After an undisputed reign at the peak of Hong Kong’s film industry in the 1960s, Shaw Brothers (the studio founded by real-life brothers Run Run and Runme Shaw) found their dominance challenged by up-and-coming rivals in the early 1970s. They swiftly responded by producing hundreds of the most iconic action films ever made, revolutionising the genre through the backbreaking work of top-shelf talent on both sides of the camera as well as unbeatable widescreen production value, much of it shot at ‘Movietown’, their huge, privately-owned studio on the outskirts of Hong Kong.
This inaugural collection by ARROW presents twelve jewels from the Shaw crown, all released within the 1970s, kicking off in 1972 with Korean director Chung Chang-wha’s King Boxer, the film that established kung fu cinema as an international box office powerhouse when it hit Stateside cinemas under the title Five Fingers of Death. From there we see Chang Cheh (arguably Shaw’s most prolific director) helm the blood-soaked brutality of The Boxer from Shantung and two self-produced films in his ‘Shaolin Cycle’ series, Five Shaolin Masters and its prequel Shaolin Temple, before taking a detour into Ho Meng-hua’s King Kong-inspired Mighty Peking Man, one of the most unmissably insane giant monster films ever made. Chang’s action choreographer Lau Kar-leung then becomes a director in his own right, propelling his adoptive brother Gordon Liu to stardom in Challenge of the Masters and Executioners from Shaolin. Not to be outdone, Chang introduces some of Shaw’s most famous faces to the screen, including Alexander Fu Sheng fighting on the streets of San Francisco in Chinatown Kid and, of course, the mighty Venom Mob in The Five Venoms and Crippled Avengers. Finally, Lau and Liu successfully meld high kicks with humour in two of their masterworks, Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho, also featuring such fan favourites as Wong Yue, Hsiao Hao and Kara Hui.
From kickass kung fu killers to crazy kaiju knockoffs to culture clash comedies, this carefully curated and gorgeously presented selection of all-time Shaw Brothers classics merely represents the tip of the iceberg of the studio’s rich output, making it both an ideal starting point for newcomers and a treat for hardcore fans alike.