to have doubled-down on since his expulsion from society. Eventually he is able to humble himself to the degree the monks demand, and he begins a codified training system, where he struggles with each chamber, and eventually develops the necessary internal resources to surmount the challenge each chamber presents. This is rote instruction, by and large, which San Ta, the student, digests in spite of his frequent resistance. At this point, the challenge in his education is to repeat and regurgitate his lessons, remembering and reiterating until he understands their purpose. Then he goes through a phase where he learns specific forms, challenging him to apply his teaching in more open-ended tests, which require analysis (sparring, etc.). But when he has mastered the chambers, more is demanded of him. He must defeat one of the masters to prove his own ability. What we get in that next sequence is the next level of learning, where San Ta must put the principles he's mastered into practice against a foe with a larger realm of knowledge and experience. Here he needs to be able to evaluate, and ultimately to create in order to achieve mastery. San Ta fights the master monk 3 times. The first time he's defeated soundly using a weapon he is comfortable with from his training, and the next time he tries a weapon catered to respond to his opponent's particular attacks. He loses again, and in despair, he arrive at an innovation––a new weapon, which he develops himself, and whose attacking style he innovates. We're witnessing a higher-level of academic knowledge than is generally demonstrated in most "education" movies here; San Ta is using "synthesis," putting his knowledge of various forms of martial arts together with unrelated experiences (his walk in the forest which leads to the development of the 3-sectioned staff) to work in the service of problem-solving innovation. He is ultimately made a master, and is sent out to apply his skills in the real world, whereupon we see practical applications of many of the specific things he had to learn during his training.

But the film goes a good bit farther than that, thematically, because when San Ta develops his 36th chamber, he reveals to us that his heart has not really changed since his days of youthful revolution. In spite of the tempering of manner and presentation which his education has provided, his revolutionary mindset remains intact, and in the last part of the film we learn he plans to revolutionize the Shaolin Temple and his society at once. His 36th chamber becomes the lever of his revolution, the device by which he can foment uprising against the Yuan dynasty. This is the essential moment that defines the themes present more or less in nearly all Lau Kar Leung's films going forward. He is obsessed with this idea of a youthful, revolutionary upstart, taken into the establishment and educated (in martial arts, of course). And though that student always learns to master the system, the point for Lau is that the student never loses their upstart fervor, their need to revolutionize. This theme of the stubborn, resistant spirit is in nearly all of Lau Kar Leung's movies, from My Young Auntie to Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter, to Mad Monkey Kung Fu––this idea that though education can hone a person, it never alters their underlying character. The diagram of the process of education that 36th Chamber offers maps closely to what we know of how education actually works upon students, but Lau's perception that the student retains their innate character in spite of education is a pretty unique and interesting observation, well-rendered in film after film. I think people tend to dismiss 36th Chamber as being merely representative of the kung fu genre; but the movie transcends the genre in a lot of directions most kung fu films never aspire to pursue. It's to my mind a really unique movie about a subject many filmmakers have intended to capture and few have succeeded so well in illustrating.

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swo17
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#27 Post by swo17 » Sun Jul 11, 2021 5:55 pm

I'm glad TWBB asked the question!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#28 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jul 11, 2021 7:00 pm

Wow, I really just wanted to write “someone please sell me on this set,” and feihong, you did just that- thanks for the thorough rundown!

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feihong
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#29 Post by feihong » Sun Jul 11, 2021 10:42 pm

My pleasure!

The other dominant figure at Shaw Bros who is mysteriously missing from this set is Chor Yuen. That director (who can be seen as the lovably slimy villain in Jackie Chan's Police Story) is sometimes called the "Hong Kong Mario Bava." While Bava had a much broader range of subject matter than he did, Chor Yuen did have a visually opulent style, with a propensity for color gels in lighting and graceful tracking shots which probably prompted the comparisons to Bava, and which he brought to adaptations of popular "wandering swordsman" novels of the time, most especially those of the novelist Gu Long. His most celebrated film is probably Killer Clans, a wuxia remake of The Godfather, but his other wuxia films from the era, The Magic Blade (which borrows visually from the Sergio Leone westerns of the era) and Clans of Intrigue a gorgeous and fascinating viewing as well. His best films, to my mind, are The Sentimental Swordsman, which is out on blu in Germany, and Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, which is out on blu ray in Hong Kong––both of these films reach outside of the typical Gu Long narrative patterning (though Sentimental Swordsman is a Gu Long novel) and become of more narrative and thematic interest as a result. The Chor Yuen films as a whole are a little more dramatically pat than the Lau Kar Leung movies, but they have a sort of phantasmagorical romantic chivalry and a visual aplomb (especially for color) that makes them very appealing. Perhaps the rights for those movies are out of Arrow's hands, or they seek to present a more streamlined overview of Shaw Brothers; one which leaves out Chor Yuen's fare, which is, I suppose, a little more "local flavor," and which was less heavily exported to the English speaking world at the time these movies were becoming cult items. I'm also very fond of Sun Chung's Deadly Breaking Sword, which has its own very dynamic visual approach and a more de-romanticized view of chivalric pageantry. There are some fun Shaw Brothers co-productions out there, some of which have already made it to blu ray. There are two films made with Hammer, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Shatter (which is a sleazy, fun James Bond knockoff partially shot by Monte Hellman), and there are also a few Italian co-productions, including a Spaghetti Western called The Stranger and the Gunfighter (starring Lo Lieh and Lee Van Cleef in a very appealing pairing), and Supermen of the Orient, where Lo Lieh and a few Shaw regulars play the titular supermen. These movies are all crap compared to the best Shaw Bros movies, but they are pretty entertaining crap. The Spaghetti Western is a treasure hunt movie, where the map to the treasure has been tattooed on the buttocks of a quartet of frontier ladies–––which leads Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh to cross the frontier, asking women to show them their asses. It's tasteless but amusing in the way of a lot of Italian sex comedies.

I don't know what future plans Arrow has, but I hope some of the Chor Yuen films are in the cards. Magic Blade and Clans of Intrigue are really beautiful films that have no hi-def options so far. Killer Clans and Sentimental Swordsman 1 are on blu ray in Germany, Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan in Hong Kong. But one could imagine that Arrow could create a blu ray with much better picture quality. All the German blu rays (and many of Chang Cheh's films are out on blu ray in Germany) are 1080i, and though they look better than the DVDs of the films, they never look that great (also, while the later German blu rays have English subtitle tracks, early releases like Killer Clans have none––Sentimental Swordsman is from a different set made by a different company, and it boasts a much more high-quality 1080p transfer––but again, no English subtitles).

Orlac
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#30 Post by Orlac » Mon Jul 12, 2021 3:31 pm

Which manga was King Boxer based on?

Orlac
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#31 Post by Orlac » Mon Jul 12, 2021 4:42 pm

feihong wrote:
Sun Jul 11, 2021 5:43 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Jul 11, 2021 1:14 am
As someone who’s only seen 36th Chamber (and remembers very little), how do these films compare to other martial arts/violent movies? Or to ask more broadly, what makes them special?
The lead challenger is played by Japanese star Yasuaki Kurata, who joined the film at the expense of a more lucrative movie deal, because he felt the subject matter––and the theme that Japanese and Chinese relations needed to improve with greater dialogue––was important to him.

There's a truly awkward bit at the end of the English dub of Heroes of the East where Kurata translates Liu's English language speech into English - both talking at the same time!

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feihong
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#32 Post by feihong » Mon Jul 12, 2021 9:35 pm

Orlac wrote:
Mon Jul 12, 2021 3:31 pm
Which manga was King Boxer based on?
You know, I just don't know. This statement came from a commentary track on the film––it might have been Elvis Mitchell who said it, though I feel like I heard Bey Logan saying this, but all the Bey Logan commentaries just blend together after a while, so I don't completely recall the source. When you asked, I looked around as best I could, and I couldn't find any second source to confirm this claim, so it might not be true. But when I heard this originally, and started watching the film with that in mind, everything about the film's unusual aesthetics made more sense, so it still seems to me exceptionally likely.

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dwk
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#33 Post by dwk » Mon Jul 12, 2021 10:04 pm

Since you brought up the commentary, I recall Elvis Mitchell saying something like King Boxer was Kirby-esque, but I don't remember him saying anything about it being based on a manga. Of course it has been 14 years since I listened to it.

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Finch
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#34 Post by Finch » Tue Jul 13, 2021 6:03 pm

Wanted to add my own thanks for those outstanding posts, feihong!

Also, there is this picture from James Flower's twitter feed for those curious how this set likely compares to other giant sized sets.

Image

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DeprongMori
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#35 Post by DeprongMori » Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:26 pm

The only question that need be asked about the dimensions of the Shawscope box: Is the box itself in the proper 2.35:1 ratio?
Last edited by DeprongMori on Thu Sep 09, 2021 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#36 Post by yoloswegmaster » Thu Sep 09, 2021 12:31 pm

James Flower has confirmed that all of the titles have been passed uncut by the BBFC; all 15s except for Challenge of the Masters, Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho which are rated 12s. He also said that the full specs should be announced at the end of the month.

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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#37 Post by swo17 » Fri Sep 24, 2021 10:18 am

Box image with more of the artwork revealed:

Image

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yoloswegmaster
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#38 Post by yoloswegmaster » Fri Sep 24, 2021 10:21 am

Full specs for the set:
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all twelve films, including seven new 2K restorations by Arrow Films
Illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing by David Desser, Terrence J. Brady and James Flower, plus cast and crew listings and notes on each film by Simon Abrams
New artwork by Sam Gilbey, Matthew Griffin, Chris Malbon, Jacob Phillips, Ilan Sheady, Tony Stella, Darren Wheeling and Jolyon Yates
Hours of never-before-seen bonus features, including several cast and crew interviews from the Frédéric Ambroisine Video Archive
Two CDs of music from the De Wolfe Music library as heard in six of the films, exclusive to this collection

Disc One – King Boxer

Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
Newly restored uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles for the Mandarin audio, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub
Brand new commentary by David Desser, co-editor of The Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema and The Cinema of Hong Kong
Newly filmed appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
Interview with director Chung Chang-wha, filmed in 2003 and 2004 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with star Wang Ping, filmed in 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with Korean cinema expert Cho Young-jung, author of Chung Chang-wha: Man of Action, filmed in 2005 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu, the first in a three-part documentary on Shaw Brothers’ place within the martial arts genre produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003, featuring interviews with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, Cheng Pei-pei, David Chiang and many others
Alternate opening credits from the American version titled Five Fingers of Death
Hong Kong, US and German theatrical trailers, plus US TV and radio spots
Image gallery

Disc Two – The Boxer From Shantung

Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
Newly restored uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles for the Mandarin audio, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub
Interview with star Chen Kuan-tai, filmed in 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with assistant director John Woo, filmed in 2004 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with star David Chiang, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Conversation between stars Chen Kuan-tai and Ku Feng, filmed at a Shaw Brothers reunion in 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Hong Kong and German theatrical trailers, plus US TV spot
Image gallery

Disc Three – Five Shaolin Masters / Shaolin Temple

Uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films
Newly translated English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub
Newly filmed appreciation of Chang Cheh by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
Interview with star Kong Do, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Elegant Trails: David Chiang and Elegant Trails: Ti Lung, two featurettes on the actors produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003
Alternate standard-definition version of Shaolin Temple
Alternate opening credits from Five Masters of Death, the US version of Five Shaolin Masters
Alternate opening credits sequences for Shaolin Temple
US and German trailers for Five Shaolin Masters
Hong Kong and German trailers for Shaolin Temple
Image galleries for both films

Disc Four – Mighty Peking Man

Uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles for the Mandarin audio, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dub
Brand new commentary by Travis Crawford
Brand new interview with suit designer Keizo Murase, filmed in 2021 by Daisuke Sato and Yoshikazu Ishii
Interview with director Ho Meng-hua, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with star Ku Feng, filmed in 2004 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage from the archives of Keizo Murase
‘Unrestored’ standard-definition version
Alternate opening credits from Goliathon, the US version of Mighty Peking Man
Hong Kong, US, German and Dutch theatrical trailers, plus US TV spot
Image gallery

Disc Five – Challenge Of The Masters / Executioners From Shaolin

Brand new 2K restoration of Challenge of the Masters from the original negative by Arrow Films
Uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films, plus Cantonese mono for Challenge of the Masters
Newly translated English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs
Newly filmed appreciation of Lau Kar-leung by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
Interview with star Gordon Liu, filmed in 2002 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Interview with star Chen Kuan-tai, filmed in 2007 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Textless opening credits for Challenge of the Masters
Alternate English credits for Executioners from Shaolin
Hong Kong theatrical trailers for Challenge of the Masters
Hong Kong and US theatrical trailers for Executioners from Shaolin
Image galleries for both films

Disc Six - Chinatown Kid:

Brand new 2K restoration of the 115-minute International Version from original film elements
90-minute Alternate Version
Uncompressed original Cantonese audio for the International Version, with newly translated English subtitles
Uncompressed original English audio for the International Version, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles
Uncompressed original Mandarin audio for the Alternate Version, with newly translated English subtitles
Select scene video commentary by co-star Susan Shaw from 2021
Elegant Trails: Fu Sheng, a featurette on the actor produced by Celestial Pictures in 2005
Hong Kong, US and German theatrical trailers, plus US TV spot
Image gallery

Disc Seven – The Five Venoms/Crippled Avengers

Brand new 2K restorations of both films from the original negatives by Arrow Films
Uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films plus Cantonese mono for The Five Venoms
Newly translated English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs
Brand new commentary on The Five Venoms by critic Simon Abrams
Interview with star Lo Meng, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Chang Cheh: The Master, a featurette about the director produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003
Hong Kong and US theatrical trailers for The Five Venoms
Hong Kong theatrical trailer for Crippled Avengers
Image galleries for both films

Disc Eight:

Brand new 2K restoration of Dirty Ho from the original negative by Arrow Films
Uncompressed Cantonese, Mandarin and English original mono audio for both films
Newly translated English subtitles for both films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs
Brand new commentary on Heroes of the East by Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts
Newly filmed appreciation of both films by film critic and historian Tony Rayns
Interview with Heroes of the East star Yasuaki Kurata, filmed in 2003 by Frédéric Ambroisine
Alternate opening credits for Shaolin Challenges Ninja, the international version of Heroes of the East
Alternate English credits for Dirty Ho
Hong Kong theatrical trailer for Heroes of the East, plus US TV spot
Hong Kong theatrical trailer for Dirty Ho
Image galleries for both films
Disc Nine – MUSIC FROM SHAOLIN TEMPLE, MIGHTY PEKING MAN AND CHINATOWN KID (CD)

– MUSIC FROM THE FIVE VENOMS, CRIPPLED AVENGERS AND DIRTY HO (CD)

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vsski
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#39 Post by vsski » Sun Sep 26, 2021 7:45 am

I’m seeking advice from the forum on whether to buy this set or not, as I’m really on the fence.

In general, I love box sets like this and the extras sound great. The problem I have is the films itself. I have read and heard so much about Shaw Brothers that I always wanted to see their films, but the more martial arts movies I watch the more I’m divided about what I like.
For example, I really enjoy almost every King Hu movie, and other Wuxia style movies like Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain, The Heroic Trio or The Bride with White Hair. I also loved the Zatoichi movies and most of the Japanese jideigeki/ chanbara films. In general, it seems movies set in some historical context (real or fantasy) and sword plays really appeal to me.

On the other hand when it comes to what I describe as Kung Fu movies (sorry if I mix up the proper terminology, even after reading about the different styles I still may not correctly use it) like the Bruce Lee movies, some of the Jackie Chan films, movies like the Sister Street Fighter series and even the Once Upon a Time in China movies, I tend not to like most of them. While I can appreciate the stunt work, “two guys making grunting noises and then using their hands and feet to clobber each other”, just doesn’t do anything for me - and I have tried again and again.
Reading Feihong’s description of the movies - thank you very much for that - makes me feel like I would be seeing more of the latter type movies I’m not likely to enjoy.

But not knowing these movies well enough, I’m not sure if I should take a leap of faith hoping the storylines are compelling enough and it’s not too much about two or multiple guys in hand-to-hand combat.

Any recommendations?

Glowingwabbit
Joined: Wed May 01, 2013 1:27 pm

Re: Shawscope Volumes

#40 Post by Glowingwabbit » Sun Sep 26, 2021 8:39 am

vsski wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 7:45 am
Reading Feihong’s description of the movies - thank you very much for that - makes me feel like I would be seeing more of the latter type movies I’m not likely to enjoy.

Any recommendations?
Probably not something you'd enjoy then if that was your feeling after reading Feihong's (excellent) write-up. Perhaps see if you can watch one or two first. Not in the set, but The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is on Netflix.

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Shawscope Volumes

#41 Post by feihong » Mon Sep 27, 2021 1:11 am

It sounds like the whole concept of kung fu movies, with its emphasis on bare-knuckles brawling and generally more grounded violence, doesn't really appeal to you. Critics tend to separate kung fu films and wuxia films into different genres, and it sounds to me like you like the wuxia films––where the fights usually involve weapons, and which, thanks to the influence of King Hu, use jidaeigeki pacing and rhythm in their fight scenes––and that you dislike the kung fu films, which favor hand-to-hand combat, and which generally have a faster and less differentiated rhythm to the fights. I would say the Lau Kar-Leung films have more interesting rhythm and more focus than most kung fu films, but if you don't even enjoy the Once Upon a Time in China movies (the first half of the first film of which is choreographed by Lau Kar-Leung), then I don't think any of the movies will appeal to you, beyond Mighty Peking Man (for which there are a couple of other blu rays out there already).

All of the films in the box are from Shaw Brothers kung fu canon (except Mighty Peking Man). There are plenty of wuxia films made by Shaw earlier than these (including classics like Come Drink With Me, Red Lotus Temple, One-Armed Swordsman, Golden Swallow, Blood Brothers, Dragon Swamp, Five Brothers, Water Margin and Heroes of Sung), and concurrent with the films in the set (the Chor Yuen films like Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, Killer Clans, The Magic Blade, Duel for Gold and Clans of Intrigue, and my favorite, The Sentimental Swordsman, and the Sun Chung films Deadly Breaking Sword, Avenging Eagle, and Judgment of an Assassin)...and there are fantasy films which Shaw puts out mostly at the same time as Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain becomes a hit. 88 Films is releasing a blu ray of one of the best of these, Demon of the Lute, and there are others from that time by Chang Cheh (The Weird Man, Na Cha the Great, Fantastic Magic Baby, Attack of the Goddess of Joy, and one of his best film, Legend of the Fox). I would think any of those would appeal to you more than the kung fu films would. And there are wuxia films by Chang Cheh which are not in this set, but which are worth a look and are comparable to some of the King Hu movies (I rate King Hu mostly higher than Chang Cheh as a general rule, but Chang's films are still interesting), including The Deadly Duo, The Duel, Vengeance, New One-Armed Swordsman and Have Sword, Will Travel. These are movies starring the golden pairing of David Chiang and Ti Lung, who have this wonderful chemistry which ranges from intense rivalry to homoerotic fervor, depending on what the individual script calls for. I'm surprised none of these movies appear in this set, especially since they are much better Chang Cheh films than Five Shaolin Masters or The Shaolin Temple. Both actors are in Five Shaolin Masters and in The Shaolin Temple (frequently they were paired in other Chang Cheh ensemble films like The Savage Five, The Heroic Ones, Water Margin and All Men are Brothers), but neither of those films dwells upon their unique bond as performers in the way that these earlier Chang Cheh wuxia movies do. There are kung fu movies with the pair, including the intense and surprising Four Riders, Duel of Fists, and my personal favorite Chang Cheh movie, The Angry Guest (sort of a favorite for all the wrong reasons––in narrative terms this movie is an unmitigated disaster, and there is some crazy editing and Chang's anti-Japanese sentiment goes ridiculously over-the-top here––the badness is part of why I love it, but the David Chiang/Ti Lung bond is really fun and compelling in this one, above almost all others), and there are dramas and adventures which sometimes involve a modicum of kung fu and which utilize the two of them, including Young People, The Generation Gap, The Anonymous Heroes, and I believe a couple of others that aren't occurring to me right now. But I think the wuxia films, none of which are in this set, would have more appeal for you. They are, to one extent or another, made under the shadow of King Hu, who sets the tone for this kind of film at the studio by making Come Drink with Me. Later Shaw Bros wuxia films all are somewhat reminiscent of that movie, in one sense or another. There are some even made by less famous directors which are still excellent, like Lady of the Law and The Black Tavern. I will say, though, that there isn't a filmmaker like Lau Kar Leung amongst the wuxia filmmakers at Shaw; by and large the wuxia films are pretty interesting, but their themes are less unique and well-explicated than in the Lau Kar Leung movies, and at their worst the wuxia movies are exceedingly formulaic. The kung fu films are also pretty formulaic, but there is more chance for variety in there, including some modern-day ones like Police Force, The Delinquent, and Big Bad Sis as well as the period dramas. And the Lau Kar-Leung films are kind of in a class of their own (though you could say that for a lot of Chang Cheh films as well; Vengeance, Four Riders, and Have Sword, Will Travel are especially great). Hopefully, if this box is a success, Arrow will do one with more of a wuxia bent.
Last edited by feihong on Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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vsski
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:47 pm

Re: Shawscope Volumes

#42 Post by vsski » Tue Sep 28, 2021 7:05 am

Feihong - as always incredibly informative and hugely helpful. I’m not well versed with these movies and now having a whole list to seek out is great. And as you say hopefully Arrow will publish a set with more of Wuxia bent in the future, but at least there are already some released I can search for now that I wasn’t aware of.
I should clarify that when it comes to the Once Upon a Time in China series, I did like the first ones (although not to the extent like the King Hu movies), but the others didn’t do as much for me. Overall though, I found them more appealing than some of the other Kung Fu movies I have seen.
Well, I’ll start searching for some of your recommendations - thanks again! 😀

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Shawscope Volumes

#43 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 03, 2021 8:49 pm

feihong wrote: Once Upon a Time in China movies (the first of which is half choreographed by Lau Kar-Leung)
Do you know what parts he choreographed? And am I right in remembering Yuen Woo-Ping being a choreographer on the movie?

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yoloswegmaster
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 3:57 pm

Re: Shawscope Volumes

#44 Post by yoloswegmaster » Sun Oct 03, 2021 9:39 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sun Oct 03, 2021 8:49 pm
feihong wrote: Once Upon a Time in China movies (the first of which is half choreographed by Lau Kar-Leung)
Do you know what parts he choreographed? And am I right in remembering Yuen Woo-Ping being a choreographer on the movie?
Yuen Woo-Ping is credited as an action coordinator for the the first film, and then as an action director for the second film.

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Shawscope Volumes

#45 Post by feihong » Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:27 am

Lau Kar-Leung choreographs about the first half of Once Upon a Time In China I, right to the point where Jet Li screws up his back (at the end of the teahouse fight––you can see him twisting the wrong way as he jumps out the window kicking one of the bad guys). The shooting went on hiatus while Jet recovered, and during that time Tsui decided the martial arts they were shooting were too pedestrian, and that he wanted more gravity-defying stuff (Lau Kar-Leung never worked in that mold). So Yuen Woo-Ping is brought in after the teahouse fight. You can see that the action becomes a lot more over-the-top and comic-book-like almost immediately after that point. If I recall right, the next fight after the teahouse is Iron Robe Yim versus the swordsman by the bonfire? The Yuen-woo–Ping of it all is already apparent. Garish wide-angle closeups, chopped-up fight editing, a lot of sped-up kicks, etc. Way more in-your-face. The Lau Kar-Leung material includes the opening scene stunts and lion dance, the first Shaho gang streetfight, which spills into the European concession, and the teahouse. It has a very different flow to it, with much longer shots, taking in more action at once, and longer takes. The first no-shadow kick looks like something taken apart from the rest of the scene, as if Lau didn't want to do it and Tsui demanded it (just a guess on my part––it is cut a little awkwardly into a more fluid sequence and shot is a different angle, much closer up). Even though Lau did the enormously fun Tiger on Beat in the 80s, by the early 90s he was very out of favor with the action directors of that time. Safe to say that Yuen Woo–Ping grows in prominence at that time and takes a lot of Lau's best opportunities, but I think Lau's aesthetic––especially his period-piece aesthetic––was out-of-step with what filmmakers were doing at the time. He gets fired from OUATIC, then a few years later he's fired from Drunken Master II. In both cases I think Tsui Hark and Jackie Chan thought they were getting something different than what they ended up getting with Lau. Sammo handled him best in Pedicab Driver, arranging a one-on-one fight between the two of them, so that Lau's style could integrate into Sammo's action for the rest of the picture. Lau also does a good job acting for Tsui years later in Seven Swords (he is credited with action on Seven Swords, but Hung Yan Yan and others have spoken to how much of that movie was choreographed by himself and others, since Lau apparently had pneumonia for a lot of the shoot).

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