Top 10 1974–1975 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films

1974 and 1975 were great years for the Shaw Brothers studio. They partnered with international studios to co-produce films more than they ever had before, they finally released a lot of unfinished projects, and Chang Cheh went to Taiwan to form Chang’s Film Co. There Chang Cheh made some of his best work, most notably the genre-shaking Shaolin Cycle which ushered in a new era of kung fu film thanks to Lau Kar-Leung’s mission of bringing real martial arts to the silver screen.

Narrowing down any list is something of a challenge, but this one was a unique beast. All of my Shaw lists are fairly Chang Cheh heavy, and this list is no different. In fact, it sets a new precedent! I never intend for any one filmmaker to dominate a list like this, and I’d honestly be more happy with a wider cross-section of filmmakers. But if I’m going to be honest and make a list of my Top 10 films from 1974–1975, then it just has to be 70% Chang Cheh. I liked a lot of other movies from these years, but no one else making martial arts films at the Shaw studio was on par with Chang Cheh at this point in his career. I imagine Lau Kar-Leung and Chor Yuen will help diversify the next list, but only time will tell. If you’re interested in what’s below the cut and you don’t want to troll through my review archive, I have ranked lists on Letterboxd for every year I’ve finished already. You can find 1974 here and 1975 here.

As usual, I’ve included links to iTunes/Amazon/YesAsia/DDDHouse for easy access if you’re looking to get them. The availability is current as of the posting of this list. eBay is always a good option, as well, if the links I have here don’t turn up any results.

Also: I actually managed to get these two years of my Shaw series done on schedule, so hopefully I can keep the train rolling to deliver the next list (1976–1977) roughly one year from now!

OK, OK, let’s get to the list!


#10 The Spiritual Boxer (1975)
Directed by Lau Kar-Leung
Reviewed June 3, 2017

Besides the great Chang Cheh films, Chang’s tenure in Taiwan also inadvertently gave us the directorial career of Lau Kar-Leung. I’m sure it would’ve happened at some point regardless, but the films of the Shaolin Cycle gave Lau that extra push to fight Chang for his vision to come to the screen. The two legends had a falling out, so producer Mona Fong offered Lau Kar-Leung a job directing a film of his own back in Hong Kong. Lau jumped at the opportunity and The Spiritual Boxer, one of the first true kung fu comedies, was born. It’s definitely not as refined or iconic as his later work, but it’s a fantastic debut that really entertains. It also introduces us to a new star, Wong Yu, who carries the film with his comedic charm and exceptional physical performance.

On disc, The Spiritual Boxer is currently only available on an out-of-print Region 3 DVD, which is still available from DDDHouse or 3rd Party sellers on Amazon. Digitally it is available for rental/purchase at iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other top digital platforms.

#9 The Golden Lion (1975)
Directed by Ho Meng-Hua
Reviewed June 9, 2017

If you told me at the beginning of this chronological endeavor that I would one day look back with nostalgia on the early Shaw wuxias, I would have never believed you. As much as I love seeing the genre mature, I really came to love those early Shaw wuxias for their unique flavor. To my surprise, they had a few of them lying around unfinished from 1971, so whenever they popped up I welcomed them with open arms. I enjoyed them all, but The Golden Lion blew me away. I love the way it’s structured, with the main character slowly losing his strength over the course of the movie while the villains continually increase their pressure on apprehending him. The tension is thick and the action is powerful, and The Golden Lion is one of my favorite films from Ho Meng-Hua.

On disc, The Golden Lion is currently only available on an out-of-print Region 3 DVD, which is hard to find, but it is available (and very overpriced) from 3rd Party sellers on Amazon. eBay is your best bet at this point, but also keep your fingers crossed while you pray to the Celestial gods who may, at some point in the future, release the film to digital platforms such as iTunes.

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Top 10 Shaw Brothers Wuxia Films @ ShawBrothersUniverse.com!

 

How’s it going, Emulsionaires! I teamed up with Matt from Blood Brothers Film Reviews to write up a list of the Top 10 Shaw Brothers Wuxia Films for the official Shaw Brothers site! Check it out here and enjoy! And feel free to let me know what we got wrong in the comments. 😛

Top 10 1990s Jackie Chan Films

At the beginning of my ’80s Jackie list, I made a claim about how the ’80s were easily Jackie’s best decade. After watching all the ’90s stuff, though, I don’t know if I can definitively say that. Both decades offer phenomenal work from Jackie and his incredible stunt team, and each decade’s films are unique and engaging for different reasons. Where the ’80s saw Jackie defining his iconic style, the ’90s saw him take that style and push it forward in incredible ways. It’s a “Godfather or Godfather II” situation, for sure. But no matter which decade you prefer, we’re all winners because we get to watch them all!

But enough jibber jabber, here’s my top 10!


#10 Police Story 4: First Strike (1996)
Directed by Stanley Tong
Reviewed August 29, 2016

I’m pretty surprised to make this list with First Strike all the way down at the #10 spot. This was always a go-to favorite when I was a teenager, and the ladder fight is one of the most fun fight sequences in the history of film. The action is still as great as ever, but the rest of the movie is far from great. It all evens out to make for an entertaining movie, but as a complete package it just can’t stand up to the other films on this list. Hahahaha, that’s not exactly the kind of ringing endorsement I try to write for these lists, but that’s all you’re getting! But if you love Jackie and you haven’t seen it, don’t be dissuaded by my jaded paragraph!

#9 Mr. Nice Guy (1997)
Directed by Sammo Hung
Reviewed September 12, 2016

Re-watching Mr. Nice Guy was a highlight of writing the Jackie reviews. I hadn’t seen it since I was a teenager, and for whatever reason my only recollection of it was that I “didn’t really like it.” Watching it again reminded me of the absolutely incredible fight at the construction site, easily one of the most re-watched fights of my teens. How could I have forgotten this? The rest of the movie is thin on story, but it moves at a great pace and it’s full of spectacular action (plus a wonderful cameo from Sammo Hung). Definitely worth your time!
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Top 10 Film Discoveries of 2016

As always, over the course of the year I run into a number of fantastic older films that I had previously never seen. In 2016 there were more than usual because I watched a TON of stuff, more than I had in many years, and I dug hard into my favorites genres of martial arts and horror. I figured if I was going to focus on watching movies in my limited free time, I might as well further explore the genres that truly excite me. You gotta do what feels right, and nothing feels more right to me than Hong Kong movies and horror.

So here ya go: my top 10 films I saw in 2016 that were new to me. Maybe you like them, too?


#10 Navajo Joe (1966)
Directed by Sergio Corbucci

Sergio Leone is the most well-known director of Spaghetti Westerns, but everyone should know about Sergio Corbucci, too. He made Navajo Joe just a few months after releasing the genre classic Django, and Navajo Joe just might be the better and more entertaining film. Burt Reynolds stars as Navajo Joe, a Native American out for revenge. The film is taut, lean and action-packed; if you’re a fan of westerns, this is a must-see film. And it might even make a non-believer think twice about the genre’s possibilities.

#9 The Grandmaster (2013) – HK Version
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

In any obsession or addiction, there is always a feeling of chasing that initial high achieved during the discovery phase. When I was first getting into Hong Kong movies in the mid/late ’90s, I watched all of Wong Kar-Wai’s then-released films and really enjoyed them (even though I don’t think I ever really “got” them). I was so excited to watch The Grandmaster when it was first released that I ordered the Hong Kong Blu-ray as soon as it was available. But it sat on my shelf for something like three years because I had heard middling things about it and I couldn’t muster the desire to watch it. But then I did, and not only did I love The Grandmaster, it made me once again feel the rare, sweet bliss that defined my discovery of Hong Kong film. It’s not a martial arts film by the traditional definition, but it is a beautiful film about the martial arts, the philosophies at their foundations, and the difficult pursuit of reaching the pinnacle in a skilled art.
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Top 10 1972–1973 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films

This list has been a long time comin’, and I’m overwhelmed to finally reach this stage in my review series! As I mentioned in the previous Shaw list (1970–1971), if everything had gone to plan, I would’ve dropped this one sometime in 2014! Real life took precedence over Shaw Brothers, though, as I saw my care-giving role progressively increase over the last couple of years. I’ve recently turned a corner in speeding up this Shaw train, in terms of re-establishing a routine for getting a review out once a week, so perhaps the next list (1974–1975) will actually come within the next year. If nothing else, it feels great to be back to once a week, I always feel like the reviews are better if I see the movies in closer proximity to one another. This list, one the other hand, contains a spread of movies I reviewed from August 2013 to last week, so I’m going to blame any lapse of memory or details on this.

1972 was an incredibly strong year for Shaw films, so this list contained some hard choices. They weren’t as hard as they could’ve been, though, as 1973 wasn’t all that great — especially in direct comparison to the 1972 films! Each year had over 20 films, so I briefly considered doing a Top 20, or a Top 10 for each year, but if I did that the 1973 list would be padded with some Good/OK movies, and I’m not interested in a list with movies that I think are just OK. If you’re interested in what’s below the cut and you don’t want to troll through my review archive, I have ranked lists on Letterboxd for every year I’ve finished already. You can find 1972 here and 1973 here.

As usual, I’ve included links to iTunes/Amazon/YesAsia/DDDHouse for easy access by those intrigued enough to check some of these out. The availability is all current as of the posting of this list.

OK, enough of my caterwaulin’, let’s get to the list!


#10 Pursuit (1972)
Directed by Cheng Kang
Reviewed January 10, 2014

pursuit

Pursuit was the second of three Shaw Brothers films released in 1972 based on sections of the classic Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh (AKA The Water Margin). It focuses on the story of Yueh Hua’s character, Lin Chong AKA Panther Head. Where The Water Margin is a grand epic tale of the 108 Liang Shan bandits, Pursuit dials it back and delivers a wonderful exploration of a single member of the clan, in the years prior to where we met him in The Water Margin. Another fantastic piece of cinema from Cheng Kang, Pursuit is the perfect companion film to The Water Margin.

Pursuit is currently only available on an out-of-print Region 3 DVD, which is not currently available from Amazon, but if you check that link from time to time it might come up for sale. Amazon does have the VCD, though, and YesAsia still has the Region 3 Taiwanese DVD release available. eBay is also a great option for your DVD searches.

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Top 10 1980s Jackie Chan Films

Is it even a question that the ’80s were Jackie’s best decade? It features the bulk of his directorial career, plus his amazing work with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. As such, narrowing this down was hard! So let’s get to it before I start to cry about the ones that didn’t quite make it. 🙁


#10 Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985)
Directed by Sammo Hung
Reviewed August 24, 2015
TwinkleTwinkleLuckyStars_6

Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars is the weakest of the Lucky Stars for me, but it’s the only one to make this list because the action contained within it is by far the best of the series. Not only that, it’s some of the best and most iconic work in the long and illustrious directorial career of Sammo Hung. This could be clouded a bit by nostalgia because I used to watch the end of this movie over and over when I was in my teenage obsession with Jackie Chan, but whatever, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars has amazing action no matter what colored glasses you look at it with.

#9 Police Story Part II (1988)
Directed by Jackie Chan
Reviewed February 1, 2016policestory2_5

Like Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Police Story Part II isn’t a completely satisfying movie but the action is truly incredible. The playground fight is easily one of my favorite Jackie Chan fights, and all the stuff with Benny Lai is fantastic as well. If you’re a fan, it’s a must.
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Top 10 Film Discoveries of 2015

2015 was full of great films for me, most of which I didn’t review for Silver Emulsion. What can I say, my time has dwindled and my interest in the blog has diminished a bit. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but one thing that hasn’t faded is my love of film. I usually watch mostly old movies, and in 2015 I cuddled deep under the warm blanket of older films even more than usual. I only saw eight 2015 movies in 2015, and two of those were right at the end of December so they hardly count. If you care, Mad Max: Fury Road is easily my pick for the best of the year (if not the last few years), and I doubt anything could unseat it. Anyway, enough about what this post isn’t!

Below I present the Top 10 films I saw in 2015 that were new to me. Maybe you like them, too?


#10 Q (1982)
Directed by Larry Cohen

q

I’ve always been interested in exploring film in its many forms, but having Silver Emulsion has really pushed me far beyond what I would have otherwise done. In some cases, this has been a huge waste of time, but delving into the films of Larry Cohen has been one of the most rewarding journeys the blog has set me on. I watched three of his films last year and I loved them all (Bone & God Told Me To were the others), but Q was definitely the one that I enjoyed the most. The sheer audacity of the idea is exciting all on its own; it’s the kind of idea that if made today they’d say things like, “This wouldn’t have been possible without CG,” but here it is in all its 1982 glory. Admittedly, some will likely balk at its relatively low-budget FX work, but I found the FX to be absolutely enchanting and perfectly fitting for the film. Highly recommended!

#9 Nightmare City (1980)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Reviewed May 21, 2015

nightmarecity

I’ve never been much of an Italian horror fan, and I hate running zombies. Nightmare City showed me that both can be absolutely amazing. The zombies are little more than crazed dudes with mud smeared on their faces, but it doesn’t matter. The energy with which they assault the living, and the fun creativity of the film’s locations, make for one of the most fun zombies films of all time. Just watch it and thank me later.
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