Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Shawscope Volume One: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong, 1972 (King Boxer, The Boxer From Shantung), Hong Kong, 1974 (Five Shaolin Masters), Hong Kong, 1976 (Shaolin Temple, Challenge of the Masters), Hong Kong, 1977 (The Mighty Peking Man, Executioners from Shaolin, Chinatown Kid), Hong King, 1978 (The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Heroes of the East), Hong Kong, 1979 (Dirty Ho)
Director: Chung Chang-wha (King Boxer), Cheh Chang, Hsueh-Li Pao (The Boxer From Shantung), Cheh Chang (Five Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Temple, Chinatown Kid, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers), Meng-Hua Ho (The Mighty Peking Man), Chia-Liang Liu (Challenge of the Masters, Executioners from Shaolin, Heroes of the East, Dirty Ho)
Cast: Lieh Lo, Hsiung Chao, Chin-Feng Wang, Bolo Yeung, Kuan Tai Chen, David Chiang, Lung Ti, Sheng Fu, Kuan-Chun Chi, Evelyne Kraft, Danny Lee, Hark-On Fung, Sheng Chiang, Chien Sun, Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok, Meng Lo, Pai Wei, Feng Lu, Yasuaki Kurata, Yue Wong, Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu)

Release Date: December 20th, 2021 (UK), December 28th, 2021 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 105 Minutes 57 Seconds (King Boxer), 134 Minutes 15 Seconds (The Boxer From Shantung), 109 Minutes 42 Seconds (Five Shaolin Masters), 119 Minutes 59 Seconds (Shaolin Temple), 89 Minutes 30 Seconds (The Mighty Peking Man), 97 Minutes 10 Seconds (Challenge of the Masters), 100 Minutes 14 Seconds (Executioners from Shaolin), 114 Minutes 37 Seconds (Chinatown Kid), 102 Minutes 7 Seconds (The Five Venoms), 106 Minutes 34 Seconds (Crippled Avengers), 104 Minutes 58 Seconds (Heroes of the East), 103 Minutes 29 Seconds (Dirty Ho)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English (King Boxer, The Boxer From Shantung, Five Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Temple, The Mighty Peking Man, Challenge of the Masters, Executioners from Shaolin, Chinatown Kid, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Heroes of the East, Dirty Ho), DTS-HD Mono Cantonese (Challenge of the Masters, The Five Venoms, Heroes of the East, Dirty Ho)
Subtitles: English, English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £110.00 (UK), $179.95 (USA)

"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, revolutionizing 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 Video 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 humor in two of their masterworks, Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho, also featuring such fan favorites 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." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (King Boxer, The Boxer From Shantung), 4.25/5 (Challenge of the Masters, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Dirty Ho), 4/5 (Chinatown Kid), 3.75/5 (Five Shaolin Masters, Shaolin Temple, The Mighty Peking Man, Executioners from Shaolin, Heroes of the East)

Here’s the information provided about King Boxer's transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative."

King Boxer comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45 GB

Feature: 27.7 GB

Here’s the information provided about The Boxer From Shantung's transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative."

The Boxer From Shantung comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.6 GB

Feature: 36.6 GB

Here’s the information provided about Five Shaolin Masters' and Shaolin Temple's transfers, "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations."

Five Shaolin Masters and Shaolin Temple comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.2 GB

Feature: 16.4 GB (Five Shaolin Masters), 17.9 GB (Shaolin Temple)

Here’s the information provided about The Mighty Peking Man's transfer, "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations."

The Mighty Peking Man comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.9 GB

Feature: 24.6 GB

Here’s the information provided about Challenge of the Masters' transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration of Challenge of the Masters from the original negative by Arrow Films."

Here’s the information provided about Executioners from Shaolin's transfer, "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations."

Challenge of the Masters and Executioners from Shaolin comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.6 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB (Challenge of the Masters), 17.8 GB (Executioners from Shaolin)

Here’s the information provided about Chinatown Kid's transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration of the 115-minute International Version from original film elements."

Chinatown Kid comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44 GB

Feature: 23.3 GB (115 Minute International Version), 17.2 GB (90 Minute Alternate Version)

Here’s the information provided about The Five Venoms' and Crippled Avengers' transfer's, "Brand new 2K restorations of both films from the original negatives by Arrow Films."

The Five Venoms and Crippled Avengers comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.9 GB

Feature: 21 GB (The Five Venoms), 20.6 GB (Crippled Avengers)

Here’s the information provided about Heroes of the East's transfer, "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations."

Here’s the information provided about Dirty Ho's transfer, "Brand new 2K restoration of Dirty Ho from the original negative by Arrow Films."

Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.2 GB

Feature: 16.9 GB (Heroes of the East), 22.5 GB (Dirty Ho)

The sources used for all the films, except Chinatown Kid, are in excellent shape. Colors are nicely saturated, black levels look very good, and details look crisp. It should be noted that the films which were given new transfers for this release all look stronger in these three areas than the films that were sourced from existing HD masters. Also, though Chinatown Kid was given a brand new 2K transfer, it has some source-related imperfections and some density-related issues. That said, these transfers are the best these films have looked on home video to date.

Audio: 4/5

All twelve films come with a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. These films include: Challenge of the Masters, The Five Venoms, Heroes of the East, and Dirty Ho. They also come with a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese. All the audio mixes are in great shape. There are no issues with distortion or background hiss; dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight sequences sound robust. All films come with three subtitle options: English for the Mandarin and Cantonese language tracks, English SDH for the English language tracks, and a second English subtitle track for Cantonese text and signs.

Extras:

Extras for King Boxer include an image gallery (52 images-stills/posters/lobby cards/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #1 (3 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #2 (3 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), German theatrical trailer #1 (3 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital German with removable English subtitles), German theatrical trailer #2 (3 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital German with removable English subtitles), US theatrical trailer (2 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US TV spot (28 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US radio spot (55 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 6 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate opening credits from the American version titled Five Fingers of Death (1 minute 26 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), the first in a three-part documentary on Shaw Brothers’ place within the martial arts genre produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003, featuring interviews with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, Cheng Pei-pei, David Chiang and many others titled Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu (49 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English and Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Korean cinema expert Cho Young-jung, author of Chung Chang-wha: Man of Action (33 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Wang Ping (25 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Chung Chang-wha (39 minutes 54 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Korean with removable English subtitles), appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (42 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with David Desser, co-editor of The Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema and The Cinema of Hong Kong.

Extras for The Boxer From Shantung include an image gallery (36 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with removable English subtitles), US TV spot (52 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate opening credits: partial original Hong Kong credits (2 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital mono) and alternate English credits (2 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), an archival featurette titled A Conversation between actors  Chen Kuan-tai and Ku Feng (13 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with assistant director John Woo (8 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with David Chiang (31 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an archival interview with actor Chen Kuan-tai (22 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles).

Extras for Five Shaolin Masters include an image gallery (69 images-stills/posters/lobby cards/home video art), US theatrical trailer (2 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with removable English subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), US opening credits (Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Elegant Trails interviews: actor Ti Lung (9 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and actor David Chiang (8 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor Kong Do (22 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an appreciation of Chang Cheh by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (36 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Extras for Shaolin Temple include an image gallery (27 images-stills/posters/lobby cards/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 54 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with removable English subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate openings credits: Hong Kong theatrical credits (2 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), US theatrical credits (1 minute 39 seconds, Dolby Digital mono) and alternate English title sequence (43 seconds, Dolby Digital mono), alternate standard-definition version of Shaolin Temple (121 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), Elegant Trails interviews: actor Ti Lung (9 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and actor David Chiang (8 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an appreciation of Chang Cheh by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (36 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Extras for The Mighty Peking Man include an image gallery (88 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 26 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with removable English subtitles), Dutch theatrical trailer (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English title cards), US theatrical trailer (1 minute 59 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US TV spot (35 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US re-release trailer (2 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), Goliathon theatrical opening and closing credits (1 minute 18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Goliathon TV credits (1 minute 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), unrestored standard definition presentation of Mighty Peking Man (90 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage from the archives of Keizo Murase (28 minutes 30 seconds, footage silent), an archival interview with actor Ku Feng (7 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Ho Meng-hua (24 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with suit designer Keizo Murase (19 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Travis Crawford.

Extras for Challenge of the Masters include an image gallery (29 images-stills/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #1 (4 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #2 (1 minute 19 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English title cards), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #3 (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English title cards), Hong Kong theatrical trailer #4 (4 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), restless opening credits (3 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Gordon Liu (20 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an appreciation of Lau Kar-leung by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (28 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Extras for Executioners from Shaolin include an image gallery (22 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), US theatrical trailer #1 (1 minute 7 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US theatrical trailer #2 (1 minute 5 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 8 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate English credits (2 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Chen Kuan-tai (17 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an appreciation of Lau Kar-leung by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (28 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Extras for Chinatown Kid an image gallery (60 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), US theatrical trailer (2 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US TV spot (32 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with removable English subtitles), UK VHS promo (2 minutes 37 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an archival  featurette on the actor Fu Sheng titled Elegant Trails: Fu Sheng (7 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actress Susan Shaw (23 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Terrence J. Brady for the 115 minute International version and an alternate version of Chinatown Kid (90 minutes 14 seconds, DTS-HD mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles, 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC).

Extras for The Five Venoms an image gallery (26 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), US theatrical trailer (2 minutes, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US TV spot (34 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an archival featurette about Chang Cheh titled Chang Cheh: The Master (17 minutes 32 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Lo Meng (19 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Simon Abrams.

Extras for Crippled Avengers an image gallery (26 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an archival featurette about Chang Cheh titled Chang Cheh: The Master (17 minutes 32 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles) and an archival interview with actor Lo Meng (19 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles).

Extras for Heroes of the East an image gallery (36 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), US TV spot (1 minute 9 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US VHS promo (35 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate opening credits (2 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Yasuaki Kurata (25 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an appreciation of Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (30 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts for Heroes of the East.

Extras for Dirty Ho an image gallery (38 images-stills/lobby cards/posters/home video art), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with burnt-in English and Cantonese subtitles), digital reissue trailer (1 minute 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Mandarin with removable English subtitles), alternate opening credits: Dirty Ho (3 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital mono with English titles), and Dirty Avengers (3 minutes 8 seconds, Dolby Digital mono with Cantonese titles) and an appreciation of Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho by film critic and historian Tony Rayns (30 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Other extras include two CDs of music from the De Wolfe Music library as heard in six of the films (Shaolin Temple, Mighty Peking Man, Chinatown Kid, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Dirty Ho) and a sixty-page booklet with An Explanatory Note on Names & Languages, an essay titled A Brief History of the Shaw Brothers written by David Desser, cast and crew information, film notes, trivia for each film written by Simon Abrams, name that tune for eight films, an essay titled The Stars of Shawscope: Volume One written by Terrence J. Brady, an essay titled Lip Flaps & High Kicks written by James Flower and information about the restorations/transfers.

Summary:

King Boxer: When one first gets into martial arts films, one of the most obvious starting points, besides the films of Bruce Lee, are films like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and King Boxer, released in the U.S. under the title of Five Fingers of Death. One other distinction that King Boxer has over all marital arts films is that it was one of the first released in the U.S. and, at the time, became the first marital arts hit, followed by the supernova known as Bruce Lee. King Boxer was directed by Chang-hwa Jeong, whose use of lenses, angles, and techniques to enhance tight sequences would later serve as the blueprint for many of the martial arts films that followed in its wake. Looking over Chang-hwa Jeong’s career as a filmmaker, nothing stands out like his master piece of marital arts cinema, King Boxer.

The story is well constructed, with just the right number of peaks and valleys. The film's hero, Chao Chi-Hao, is far from heroic when we first meet him, and as the film progresses, so do his fighting skills. His main rival, afraid of Chao Chi-Hao’s knowledge of the "Iron Fist" technique, nearly cripples him, and this then sets forth the strongest part of the film, as we see a much stronger Chao Chi-Hao who is more driven than ever. This film features a few training sequences, with the best one being Chao Chi-Hao re-teaching himself and building up his endurance and skill after his injury. The fighting sequences throughout the film are all first-rate and without any flaws. These action sequences are so good that you could watch them over and over again and still be amazed.

The star of the show is the "Iron Fist" technique, which is employed by Chao Chi-Hao, who is played by Lieh Lo, who excels during the fighting sequences while he is merely adequate during the more dramatic moments. Despite his lack of charisma, he does a solid job of carrying the film. The rest of the cast all do good jobs with their various roles. Also watch out for Bolo Yeung, who appears briefly as the Mongolian Fighter. The film's score is an eclectic mix of music cues lifted from several other films and TV shows. The theme from "Ironside" plays every time Chao Chi-Hao prepares to use the "Iron Fist" fighting technique. This one has it all: drama, romance, revenge, and a lot of high-flying action. Ultimately, King Boxer is one of the most entertaining martial arts films to ever grace the silver screen.

The Boxer From Shantung: When one sees the name Cheh Chang, you know what is about to unfold is a solid film that features well-executed action set pieces and a narrative that is steeped in heroic bloodshed. Though credited as a co-director of The Boxer From Shantung, There’s no denying the mark that Cheh Chang left on this film. His style of filmmaking is evident throughout.

From its opening moments, there’s a grandeur to The Boxer From Shantung. Whether it be its first-rate set design that fully immerses you into the world being created or how the narrative allows a significant amount of time when it comes to characters' backstories, This is not your typical wall-to-wall martial arts film where exposition is drowned out by action set pieces. The way exposition moments and action set pieces blend together elevates The Boxer From Shantung beyond most of its contemporaries.

Another strength of The Boxer From Shantung is its superb cast, which is headed by Kuan Tai Chen, who portrays the protagonist, Ma Yung Chen, a gifted fighter who aspires to be more than an improvised worker. He delivers a convincing performance of a character who’s seduced by the things that ultimately bring him down. Another performance of note is David Chiang in the role of Tan Sze, a gangster whose lavish lifestyle and ability to hold power over others serve as Ma Yung Chen’s mentor.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Boxer From Shantung does not deliver and then some. The premise is superbly realized, and the narrative does a fantastic job of holding your attention, despite its two-hour plus running time. Also, the fight sequences are a sight to behold as characters are often surrounded and outnumbered by attackers wielding weapons like axes. These fight sequences are brutal in their execution and bloody. With the finale providing one of cinema's most heroic death sequences.

Though not as well-known as King Boxer, The Boxer From Shantung is an epic martial arts film that deserves its place as one of martial arts cinema's greatest films.

Five Shaolin Masters: This film was one of eight films that Cheh Chang directed in 1974, a year that was one of his most prolific as a filmmaker. That said, anyone familiar with the films of Cheh Chang will be happy to know that not only do the Five Shaolin Masters have all the elements that are synonymous with Cheh Chang’s films, The result is a top-tier martial arts film from a filmmaker who’s clicking on all cylinders.

From its opening moment, the action set pieces are numerous and at the forefront of Five Shaolin Masters. And though there’s time spent on backstory, including an opening voice-over narration that lays the foundation for the story that unfolds, This is an action-heavy film that delivers and then some.

Five Shaolin Masters features a solid cast of who’s who not only in the lead roles, but some minor roles are filled by notable martial arts actors like Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu). His death in a narrow alley after being ambushed in one of the Five Shaolin Masters’ best sequences. 

The action set pieces, which are the five Shaolin Masters' strongest assets, were designed by Liu Chia-liang and Liu Chia-yung. And though all of the action set pieces are all well executed, The main action set piece is a lengthy training sequence that takes place over several months and takes up a substantial amount of screen time. Also, the finale provides another spectacular action set piece that provides a perfect coda.

Shaolin Temple: Once again, Cheh Chang is the director. And with Shaolin Temple, he delivers another solid martial arts film that has all the elements his films are known for.

The premise of Shaolin Temple is a tale about an impending attack by Manchurian soldiers who want to get rid of the Shaolin Monks before they can post a threat. From there, the minks then decided to teach as many students as they could in preparation for such an attack. And they teach each prospective student their own unique fighting style.

Though the opening setup does a good job of laying the foundation for what follows, And the narrative does a good job of keeping things interesting. It should be noted that most of the narrative is spent showcasing the various Shaolin monks and their disciples as they train. That said, there is a sub-plot that involves two students who want to learn martial arts to help them in their quest for revenge.   

Despite featuring a solid cast of recognizable faces, Shaolin Temple is truly an ensemble piece, and no one character really stands out or gets to shine above the rest. Fortunately, when it comes to the action set pieces, all of the actors are more than capable of holding their own.

From a production standpoint, Shaolin Temple is a well-oiled machine that never strays too far away from its bread and butter, its action set pieces. The two most memorable action set pieces are a scene where two students wanting to escape the Shaolin temple enter Wooden Men Alley. This place is a chamber of death filled with booby traps and 108 wooden fighting robots. Needless to say, the martial arts in this scene are by far and away Shaolin Temple’s most impressive sequence.

That said, my only minor complaint about this film is that there is too much time spent focusing on the training, and when we finally get to the final showdown, it fails to match the anticipation built up through the training sequences.

The Mighty Peking Man: Though the Shaw Brothers are most remembered for their martial arts films, The times they would venture away from martial arts would deliver some of Hong Kong cinema’s wildest films. A case in point: The Mighty Peking Man, a film that's best described as Hong Kong’s version of King Kong.

The Mighty Peking Man was directed by Meng-Hua Ho, a filmmaker who was essentially Shaw Brothers' go-to director for non-martial arts films. Notable films directed by Meng-Hua Ho include Kiss of Death, Black Magic, The Oily Maniac, and Black Magic 2.

Content wise The Mighty Peking Man is equal parts adventure film and giant monster film. Though the special effects look crude by today's standards, they bring about a feeling of nostalgia if you're a fan of Kaiju films. The special effects include a man in a monster suit and miniature models that rival anything from a Kaiju film. In fact, the monster's suit was created by Keizô Murase, who worked on several notable Kaiju films.

Though the premise covers familiar ground, The result is a highly entertaining film that stands apart from its influences. Also, the well-executed narrative does a great job of maintaining the mounting tension, and the finale, a showdown between the Peking Man and the military, provides a memorable conclusion.

The performances are best described as serviceable, which actually works in The Mighty Peking Man’s favor since the Peking Man is the main attraction. The strongest performance is by Danny Lee (City of Fire, The Untold Story) in the role of an adventurer named Johnnie Fang, who falls in love with a jungle woman named Samantha, who’s formed a special bond with the Peking Man.

From its opening moments, The Mighty Peking Man is a wild ride that gives a giant monster who destroys things a lot of screen time, and the narrative also features a typical love triangle.  

Challenge of the Masters: The creative forces behind Challenge of the Masters are director Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar Leung) and actor Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu). The duo has worked together on many notable Kung Fu films, like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Return to the 36th Chamber, Legendary Weapons of China, and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. Besides directing Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar Leung) has acted in nearly four dozen films, including the role of Chen Erh-fu, the killer who Yuen Ching is trying to capture in Challenge of the Masters.

Challenge of the Masters narrative has three separate stories which all come together at the end. The first sub-story involves two rival schools who are about to compete in a yearly Kung Fu competition. The second sub-story revolves around Wong Fei-hung, the son of one of the masters of these two rival schools, who is itching to help his family’s school win the competition. The third subplot centers around an escaped killer named Chen Erh-fu and a man named Yuen Ching, who has been given the task of bringing him in dead or alive. The story's ultimate goal is to show how Kung Fu should not be used for personal gain and that one hasn’t truly mastered the art of Kung Fu until they understand humility.

Visually, Challenge of the Masters is exquisite, with first-rate action filling just about every moment. There is also an exceptional training sequence in which we get to see Wong Fei-hung’s skills evolve. The film's standout moment is the fight between Wong Fei-hung and Chen Erh-fu. In the lead role of Wong Fei-hung is the ever-reliable Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu), who once again proves why he is one of the most important martial artists to ever grace the silver screen. Other notable performances include Kuan Tai Chen, cast in the role of Wong Fei-hung’s master, Luk Ah Choy, and Lily Li as Ho Hsiu-lien. Ultimately, Challenge of the Masters is an underrated martial arts film that is waiting to be discovered by a wider audience.

Executioners from Shaolin: The opening credits are a battle sequence that lays the foundation for the story that unfolds. And though revenge is the driving force of the narrative, There is also a subplot that revolves around Hung Hsi-Kuan, a survivor of the Shaolin massacre, and his new life with his wife and child as he trains for his showdown with Bai Mei. These moments with Hung Hsi-Kuan and his family are in contrast with the rest of the film, which has a much darker tone.

The narrative starts off with a bang as the opening moments revolve around Manchurian soldiers who are tracking down and massacring Shaolin disciples who fled the temple. It is during these opening moments that martial arts icon Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) appears. Though he only has limited screen time, his character's heroic death is the Executioners from Shaolin’s most memorable moment. Even in death, his character commands respect from the enemy.

Though heroes are the focal point of most martial arts films, Sometimes it's hard for the hero to stand out when they're overshadowed by a charismatic villain. Shaolin Executioners features an exquisite villain named Bai Mei. This character is also known by the name Pai Mei. Cast in the role of Bai Mei is Lieh Lo, who delivers a deliriously menacing performance that’s arguably his best performance. It should also be noted that the Executioners from Shaolin mark the first appearance of the character Bai Mei (Pai Mei).

From a production standpoint, Executioners from Shaolin is a well-made martial arts film that gets more right than it does wrong. With the narrative’s inability to maintain the moment, its biggest issue is Too much of the narrative is spent on Hung Hsi Kuan’s training and family situation. Fortunately, when it comes to the action set pieces, Executioners from Shaolin delivers in spades.

Chinatown Kid: Though the Shaw Brothers are best known for their period dramas, they also created a number of other works. Every now and then, they would place a film in the present. Case in point: Chinatown Kid, a film that has all the trappings of 1970’s fashion and decor.

It is interesting to see director Cheh Chang take all the elements that his films are known for and place them in a modern setting. Though Chinatown Kid is mostly successful in incorporating these elements into a modern setting, The result is a film that at times lacks the magic that Cheh Chang’s most celebrated films have.

The star and main attraction of Chinatown Kid is Sheng Fu, a charismatic actor who dominates every scene he’s in. Also, when it comes to action set pieces, his ability to carry fight sequences is second to none. Each fight sequence tops the previous, leading to a spectacular finale.

Though the premise covers familiar ground, It’s easy to look past this because of the way Chinatown Kid employs its star, Sheng Fu. That said, despite its shortcomings, Chinatown Kid is a fun film that fans of 1970’s martial arts cinema should thoroughly enjoy.

The Five Venoms: The Five Venoms is the first of nineteen films to feature a collective group of actors named the Venom Mob. The Five Venoms was directed by Cheh Chang, a filmmaker who’s widely regarded as Shaw Brothers' best director. His filmography includes several films that are considered martial arts cinema’s best films. Notable examples include One-Armed Swordsman and The Boxer From Shantung.

The Five Venoms has a solid premise that revolves around five former pupils who are looking for their clan's fortune after their master's death. Each of the five pupils has their own distinctive fighting style. Their five fighting styles are centipede, snake, scorpion, lizard, and toad. Their clan is known as the "poison clan." Finding the clan's money is not an easy task since some of the pupils are good and some are evil, putting them at odds with each other.

The Five Venoms opens with a spectacular sequence that gives background on the poison clan and each member's fighting style. From there, the narrative takes on a cat and mouse scenario in which the various players try to figure out what each knows and eliminate anyone who stands in their way. With the finale being a showdown between the members of the poison clan who have not died yet,

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Five Venoms do not deliver and then some. Cheh Chang’s direction is once again solid, and the action set pieces are phenomenal. Also, the cast is all great in their respective roles. Ultimately, The Five Venoms is an extraordinary film that deserves its reputation as one of martial arts cinema’s best films. 

Crippled Avengers: After the success of The Five Deadly Venoms, this film would span a series of films loosely connected by a group of actors known as the Venom Mob. One such film that came out of this collaboration was Crippled Masters, a film about a sadistic father and son who terrorize anyone who offends them. Most of their victims end up with missing limbs due to their aggression.

From its opening moments, Crippled Avengers establishes a brutal tone that never relents. In its opening sequence, a mother has her legs chopped off and her son has his hands cut off by men who are looking for her husband. The trauma of this event kills the mother, and after the husband returns, he builds his son iron hands. From there, this event puts them on a vindictive course where they seek out confrontations in the hope of inflicting pain on others.

Crippled Avengers have a solid cast who are all very good in their respective roles, especially Kuan Tai Chen in the role of Dao Tian-Du, aka Black Tiger, the father whose son’s hands were cut off. Another strength of the performances is how each of the victims who face off against Dao Tian-Du in the finale is given a different disability. A character had their eyes removed, a character had their legs removed, a character was made a mute who’s also deaf, and a character is mentally disabled.

Crippled Avengers features an inventive premise that is superbly realized. The well-executed narrative does a great job maintaining momentum and the finale provides a satisfying conclusion. Also, Cheh Chang’s direction is rock solid and the action set pieces are top notch. Ultimately, Crippled Avengers is a text-book example of a classic martial arts film that's on par with The Five Venoms.

Heroes of the East: What starts off as a domestic tale about the arranged marriage of a husband and wife from two different cultures, It quickly becomes a tale about honor when the husband’s letter to his estranged wife is intercepted by one of her fellow countrymen. Offended by the husband's comments about karate, eight Japanese fighters, each with their own unique fighting skills, challenge the husband. Which fighting style combines superior Chinese martial arts with Japanese karate?

Unlike most of director Chia-Liang Liu's (Lau Kar Leung) and actor Chia Hui Liu's (Gordon Liu) collaborations, this begins with an opening credits sequence that takes place in a minimal set that’s not much more than a blank backdrop. And in these opening sequences, there is a display of martial arts that gives a taste of what lies within. Heroes of the East has a pre-credits sequence where the reluctant groom meets his bride-to-be. This sequence also establishes the playful banter between these two characters, which brings about most of the humor in Heroes of the East.

From its opening moments, it's clear that action set pieces are going to take center stage, and anything narrative-related is not much more than a means to move the narrative forward. Fortunately, when it comes to the action set pieces, especially the protagonists' duels with the Japanese fighters, these sequences deliver and then some.

Also, though all the cast members more than hold their own when it comes to the fight sequences, the main attraction is Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) in the role of Ho Tao, a husband who finds himself in a series of duels because of his inability to make his wife see the advantages of Chinese life. He delivers an outstanding performance that allows him to showcase his exceptional martial arts skills. Ultimately, Heroes of the East is a highly entertaining film that martial arts fans should thoroughly enjoy.

Dirty Ho: Director Chia-Liang Liu (Lau Kar Leung) and actor Chia Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) are one of Hong Kong’s most notable cinematic combos who were making martial arts films in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. And though they made several films that are arguably some of the best martial arts films from this era, most notably, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Not too far behind is Dirty Ho, a film that features a perfect blend of martial arts action set pieces and well-placed humor.

Dirty Ho, like most of their collaborations, starts off with an opening credits sequence that takes place in a minimal set that’s not much more than a blank backdrop. And in these opening sequences, there is a display of martial arts that gives a taste of what lies within.

The narrative revolves around two characters, Wang Tsun Hsin (the 11th prince) and a thief named "Dirty" Ho. It's through a chance encounter that they meet, and though their initial encounters are combative, they form a partnership. With Wang Tsun Hsin, he even becomes a master-like figure to ‘Dirty’ Ho, whom he teaches martial arts to.

Most of the comedy comes about through "Dirty" Ho’s interactions with Wang Tsun Hsin. From their initial encounter at a brothel, where both men use money and jewelry to garner affection from all of the women, the other can’t get any attention. It is in sequences like these where Wang Tsun Hsin always gets the upper hand and makes "Dirty" Ho look foolish that this film's humor is rooted.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where Dirty Ho does not excel. The narrative moves along briskly, the spectacular action set pieces are inventive, and the chemistry between Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu) in the role of Wang Tsun Hsin and Yue Wong in the role of "Dirty" Ho is off the charts. Ultimately, Dirty Ho is an exceptional film that deserves its place as one of the best films from martial arts cinema’s golden era.

Arrow Video’s Shawscope Volume One box set is a sight to behold. It comes in a sturdy box, each film is given solid audio/video presentations, and there is a wealth of archival and newly created extras that provide insight into the films and those who made them. That said, Arrow Video’s Shawscope Volume One box set is an exceptional release, and one would be hard pressed to name a better release than Shawscope Volume One from 2021, highly recommended.








































































Written by Michael Den Boer

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