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littlefuzzy

Shaw Brothers in September mini-marathon

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(reposted from another forum)

I'm starting a personal Shaw Brothers in September mini-marathon, I plan to watch one SB film per day until the end of the month. I only have 25, and I've seen 5-6 of those this year already, so I may be ordering another 5-10 before the month is out, to reach 30. Anyone who wishes is welcome to join me, even if you only have a couple of Shaw Brothers titles, watch them this month and feel free to post a review here.

The titles I've seen in the past year or so are:

The Master

The Brave Archer

House of Traps

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (a couple of times) - The first Shaw Brothers film I had seen.

My Young Auntie

The One-Armed Swordsman

Hmm... I bought Heroes of the East in June, and it really seems like I watched it, or at least parts of it sound familiar, but I don't have it listed as watched. Of course, that was when my mom was in the hospital and stuff (she died July 3rd), so I may not have been able to pay much attention to it.

I'm going to try to do a mini-review of each, I'm not great with reviews, though. Be warned, there may be slight spoilers if you haven't seen the films. I am not a martial arts movie veteran, so I may not like a film as much as some, due to confusion or other subjective problems. I like some of the training movies more than just all out battles. I always watch in the original language with subtitles. All of my titles are R1, so I will include a review of the DVDs, based on watching them on my laptop.

1. Heroes Two (Media Blasters - 1973) - Directed by Chang Cheh

Farewell, Linn Haynes. - I think this was the last film on which he did a commentary.

The Movie:

Feng Shih Yu (Alexander Fu Sheng) and Hung Hsi Kuan (Chen Kuan-Tai) both escape the burning of the Shaolin Temple by the Manchus, Feng is tricked into helping capture Hung, thinking that he is a bandit. After realizing his mistake, he helps to rescue Hung, and there is a showdown between the Shaolin survivors and the Manchus. There were a great many characters introduced, which seems to be common in the older MA films. At times, I found it to be a bit confusing, especially since I'm not good with Chinese names and faces. MA veterans who recognize the actors on sight will probably be able to follow it much better. There was an epic battle at the end, with 20-40 characters or more, of whom only 4 heroes escaped.

The DVD:

The picture and sound were great, there is a "Three Styles of Hung Fist" featurette, an interview with Chen Kuan-Tai, a commentary by Linn Haynes (I haven't heard it, but others have said it's very informative and entertaining), trailers, and a stills gallery. After watching the trailers for Machine Girl, and Zebraman, I definitely need to pick up those two!

2. Challenge of the Masters (Media Blasters - 1976) - Directed by Chia-Liang Liu (he also has a role in it, and was the kung-fu instructor and stunt coordinator)

The Movie:

This film is another story about Wong Fei Hung , the folk hero from Once Upon a Time In China, Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, and MANY more. It is said that he is the most-filmed character, due in part to a movie series that hit 99 titles (said to be the longest running movie series ever.)

Wong Fei Hung's father refuses to teach his headstrong son martial arts, so the father's Master steps in to train the boy. There is a rival school, whose students are troublemakers. Also, there is a bandit kung fu master hiding at that school, and he kills a police officer. After training, Wong Fei Hung seeks out the bandit to avenge the death of the police officer. There is also a competition for a "pao" (painted sticks launched by fireworks), where the martial artist who can grab a pao and hold on to it is awarded great acclaim until the next competition.

The DVD:

Again, the picture and sound were great, there is another interview with Chen Kuan Tai, a featurette: Chen Kuan Tai: Kung Fu Past & Present, a textless opening, trailers for this film and other Tokyo Shock titles (including Ultimate Versus and Hair Extensions), and a stills gallery.

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Like the idea! I've accidentally been having a Shaw Bros marathon myself lately. Finally saw Five Deadly Venoms when the Dragon Dynasty DVD came out, watched Brave Archer a couple of days ago, and watched Flag of Iron last night... actually, I have it playing again in the background right now, but with the English dub this time. I usually watch each film at least two times in a row: First in its original language (most times Mandarin, sometimes Cantonese), then dubbed. If the film will have a commentary track as well, that'll be my third go-around. Needless to say, watching Brave Archer three times really clears things up :tongue:

I have all the Dragon Dynasty Shaws, but sadly haven't watched them all yet. That being said, while waiting for the Media Blasters release of Five Elements Ninjas, I'll be keeping myself occupied with the DD Shaws I've missed! I've managed to watch all of the Media Blasters ones though :xd:

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3. The Deadly Duo (Media Blasters - 1971) - Directed by Cheh Chang

So far, I have 10 titles directed by Cheh Chang, not counting the Hammer film The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (he's uncredited.)

The Movie:

A group of heroes from the Sung Dynasty try to rescue the prince, after rescuing a captured prisoner from execution. The prisoner had been part of a large group of fighters who were decimated by 5 villainous kung-fu masters working for the Jin regime: a river fighter, a man who fought with golden cymbals, two that attacked from hiding, and one who could throw explosives. by the time the heroes reached the stronghold where the prince was held, their numbers had dwindled to a handful. This film was pretty much wall-to-wall action, with battle scenes with a huge number of fighters on screen at any one time.

DVD:

So far, all of these Media Blasters titles have looked and sounded like they were filmed this year. The picture is amazing. Extras include 2 interviews, trailers and a stills gallery.

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4. Martial Club (Media Blasters - 1981) - Directed by Chia-Liang Liu

I'm not sure if the original is Cantonese or Mandarin on this one. IMDB shows both, and the DVD has both.

I almost missed one for today, only 4 days into the marathon! It's midnight, but I'll get it in before bed...

The Movie:

This opens with an explanation of the lion dance, which I found very interesting. This is a much more light-hearted outing than the previous films, there is a troublemaking school that interferes with two other schools. Wong Fei-hung and his friend try to pass themseles off as masters, and get in trouble for it. The troublemaking school master invites an honorable Northern master to the school, so they can learn Northern techniques and have an advantage over the other two schools. There wasn't really a climax to the story, although there was a climactic duel between the Northern master and Wong Fei-hung, that seemed more of a demonstration of styles.

DVD:

I watched in Cantonese this time, as that seemed to match the mouth movements more closely. It seems as though the subtitle track was off of a different language. There were some missing lines, including a couple of voiceover bits. The picture looks great, and you can see just how bad the film looked before it was restored in some of the trailers, etc. Thsi disc is a bit lighter on the extras, there are the usual trailers for this movie and other Tokyo Shock titles, a New Year's promo (without English subs), a no-text opening, and a stills gallery.

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5. Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (Media Blastes - 1980) - Directed by Cheh Chang

This one has a ton of stars in it.

The Movie:

This was hard to follow (but I wouldn't say really confusing), partly because of the large cast, and partly because of the 3 flashbacks. It starts out as a revenge story, as two assassins kill a student of theTen Tigers, who killed the father of one of the assassins, who was a government official. In the flashback sequences, the Ten Tigers were sheltering a rebel from the government forces, and one of them killed the official while fighting to save the rebel. The "present day" has another official and the son of the slain official plotting to kill the Ten Tigers by ambushing them and drawing them out one by one. I'd say the movie isn't quite sure what it's supposed to be. It goes from fairly comedic moments to death and spurting blood (including a decapitation), without really being an action/comedy blend.

DVD:

As usual, I have absolutely no complaints regarding the picture and sound. The extras include a documentary - The Master: Chang Cheh, as well as the standard trailers and still gallery.

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5. Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (Media Blastes - 1980) - Directed by Cheh Chang

I liked 1st half a lot but when wang lung wei bites a dust and most stars disappear it becomes quite dull...finale is great though so movie is worth owning.

About deadly duo I know personally many who thinks it is boring but it is one of my shaw favs and I even doubledipped this as has no complain of picture in IVL soundtrack was quite harsh.Happy with mediablasters english dub.

Martial club was so-so,was disappointed with that.Wang Lung Wei is only good thing in that really.this is worst movie with gordon liu as lead actor I have seen.LKL again spent too much time into tedious slapstick.

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6. The Battle Wizard (Well-Go - 1977) - Directed by Hsueh Li Pao

The Movie:

As the name impies, there are some fantasy elements going on here (I'm not sure if this is wuxia, I don't really know all the criteria for that.) Not 5 minutes into the movie, a martial artist shoots "laser beams" from his fingertips. This movie seems to be almost going for a psychadelic feel. The film opens with an emperor's affair resulting in a pregnancy, the husband vows revenge in 20 years, and his wife (who was jilted by her lover) raises her daughter to seek out revenge as well. Instead, the daughter unknowingly meets her half brother, and there is a bit of "Luke 'n' Leia" love pangs going on. The young prince is a scholar, and thinks violence has no place in his world, but various groups try to do him in, so he figures he had better learn some martial arts. He encounters the red python and drinks it's blood, making him very powerful. The two kids are captured by the vengeance seeking husband, and tossed into a gorilla pit.

This was actually pretty cheesy, and I'm sure that it would have been considered so back when it came out as well. the story is a bit incoherent, and it could have benefited from an extra 10-20 minutes of plot or so (the movie only ran 73 minutes.) Still, it was enjoyable, especially if you like cheesy movies. The main villain is called "Yellow-robe man", and fights with telescoping chicken legs.

The DVD:

The picture and sound were great, it seemed a bit choppy, but I'm sure that was from editing room choices instead of film damage. The only extra is the trailer for this movie.

Scratch that, some of the sound seemd a bit intrusive, like snake hisses and footsteps in leaves. I was thinking it was just the movie, but I read something about the new 5.1 whooshy soundtracks from Celestial, and evidently some of the Well-Go titles include that.

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7. Brothers Five (Well Go - 1970) - Directed by Wei Lo

look for an early appearance by Sammo Hung, as a security guard for the caravan.

The Movie:

A woman encounters several heros, and realizes that they are all brothers, and their father was friends with her father. The brothers' father was killed by a villain who took their home, the brothers were split and raised seperately. Each of them runs into trouble from the villains, and try to storm the gates alone, but have to withdraw. Once all five are working together, they are able to stand off the army of villains, and even defeat the head villain who killed their father. I believe this is a wuxia film. This was pretty much wall to wall battles, with tons of fighters on screen at once. It was pretty enjoyable.

The DVD:

The only extra is the trailer. The picture quality is great. Again, this seems to have a strange sound mix, evidently Celestial Pictures made some 5.1 remixes, and they are "whooshy". This disc only has one sound option, and it sounds kind of "tin can echoey". The original mono (I presume) would have been nice, and the dub fans are out of luck on this title.

============

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8. The Duel of the Century (Well Go - 1981) - directed by Yuen Chor

This is another wuxia title from Well Go.

The Movie:

DECEPTION! INTRIGUE! TRICKERY! BETRAYAL! EUNUCHS!

This has it all. The film starts out with news of a duel between two heroes who have no reason to fight, and as a friend of both looks deeper, he discovers layers upon layers of trickery culminating in a plot to assassinate the king and ursurp his throne. I found this to be entertaining, it had some humorous moments.

The DVD:

I have yet to see any problems with the picture in any of these DVDs I've watched for the marathon, I'm watching on a laptop and that may mask or remove any problems that might be visible on a TV screen. The sound on this was only Mandarin (no dub for you folks that like those,) and the DVD case says 5.1 surround, but I didn't notice as many problims with this Well Go title. I did hear one spot where the audio stuttered close to the end of the film, but I rewound it and it played fine, so it may have been hardware related. The only extra is the trailer (you have to turn the subtitles on before you watch it.)

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I am so enjoying reading your entries for your marathon. Shaw Brothers always deliver entertainment. I laughed when I read in your description from "The Battle Wizard" of "The main villain is called "Yellow-robe man", and fights with telescoping chicken legs." That's great, very funny. Keep it up.

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Well, the subtitles actually called him that a couple of times, and he walks around on artificial legs that look like chicken feet. He can kick with them very far like Dhalsim in the Street Fighter video game...

The movie was very silly... Did I mention the laser blasts coming from a guy's fingers, in the first 5 minutes of the movie?? :tongue2:

I think I am going to skip a day... It's 11PM here, I've been staying up way too late the past few nights, in part because I hadn't watched a Shaw film for the day when it was time to go to bed. I've been in the middle of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (season 7 and 4 respectively now), so those have been eating up some time.

Since I only have 26 Shaws right now, and I had already seen 6 of them fairly recently before I started the marathon, I'd be running out before the end of the month anyway.

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I skipped a couple of days. I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6/7 and Angel Season 3/4, and I was staying up way too late for the Shaw Brothers films.

9. The Heroic Ones (Well Go - 1970) - Directed by Cheh Chang

The Movie:

Brother Against Brother!

This has some epic batltes, there is a king with 13 generals and an army of thousands, going up against a bandit who named himself emperor. The 13th general bests a fighter who was laying waste to the king's army. Led by the 13th general, 9 of the 13 (who are all sons or adopted sons of the king) go into a town to try and assassinate the bandit. Due to "4th brother" and "12th brother" being hotheaded, the element of surprise was lost, and they had to flee. 4th brother and 12th brother saw their actions as calls for glory instead of messing up the plan, and so their resentment built up. After one brother was killed by a treacherous attack by a government official wanting to seize power, the king numbed his pain with drink, and the two brothers stole his sword (a symbol of his command), and tricked the 13th brother into their camp. There, they dismember him, and then plan to seek refuge with an enemy, but the other brothers catch up to them first. After the battle, 4th brother and 12th brother are dead, but they killed 4 other brothers, turning the 13 Generals into 5...

The DVD:

As usual, the picture is great. All of these Region 1 Shaw Brothers that I have been watching were recently remastered by Celestial Pictures. If you look at the trailer, you can see how great the remastering was. The sound is fine on here, but the subtitles are a bit "Engrish-y" - for example - "Then you led 5000 soldiers to battlefield... a complete victory or never me again." The only extra is a trailer for the film. There is an English dub available.

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10. Journey of the Doomed (Well Go - 1985) - Directed by Chuen-Yee Cha

The Movie:

I'm not sure what kind of movie this is supposed to be: Action, comedy, adventure, romance, fantasy, soft-core porn (15 minutes in, and there were already 2 sex scenes), political thriller, or what. There is even some rock music during parts of the soundtrack.

It opens with a girl raised in a whorehouse, it turns out that the crown prince is her father. To keep her safe, her "big sister" tells the second prince, who sends a team of 2 men and one woman to protect the girl, so he can use her as leverage to gain the throne. The crown prince hears of it, and sends his own team of two women and one man to kill the girl so that he keeps the throne when the emperor vacates it. Of course, the woman on the second prince's team loves the man on the first prince's team... While the girl is fleeing from people who want to kill her, or protect her, she meets a river man, and falls in love.

The DVD:

To begin with, this title is NOT anamorphic, although hte picture quality still looks good. It almost seems like a couple of the earlier titles I watched weren't anamorphic either, but right now I couldn't say which ones. This only has a Chinese language track, and I'd almost take points off because Well Go doesn't always say if it's Mandarin or Cantonese. Of course, it could be that there is dialogue in both, IMDB seems to support that theory. As usual with the Well Go discs, there is only a trailer for the film. The subtitles seem more Americanized than any previous I've seen: "Mr. Duan" "10 grand", and various bits of cursing.

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IMO Journey of the Doomed was an attempt to make a film with a Japanese feel. It turned out pretty bad.

----

I appreciate you trying to do a marathon of SB films and wish I could join you. Maybe I should pick one drama/Opera film a week and get through it.

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Life Gamble -- Even though it's flawed, I love this film. It's like Chang Cheh trying to do Chu Yuan with an all-star cast. The biggest problem is there's not much action (esp. not in the first half), and the finale suffers from some bad Giant Flag Kung Fu. If you can put aside that rather big flaw, it's nice to see a Wuxia where the trickery and double/triple-crosses happen throughout the movie, not in the last 10 minutes. Worth a watch, but it will probably appeal more to Chu Yuan fans and those of Chang Cheh.

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I'll probably catch Life Gamble in the next couple of films... I'll watch Two Champions of Shaolin (Well Go) first, and then the two BCIs.

Considering I have 10 Cheh Chang Shaw Brothers films, I don't guess I mind him! :tongue2: My next highest is Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar-Leung) at 6 films.

I kind of dropped the ball on the marathon, life happened... I do this sometimes, I start a marathon strong (007 films, for example,) and then I skip a day. Once that happens, it's like "well, I already blew it, so i'll skip another day, or two..." Part of it may be that I get a bit burned out after watching the same kind of thing for several days.

I WILL finish the Shaw Brother films that I own before the end of the month, although I don't know if I will rewatch any of the ones I had watched a few months ago, at least not right now. I don't think I am going to be ordering a bunch of titles though.

My remaining titles are:

Two Champions of Shaolin (Well Go)

Life Gamble (BCI)

Opium & the Kung Fu Master (BCI)

King Boxer (Dragon Dynasty)

Come Drink With Me (Dragon Dynasty)

Heroes of the East (Dragon Dynasty) - I think I actually tried to watch this back in June or something, but my mom was getting worse, so I probably wasn't able to pay attention to the movie.

The 5 Deadly Venoms (Dragon Dynasty)

Drunken Monkey (Lionsgate)

I will probably pick up and watch any new Media Blasters or Well Go titles before the month is over, I don't *THINK* Dragon Dynasty has any after The 5 Deadly Venoms yet. I may also try to get Black Magic, so that I can watch it and Black Magic 2.

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Saw The Proud Twins last week -- It was OK, Alexander Fu Sheng's trademark smartass role is always offputting to me, but Candy Wen (Xue Er) was good and all the tricks and villians were amusing.

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Guest WuxiaFan
I kind of dropped the ball on the marathon, life happened... I do this sometimes, I start a marathon strong (007 films, for example,) and then I skip a day. Once that happens, it's like "well, I already blew it, so i'll skip another day, or two..." Part of it may be that I get a bit burned out after watching the same kind of thing for several days.

We're rooting for ya! :bigsmile: What are you on now? It's been 6 days! :smile:

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