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Friday, December 31, 2010

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Behind the Studio & Shih Szu, Shaw's Swordswoman Supreme

Shaw Brothers Studio circa 1972

This edition of Shaw Brothers Cinema spotlights the studio itself and the various jobs and functions of the fabled Shaw Movietown. From set construction, to sword training, to horse riding, to the canteen and to the man himself, Sir Run Run Shaw, a number of these photos give insight into the inner workings of what was once Shaw Brothers Studio of Hong Kong. In addition, there's a nice sampling of images of one of Shaw's most popular queens of action cinema, Shih Szu. This entry is for Fang from the Trivia Wing of Shaolin who is a big Shih Szu fan.


In the above two photos, you'll see a small orchestra in a soundtrack session. The photo directly above shows some of the actors dubbing their lines. It's popularly thought that all the films were dubbed by different voice performers, but this wasn't always the case. Ivy Ling Po, for example, dubbed her own lines.

Above, fight choreographer, Liang Shao Sung trains some female trainees, fresh out of the Shaw acting school, in the art of the sword.

The construction of one of many Shaw Brothers sets.

Touring the studio.

The early 1970s were incredibly prosperous for the then largest privately owned studio on the planet. Kung Fu movies took the world by storm with the release of KING BOXER aka FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972). The above article attests to the wild success of Kung Fu films abroad.

Shaw Brothers expanded their empire by opening theaters all over Asia and even in North America. The above photo displays an image of their Canadian theater.

The Shaw's have had the popular stigma of being Iron Fisted tyrants when it comes to the treatment afforded their talent pool especially in regards to monetary compensation. The Brothers Shaw were definitely not scrooges as they frequently gave to a number of charities including gifts of money, food and clothing to the elderly every Chinese New Year as seen above.

Above is a Chinese New Year's celebration from March, 1971. Note Shaw with his then wife in one of the images. Below is another Chinese New Years party from March, 1973. It features a number of stars as well as Shaw's grandchildren.

And now it's a collection of images from various movies and portraits of Shih Szu, a Taiwanese beauty who took over the mantle vacated by Cheng Pei Pei as Swordswoman Supreme.

Above is a behind the scenes photo from LADY OF THE LAW (1975) from March of 1971. Director Shen Chiang discusses the script with Shih Szu. In addition to LADY OF THE LAW, the (at the time) new to Shaw actress was also working on THE IRON BOW (a segment of the swordplay anthology TRILOGY OF SWORDSMANSHIP), THE YOUNG AVENGER, an unknown film entitled THE LITTLE POISONOUS DRAGON and THE SWIFT KNIGHT. The busy actress would soon have even more movies on her already full slate.

More shots from the filming of LADY OF THE LAW


This is an unfinished production entitled THE NOCTURNAL KILLER. It's possibly an aka for the above mentioned THE LITTLE POISONOUS DRAGON. It's just one of many unfinished films that were started at Shaw's and abandoned for whatever reason. With between 40 and 50 movies being scheduled throughout 1971 and 1972, some productions were scrapped, or morphed into an entirely different picture. Curiously, the plot and Shi Szu's attire appears similar to HEROES OF SUNG (1973; it was filmed under different titles as well), a film that did starred the actress and Lo Lieh, but not the Taiwanese actor, An Ping.

Below is a spread on THE BLOODY ESCAPE (1975), then titled as simply THE ESCAPE. You'll notice the film is touted as "Chang Cheh's next production". Another page mentions it as a joint effort between Cheh and Sun Chung. The following two photos are from the February 1973 issue of Southern Screen. Apparently this film was handed over to Sun Chung entirely considering Chang Cheh was busy setting up camp in Taiwan during this time. THE BLOODY ESCAPE was shot over the course of the next couple of years before hitting HK screens in late 1975 where it died a quick death at the box office.

Above you'll see Shih Szu demonstrating her musical talents during a meeting discussing the production of THE BLOODY ESCAPE. Chen Kuan Tai and Sun Chung are also present.

Above and below are two photos from one of the Shaw Brothers' numerous co-productions; this one being the ridiculous and childish fantasy actioner SUPERMEN AGAINST THE ORIENT (1974). Heavily promoted in Shaw's publications, the movie failed to capture much of an audience, but likely fared better in European markets where the 'Three Supermen' series was bewilderingly popular.


This is an unusual production; unusual in that it features Shih Szu in a modern setting as a female detective. Titled THE WARRANT, it would be interesting to see what the queen of swordswomen can do with a gun. The following photos are from the March 1973 issue of Southern Screen magazine. Oddly enough, this movie seems to be a true Shaw Brothers rarity....

None of the Hong Kong movie sites such as HKMDB, or HKcinemagic list this film among the credits of either Shih Szu, or Ou Wei. A friend of mine has informed me that this film does in fact exist and even posted screen caps from the picture taken from an old Chinese VHS tape. It no doubt will be interesting to find out what became of this film and why it's seemingly been swept under the rug as there's virtually nothing about it outside of old magazine articles.

Coming up next time are more unfinished movies, some independent features, Chang Cheh's Iron Triangle, Chen Kuan Tai and more behind the scenes images from Shaw Brothers Cinema!


Max Evel said...

Happy New Years !

R.A.M.'67 said...

Behind the scenes at Shaw AND Shih Szu! What a Way to start off the new year, venoms5! Marvelous stuff!

With you research, I now see Lady of the Law appears to have completed long before any arm injury sidelined her from action pictures (if the Shaw Brothers Reloaded mention is accurate). Maybe the incident happened during one of those unfinished productions you've shown, which would explain why a given movie never got finished!

At least, there's some clarification with respect to The Bloody Escape, which is now evidenced as having been initiated by Chang Cheh. Notable among the pictures relating to making this film is the one shot of Szu and Chen Kuan-tai sitting at a table with a man wearing glasses; wonder if he's Sun Chung (who completed TBE)?

Gotta see thatSupermen Against the Orient; Szu looks sexier in tights than Helen Slater!

A nice grab bag of rare shots, especially those of the lovely Szu! A shrewd usage of watermarks as well, considering how rare some of them may be to your archives!

venoms5 said...

Happy New Year Mr. Evel!

venoms5 said...

There's some reason why this film started in 1971 and didn't get released till four years later. The same thing also happened to THE PROTECTORS (1975) and it ended up only being 65 minutes long!

There was some more LADY OF THE LAW stuff, but I was so exhausted and had enough scans left over for a couple more entries, I figured this was enough.

Some Shaw movies never finished because an actor abruptly left the production resulting in the entire film being recast. Some films were scrapped, started over and still never finished! THE WARRANT would have been nice to see Shih Szu in a modern tough cop role, though.

Yeah, that's Sun Chung sitting at the table with them. I thought I mentioned it in a caption. I was so tired doing this one I also forgot to mention that this entry was specifically for you, Fang, being how you are such a Shih Szu fan. I will rectify that shortly.

Yeah, I will likely watermark most magazine scans now. I notice things are turning up elsewhere, both Shaw stuff and scans of other things, too.

R.A.M.'67 said...

As it stands, I was still waking up when I read your posting, and your Sun Chung notation is indeed there!

(Yes, I'm fully awake now!)

Thank you for assembling the Shih Szu portion for my benefit, venoms5! It's much appreciated! I'm working on a review for another one of her movies as my next posting!

Any good guess on how many Shaw productions never got finished? These "abandonments" must have hurt them fiancially over the course of many years!

venoms5 said...

I've already mentioned you and linked the Trivia Wing in the opening paragraph. Meant to do that this morning, but forgot.

Not sure how many movies went unfinished in total. Each of these articles in this column feature one, or two unfinished movies each. Some ended up as an anthology, some ended up scrapped and started over, some ended up never being completed for whatever reason. In a 1972 note in one of the scans I put aside, it mentions Shaw's plan to complete unfinished movies. I've got a few others set aside. Granted these are just action films mostly. I am unaware as to how many films in other genres that may have went unfinished.

achillesgirl said...

Cool ass stuff. Thanks!

venoms5 said...

That TIME Magazine write up had some great info in it. That doc mentioned in one of the other pics is on youtube if it's the same one.

I'm getting ready to post another entry. I had a bunch of excess pics I did. A bunch of CKT pics, too.

J.L. Carrozza said...

I always had a thang for Shih Szu too. Thanks for the pics. Such a beautiful woman, I showed Charli Henley footage of her years ago and said "do RED like that".

venoms5 said...

I will likely do another with a handful of pics with her in them, J. She seems to be right popular with a lot of people.

venoms5 said...

A friend of mine from overseas has just informed me that THE WARRANT starring Shih Szu and Ou Wei does in fact exist on an old Chinese VHS tape! I've just seen screen caps from it. Odd that no online website seems to have any mention of its existence. It's also not in the new ZiiEagle that features 668 Shaw Brothers titles, many never before seen, and released on the digital format for the first time. This is a true Shaw Brothers rarity, I'd say.

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