Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Vintage Bruce Lee at Shaw's & Shaw Brothers Rarities

A look at Shaw Brothers rarities and behind the scenes moments will become a regular showcase of this column. Below are some pics that kung fu fans will find of interest.


First up is a rare look at international star, Bruce Lee making one of several visits to Shaw Brothers studio. Below left Lee can be seen (accompanied by his friend Unicorn Chan in the middle) visiting the set of the underrated Chang Cheh Early Republic Epic, IRON BODYGUARD (1973) starring Chen Kuan Tai (THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG 1972) standing to the right of Unicorn Chan. The pic to the right shows Lee posing with director Chu Yuan (left), mega star Connie Chan Po Chu and Lo Lieh (to the right of Bruce Lee) on the set of THE LIZARD (1972). The picture at the bottom sees Lee conversing with Connie Chan Po Chu behind the scenes of THE LIZARD.

Director Ting Shan-Si's style was noticeably different in his approach to the typical Shaw Brothers formula action picture. Prior to his joining the then number one HK movie studio, he worked on a number of independent martial arts films such as the Jimmy Wang Yu kung fu cheapies FURIOUS SLAUGHTER, its sequel, MA SU CHEN (both 1972) and KNIGHT ERRANT (1973). The first two movies were carbon copies of Shaw's mega hit, THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (1972).

When Ting signed on for Shaw's, the young Award winning director's first film was IMPERIAL TOMB RAIDERS aka THE EMPEROR'S TOMB (1973). This picture dealt with a group of bandits attempting to rob a hidden treasure from the burial place of the recently deceased Empress. A group of patriots led by Wang Jung intercepts them. The film was announced to be released on DVD thru IVL, but never came out during the five year license that Intercontinental Video Limited possessed regarding the Shaw Brothers library, a huge hidden treasure in itself. Above and below are some pics from that film. Ting Shan-Si returned to Shaw's in the early 80's to helm the huge production of THE BATTLE FOR THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA, a co-production between Shaw's and Central Motion Picture Company.

Actor, Wang Jung was a former Golden Harvest star who migrated to Shaw's where he starred in many movies predominantly in swordplay films. He was the actor of choice for Ting Shan-Si as he starred in IMPERIAL TOMB RAIDERS, THE WELL OF DOOM and FLIGHT MAN (aka THE FLYING MAN OF MA LAN all in 1973, although WELL OF DOOM wasn't released until 1975). Wang Jung played a savagely sadistic role in Kuei Chi Hung's superior horror film, HEX in 1980. An Asian version of DIABOLIQUE (1955), Wang Jung stars in the brutally abusive husband role. Wang was a favorite in Wuxia swordplay epics such as the HEAVEN SWORD & DRAGON SABRE series, FULL MOON SCIMITAR (1979), SPIRIT OF THE SWORD (1982) and USURPERS OF EMPEROR'S POWER (1983) to name a few.

Wang Jung middle just above insert

Below are pics from Ting's dramatic feature, THE WELL OF DOOM (1973). It deals with a father who tricks his three daughters into joining him on a mountain excursion to search for food. Deceiving his children, the father is actually searching for a hidden treasure relayed to him by an old monk. Three mysterious warriors enter into their lives leading to a supposed violent ending. More drama than martial arts opus, this was another film that sadly, was not released to DVD through IVL.

Pic at left bottom is a behind the scenes moment from THE WELL OF DOOM aka THE MAN EATING WELL

One of Ting's films did make it to remastered DVD. FLIGHT MAN (1973) was a peculiar action movie shot in Taiwan (as were the two above films) about a hot headed young man who kills a traitor working for the Japanese during their occupation of China. Fleeing into the mountains, the Japanese are in hot pursuit. The hero ends up in a village nestled in the mountain regions where he falls in love with a pretty young woman played by Award winning actress, Ivy Ling Po. Judging by the above photos, the costumes are very similar. Ting Shan-Si was said to be a stickler for realism and his three Shaw Taiwan adventures are (look to have been) impressive.

Wang Jung middle right

All these photos appeared in Hong Kong Movie News from the months of August 1972 and August of 1973.
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