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.

Continue reading Top 10 1974–1975 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films →

The Protectors (1975)

The Protectors [鏢旗飛揚] (1975)

Starring Lo Lieh, Chang Pei-Shan, Wang Hsieh, Yeung Oi-Wa, Lee Sau-Kei, Chan Shen, Dean Shek Tin, Wong Ching, Chan Chuen, Wong Ching-Ho, Wu Chi-Chin

Directed by Wu Ma

Expectations: Moderate.


As with quite a few of the films Shaw released in 1975, The Protectors was shot in 1971 and held back from release. The reasoning for this is up for anyone’s best guess, especially since it tells a complete, satisfying story with vibrant characters despite only running 62 minutes. Instead of making random speculations, I should focus on what’s here, and besides, The Protectors actually benefits from the extreme, barely feature-length brevity. It cooks the film down to its bare essentials, and since it’s a solid piece of work, it excels at entertaining in a way that only a good Shaw Brothers wuxia can.

The Eagle Escorts are known throughout the land as the security bureau to hire if you want to be sure your gold or silver arrives safely at its destination. The founder is aged and confined to his chair, but the company continues to thrive thanks to the skilled swords of Ling Xiao (Lo Lieh) and Guan Wang Long (Chang Pei-Shan). After another successful mission (that left tons of bandits dead on the trail), Ling and Guan return to headquarters. At the gate, welcoming them home, is Fang Yan Er (Yeung Oi-Wa), the object of Guan’s affection. She does not reciprocate these feelings, though, instead she is kind of infatuated with Ling. From his reaction, this is not the first time Guan has felt jilted, and this resentment is near the point of explosion.

Continue reading The Protectors (1975) →

The Myth (2005)

The Myth [神話] (2005)
AKA Jackie Chan’s The Myth

Starring Jackie Chan, Kim Hee-Sun, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Yu Rong-Guang, Sun Zhou, Maggie Lau Sze-Wai, Mallika Sherawat, Ken Lo, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Shao Bing, Ken Wong Hop-Hey, Jin Song, Yuen Tak, Hayama Hiro, Chan Sek, Park Hyun-Jin, Yao Wei-Xing, Choi Min-Soo, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Sudanshu Pandde

Directed by Stanley Tong

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.


One day in 2005 or 2006, I happened upon a Chinese DVD (without English subs) of The Myth in my library. Based on the cover art, I assumed that The Myth was a straight historical drama. Intrigued, I took it home to see if it had any fights. I scanned through the film quickly, didn’t see any, and then wrote the movie off until now. Imagine my surprise when I actually sat down to watch the film and I discovered that there is a wealth of action contained within it! And it’s really fun, entertaining, Jackie-style Jackie Chan action! Whoa!

The Myth begins during the Qin Dynasty, as General Meng Yi (Jackie Chan) receives a Korean princess, Ok-Soo (Kim Hee-Sun), who is to marry the ailing Qin emperor. During the handover, a Korean warrior attempts to kidnap Ok-Soo, but Meng Yi ain’t havin’ none of that. They clash in epic fashion, but Meng and OK-Soo become separated from the troops when they fall into a river fall below. As they hit the water, we are whisked to the future, as the respected archaeologist Jack Chan (Jackie Chan) awakes from a dream. This isn’t his first dream of the princess and a Qin Dynasty version of himself, and this troubles him greatly. As luck would have it, his next assignment — helping his friend William (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) uncover the secret of a levitating mystic in India — will shed a lot of light on these dreams. Who woulda thought it? It’s like a movie or something!

Continue reading The Myth (2005) →

The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 37 – KaiJune Spectacular! Gamera vs. Barugon

Episode 37! It’s another episode to celebrate Silver Emulsion’s long-gestating June event extravaganza: KaiJune™©®! This week we’re talking about Shigeo Tanaka’s 1966 film Gamera vs. Barugon! We also go off the rails and talk a lot about Sega, among other various tangents.

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Riyou Kinugasa / Takuya Kobayashi / Hiromi Mizutani – The Woods and the Goddess

Outro:

  • Riyou Kinugasa / Takuya Kobayashi / Hiromi Mizutani – Life is Beautiful

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using, such as iTunes.

The New Game of Death (1975)

The New Game of Death [新死亡遊戲] (1975)
AKA Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death, Goodbye, Bruce Lee

Starring Bruce Li (Ho Tsung-Tao), Lung Fei, Mang Ping, Wei Hung-Sheng, Wang Ching-Ping, Tsai Hung, Shan Mao, Lee Keung, Shih Yin-Yin, Wong Hoi, Ma Cheung, Kuslai, Sandus, Ronald Brown, Johnny Floyd

Directed by Lin Bing

Expectations: Low, but I do like some good Bruceploitation.


Technically speaking, The New Game of Death isn’t a Shaw Brothers movie, and it really shouldn’t be a part of my review series. The Shaw Brothers picked up various films for distribution on occasion, so this is probably what happened with The New Game of Death, although I can’t find any real info to support that. In any case, it was the only film produced by the Yu-Yun Film Co., somewhere along the line Shaw Brothers got the rights to the film, and then when Celestial Pictures remastered the Shaw catalog and released them on Region 3 DVDs they gave The New Game of Death the same treatment. Given this circumstantial chance to check out an early Bruceploitation film in its raw, original form — it was edited and released in the US as Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death — I just had to take it.

The New Game of Death opens with Bruce Li playing himself (I think), picnicking with his fiance and practicing martial arts. A film producer approaches him and asks him to help complete Bruce Lee’s unfinished film The Game of Death. Bruce Li doesn’t know if he should do it because it’ll postpone his marriage, but of course he accepts, and it doesn’t matter anyway because once the movie-within-a-movie starts, we never go back to this frame story. Once he agrees, the producer sits him down to screen the film they have so far… which oddly stars Bruce Li instead of Bruce Lee, and is apparently complete! Logic has never been Bruceploitation’s strong suit. 🙂

Continue reading The New Game of Death (1975) →

Marco Polo (1975)

Marco Polo [馬哥波羅] (1975)
AKA The Four Assassins

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Bruce Tong Yim-Chaan, Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung, Richard Harrison, Shih Szu, Lo Dik, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Leung Kar-Yan, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Li Tong-Chun, Carter Wong, Tang Tak-Cheung, Ting Wa-Chung, Chang I-Fei, Lee Ying, Chan Wai-Lau, Han Chiang

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: Very high. New Chang Cheh always gets me excited.


It’s fair to assume that a film titled Marco Polo would be centered around Marco Polo, the trader who became a trusted advisor to Kublai Khan, the Mongol leader who completed the conquest of the Song Dynasty and established the Yuan Dynasty. In Chang Cheh’s film, though, Polo is merely a small component. He is at the heart of the plot, but he honestly doesn’t do much more than glare at some people now and then. This really bothered me, and I spent a good portion of the movie trying to understand why the film might be titled after a character who does so little. I eventually came to a conclusion (which I’ll get around to), but it’s one that will require a second viewing to fully appreciate. At this juncture, I’d call it an uncharacteristically weak film for Chang Cheh, which is to say that I liked it a lot instead of flat-out loving it. 🙂

Upon returning from a three-year mission, Marco Polo presents a report of his travels to Kublai Khan. Meanwhile, a pair of Chinese rebels make their way into the court and attempt to assassinate the Khan. One is killed, and the other, Zu Jianmin (Carter Wong), manages to escape. Since he is injured and cannot move too quickly, the Khan asks Marco Polo and his three personal bodyguards (Gordon Liu, Leung Kar-Yan & Johnny Wang Lung-Wei) to kill Zu and his allies when he reaches his home. This proves to be a bit harder than anticipated, as Zu’s four sworn brothers (Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Bruce Tong Yim-Chaan & Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung) escape and begin harsh training to improve their martial arts skills.

Continue reading Marco Polo (1975) →

New Police Story (2004)

New Police Story [新警察故事] (2004)

Starring Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Charlie Yeung, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Daniel Wu, Dave Wong Kit, Andy On, Terence Yin Chi-Wai, Hayama Hiro, Coco Chiang Yi, Ken Lo, Yu Rong-Guang

Directed by Benny Chan

Expectations: Low.


Titling this film New Police Story evokes memories of Jackie’s successful series of films than ran through the ’80s and ’90s, but the “new” indicates that it’s a reboot or otherwise unrelated. It’s true, Jackie doesn’t play the loose Chan Ka-Kui character, and this film’s character is almost a polar opposite to Ka-Kui’s reckless, Supercop spirit. Jackie plays Senior Inspector Chan Kwok-Wing, a straight-laced man who gets the job done through discipline, strong leadership and efficiency. With a lead character like this, the film takes on a seriousness that none of the Police Story films carry, but anyone who has seen Crime Story will recognize the tone. So a more apt title might be New Crime Story, which is ironic since Crime Story was released in Japan under the title New Police Story. Confused yet? Anyway, what matters is that New Police Story is more Crime Story than Police Story, something that’s not readily apparent thanks to the title. I guess Hollywood isn’t the only film market to title based on name recognition.

A group of young thugs rob a bank in wild fashion, specifically asking for the police to be called when they finish gathering the money. Instead of swiftly making a getaway, they stick around to confront the policemen, seeing the situation as a game, complete with points for kills & property damage. After causing massive casualties, the robbers escape, and now Senior Inspector Chan Kwok-Wing, the force’s most successful investigator, is tasked with finding their hideout and bringing them to justice. He’s so confident in his abilities and those of his men that he brags about catching them within three hours, but when the assault on their hideout is launched, literally everything that could go wrong does. Chan is the staunch veteran going up against the youthful new breed of criminal; New Police Story could also be called No Hong Kong for Old Men. 🙂

Continue reading New Police Story (2004) →

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