RIP Sir Run Run Shaw. (1907-2014)
Teaming up with his brother, Sir Run Run Shaw created Shaw Brothers Studio and blazed through decade after decade with a wide array of dramas, musicals, kung-fu epics and downright bizarre cinematic hybrids. There was no genre untouched by this studio. From the ‘One-Armed Swordsman’ trilogy to his joint with Hammer Horror, ‘Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires’ to countless swordplay and kung-fu films, he personified the prolific movie mogul. And to top it off, gave Ridley Scott the money to make ‘Blade Runner’ one of the finest science-fiction films of all-time.
Off the top of my head, 10 Shaw Brothers favorites that typify the over-the-top, colorful, playful and ass-kicking mayhem that made the studio the top name in studio films.
VENGEANCE (1970) – melodrama and blood-lust, David Chiang and Ti Lung go madhouse in this revenge flick that helped start it all. Tarantino pretty much re-made this with his ‘Kill Bill’ duo.
INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN (1972) – double-crosses, exotic poisons and perfumes, and the deadly Ghost Hands take a major role in this one. Colors you could eat off the screen, and some lesbian foreplay to heat the collars.
KILLER SNAKES (1974) – Shaw’s answer to ‘Willard’ – replace the rats with snakes, amp up the urban grit and sexual repression, and you have this film, one of the studio’s most memorable ‘nasties’.
SUPER INFRAMAN (1975) – a childhood favorite of mine, and perhaps one of the most insane of the kaiju rips of all time. Boldly hilarious and sublime in its earnestness. A dazzling mess for the kids, and the stoners.
CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978) – Shaw Bros. gets a re-boot with the Taiwanese opera troop, the 5 Deadly Venoms. One of their finest, and most politically-incorrect. Toss in a climax that just won’t quit and you have cult-film magic.
MY YOUNG AUNTIE (1981) – Director Lau Kar-leung was on fire with one classic after the other. He was the Shaw Bros. right hand man, and one of the finest martial arts film directors of all time. Here comedy and action are masterfully balanced. Kara Hui is absolutely lovely here.
FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS (1982) – Director Chang Cheh turns the Kung Fu template into a delirious video game. Violent is an understatement – for example, this film boasts a disemboweled warrior who trips over his own intestines. Ass-kicking WTF classic.
LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982) – Perhaps the finest year for the studio when it came to Kung Fu classics. This one, along with EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, is brilliantly realized, and the fighting is top notch. Lau Kar-leung nails it again, especially in the 13-minute climax where two go at it, weapon for weapon, style for style.
BOXER’S OMEN (1982) – One of the most stomach-churning films from the Shaw Library. Here the power of the fist is replaced with supernatural mischief as two sorcerers go at it. Flying heads, crocodile mutants, possessed foetus’, vomit spells and other gloriously sick black magic done up in B-movie magic.
HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD (1983) – Shaw Bros. went out in a madcap blaze with this one. Wu xia laced with LSD. Truly a cult film and has so many WTF moments that it beckons a midnight audience.
So many great films. Thankfully most of these films have been released on DVD by Celestial Films. Before that, it was hitting up the bootleg store for 4th or 5th generation VHS copies.