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 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 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.

Continue reading Top 10 1972–1973 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films →

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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Chinese New Year Special: My Top 10 Under-the-Radar Shaw Brothers Films (as of Feb 2015)

lion-dance-chinese-new-year-3

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
恭禧發財

It’s Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) and Celestial Pictures, owners of the wonderful Shaw Brothers film library, have asked me to contribute something to their big celebration. Yesterday I published a list of my 10 favorite Shaw films, but there’s too many great Shaw films for me to just leave it at that. So I came up with this list, offering up another 10 great films! This one’s more for the seasoned Shaw fan than it is for the newcomer, but who am I to say that you have to start with the genre’s so-called favorites? Start wherever you like!

As with the previous list: Before you send me hate mail and “Why isn’t so-and-so movie on the list?” comments, I haven’t seen a lot of the Shaw Brothers films past 1972 (the year I’ve most recently finished in my chronological series), so that’s why this list steers toward the early years of their color martial arts output. But I imagine a good many fans are the opposite of me and haven’t seen a lot of the early films, so I hope this list is a help. In any case, I’m not trying to say these are the best or anything, just my favorites. With that in mind, here’s my Top 10 Under-the Radar Shaw films as it currently stands (and in no particular order), with links to where you can get ahold of them!

Killers Five (1969)
Directed by Cheng Kang
Reviewed February 10, 2012killersfive

One of the best parts of doing my chronological Shaw Brothers series is discovering great directors I previously knew nothing about. Cheng Kang is at the top of that list, and Killers Five is the first of three films of his on this list. I’m a sucker for any kind of movie where a team is recruited for a dangerous mission, and Killers Five is an incredibly entertaining Shaw Brothers version of the tried-and-true formula.

Killers Five is currently only available on an out-of-print Region 3 DVD through Amazon or YesAsia.

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Chinese New Year Special: My Top 10 Favorite Shaw Brothers Films (as of Feb 2015)

LA_ChineseNewYear

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
恭禧發財

It’s Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) and Celestial Pictures, owners of the wonderful Shaw Brothers film library, have asked me to contribute something to their big celebration. I thought that a list like this would provide newcomers to the Shaw films a few places to start their journey, and provide me an interesting picture to look back on as I continue to work my way through more of the Shaw Catalog.

Before you send me hate mail and “Why isn’t so-and-so movie on the list?” comments, I haven’t seen tons of the great Shaw Brothers classics that I’m sure will eventually vie for a place on this list when I do see them. That’s part of the reason I started my chronological series, to eventually see them all. I’m also not trying to say these are the best or anything, just my favorites. With that in mind, here’s my Top 10 Shaw Favorites as it currently stands (and in no particular order), with links to where you can get ahold of them!

The Super Inframan (1975)
Directed by Hua Shan
Reviewed by Uncle Jasper June 17, 2010inframan_1

The Super Inframan is one of those movies that most people would call campy and a waste of their time. For me, I was in love with it about four seconds into the movie. I’ve never understood why “campy” was considered a bad thing. Whatever, it’s their loss. The Super Inframan is an incredibly fun film, packed with so much imagination and wild visuals that it remains endlessly re-watchable.

The Super Inframan is available on DVD, and digitally at iTunes and Google Play.

Continue reading Chinese New Year Special: My Top 10 Favorite Shaw Brothers Films (as of Feb 2015) →

Top 10 Favorites from the 1960s

I’ll be the first to admit that I am horrible at the whole social aspect of blogging, as I rarely visit other websites or attempt to engage with the community as a whole. But I was very intrigued by a post from Ryan McNeil at The Matinee. In it he recounts his experience of contributing a Top 10 list of 1960s favorites for a big ol’, multi-person list of lists on the Movie Mezzanine, and how the finished list irked him a bit (both for its title and for some of the selections made by others).

Ryan definitely has some valid points, but my post isn’t about any of that! Instead, the posts have inspired me to go through the films of the ’60s and see what I could come up with if I was tasked with listing my favorites of the decade. It’s a horribly brutal process, as the ’60s (or any decade, really) are full of great films. My list ended up being a mix of old favorites I’ve loved for 15+ years, and others I’ve only just seen and become enamored with. But lists are always snapshots of the time they were made, and ultimately arbitrary. Anyway, it was fun to make!

So here’s what I came up with for my top 10 favorites of the ’60s:

#10 True Grit (1969)
Directed by Henry Hathaway

true_grit_blu-ray

#9 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Directed by George A. Romero

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