Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Shaw Co-Productions, Censored Chang Cheh & More

This is a monster entry this time out. I did so many other additional images, I figured I'd save some of those for another entry. I got some great stuff coming soon, but this time, the spotlight is on Shaw Brothers co-productions among other things. There's a great post at Temple of Schlock regarding some of these co-productions and their US releases, so I thought I'd devote some attention to those movies here. Above you'll see a poster for the Shaw-Italy co-production, THIS TIME, I'LL MAKE YOU RICH (1975) starring Brad Harris, Antonio Sabato and Danny Lee among the cast. From the back cover of Southern Screen September 1975.


This is the biggest movie out of Pao Hsueh Li's mostly mediocre career. He was much more successful as a cinematographer and quite brilliant in that respect. He worked under the revered Chang Cheh on a handful of movies, but nearly all of his solo offerings were lacking and unmemorable.

Here, prior to its title change to DEADLY ANGELS, the film was called THE WOMEN DETECTIVES. The lovely Evelyn Kraft was one of the angels of the title and she was also working on THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) at the time under the direction of Ho Meng Hua. These images are from the November 1976 issue of Hong Kong Movie News.


This pic is most interesting. LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) was the first Hammer Shaw production completed. If you read the English text, you'll notice it says Chang Cheh is there helping the director with the action scenes. This was before original director, Monte Hellman was fired by Michael Carreras who took over the film. This image is from Southern Screen February, 1974.


Here are some behind the scenes shots during the filming of this exceptional, and the first kung fu horror opus. It's been said that Chang Cheh helped direct the action scenes in this movie, but I've not seen evidence of this, although it's entirely possible. Curiously enough, neither film is listed in Cheh's memoirs in his complete filmography of films he worked on whether he simply presented it, or worked on it in some respect.

Still, it's also been said from anecdotes about the making of the film that Shaw had at first wanted Liu Chia Liang (already working on the movie) to shoot additional action scenes, but eventually let Baker finish the picture his way. All these images are from Southern Screen February, 1974


Here's a rare curio in the Shaw Brothers canon. Having joined forces with Korea on numerous swordplay movies, Italy with SUPERMEN OF THE ORIENT and (soon to be made) AMAZONS & SUPERMEN, now it's a co-production with Shaw and Germany. This trash epic from sleaze specialist Kuei Chi Hung and Ernst Hofbauer was one of numerous co-productions not on the list for release through IVL because of rights issues.

VIRGINS OF THE SEVEN SEAS has recently been released to DVD in German language only, but (finally) with English subtitles after being available in a German language only tape for years. These images are from Southern Screen March, 1974.


Here's a promo page for Kuei Chi Hung's superlative and downbeat swordplay classic, the unique KILLER CONSTABLE. You'll notice there's an image not in the film. It's the shot of Ai Fei with the cuts all over his face. In the film, he's nailed to a wall with gashes all over his face. It's possible this image might be from the drastically different Korean version of the film. This spread is from the January, 1980 issue of Southern Screen.


This shot of Gordon Liu having his dots applied is from the July, 1981 issue of Southern Screen.


Here's a spread of various Gordon Liu shots. One of them sees him and fellow actor Mai Te Lo having a break during the shooting of THE MARTIAL CLUB (1981). This shot is from the August 1980 issue of Hong Kong Movie News.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Kuo Chui & Hwang Jang Lee

This picture is is one of the most surprising shots I've seen. The film Hwang was working on at Shaw's was never completed. He was said to have walked off the set after a major disagreement with Mona Fong. I have a spread on that film, but there is no translated title for it. This photo is still amazing to see these two stars taking a break together. The complete spread was an interview/cover story on Kuo Chui. This is taken from the March, 1983 issue of Southern Screen.


This one's for Nozomi. One of the 5 DEADLY VENOMS is seen here with his newborn child. This pic is featured in Hong Kong Movie News August, 1980.


This sexy Shaw starlet featured predominantly in adult oriented movies, but found time to appear in movies like THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1974) and NIGHT OF THE DEVIL'S BRIDE (1975). These images are seen in Southern Screen December, 1982.

This spread is from October, 1980 issue of Southern Screen. Her Bo Derek inspired hair and this spread are apparently publicity shots for the promotion of SEXY CAREER GIRLS (1981). Her look in this swimsuit is used on the original poster.

SHAW PROFILE: Chen Hsao Hao & Lung Tien Sheng

These two were introduced into Chang Cheh's camp in 1980. Chen was first seen as one of Lu Feng's subordinates in THE REBEL INTRUDERS (1980) and got his official introduction in TWO CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN (1980). Lung was brought over from Taiwan to help finish the stalled TEN TIGERS OF KWANT TUNG (1980) and subsequently got what is arguably the best role in FLAG OF IRON (1980). This photo is from Southern Screen May, 1980.


This movie began production (as THE HEROIC FAMILY) in 1981 along with Fu Sheng's debut directorial effort, WITS OF THE BRATS (1984) This movie will always be known by the fans as the film that Fu Sheng died before completing it. I assume he was originally to have been included in the finale. I acquired the Southern Screen issue the month after his death which features a wealth of information and a grand tribute to this fine actor. He is featured top center. Gordon Liu is bottom right.

This was Liu Chia Liang's most bleak production. It's easily the closest he ever came to emulating the style of Chang Cheh. These images are featured in the July, 1981 issue of Southern Screen. From middle of page left to right: Chang Chan Peng (Fu Sheng's brother), Gordon Liu, Fu Sheng, Hsiao Hou, Mai Te Lo, Wong Yu, Liu Chia Yung.


The English text reveals a number of shots were ordered removed from this movie. Some of the shots are questionable, but Cheh would have a lot of trouble with the violence in his films.

The film was another huge success for the director. Other directors were following suit displaying the most gruesome death scenes imaginable in their own swordplay adventures. These pages are from HK Movie News, the March issue from 1969.


This is a curious one. It's not so much an unfinished film, as it is film footage being scrapped and new cast being assigned. Judging by the plot, some of the cast members and director Kuei, this sounds like the genesis of BEWITCHED (1981). However, the finished film doesn't have Yi Lei anywhere in the cast. The above pictures don't look anything like the gruesome horror movie the film eventually became. NOTE: BLACK SPELL turns out to be HEX VS. WITCHCRAFT (1980), one of two follow ups to Kuei's HEX from the same year. Thanks to Deliria for providing the information.

If anyone has any information of Yi Lei, please let me know. The English text I cut here reveals he did prison time for an undisclosed crime. These images were from the October, 1980 issue of Southern Screen.

Above is an alternate poster for RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH (1980). It was featured on the back cover of Southern Screen issue from October, 1980. Coming soon in a future entry are some rare shots from an early Shaw Brothers western film as well as shots from the even more rare Chang Cheh movie, TIGER BOY (1966). Shots from Lo Lieh's wedding, behind the scenes photos from SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT, an unfinished kung fu movie starring and directed by David Chiang and a future tribute entry devoted to Alexander Fu Sheng.


Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976) review


Dyanne Thorne (Ilsa), Michael Thayer (Commander Adam), Victor Alexander (El Sharif), Uschi Digard (Inga Lindstrom), Colleen Brennan (Nora Edward), Haji (Alina Cordova), Tanya Boyd (Satin), Marilyn Joi (Velvet), Su Ling (Katsina), Richard Kennedy (Kaiser), George 'Buck' Flower (Beggar), Bobby Woods (Prince Salim)

Directed by Don Edmonds

The Short Version: Don Edmonds sexy, gruesome and fun follow up to the SHE WOLF is a more ambitious affair this time adding spy movie conventions and wildly over the top trashy elements. Grandly offensive and filled with nudity, if trash is your fancy, they don't get much better than Don Edmond's two ILSA entries.

***WARNING! This review contains images of sex and violence***

Ilsa is operating a slavery ring in the Middle East serving El Sharif, a maniacal oil sheik who has usurped his young nephew as ruler. Some of Ilsa's kidnapped clientele consist of well known and wealthy personalities. This attracts the attention of the United States Secret Service who send spies to bust up the criminal activities within El Sharif's harem. One of them is an American diplomat whom Ilsa becomes infatuated. She refuses to kill him against El Sharif's orders and brings about her own humiliating torture. The slaves soon revolt culminating in a violent confrontation against El Sharif and his soldiers.

Spectacular sequel to the amazingly tasteless ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1974). Whereas that film trotted out every deplorable act imaginable, Edmonds follow up finds even more nasty nuggets to wallow in and serves them up with a helping of camp quality. The grim mood has been lightened up just a bit (the scene with Kaiser and a slave boy is a riot). The nudity, sex and gore are all here, but there's a Bondian air of adventure about the film that belies its meager budget.

The budget was a bit bigger this time out and the filmmakers deliver ten times the entertainment value of films with a hundred times the budget of Edmonds picture. It's simply incredible the ingenuity of exploitation movie makers of old compared with the egocentric actors and technicians of today. The 1970's will arguably be the greatest decade for exploitation movies and Don Edmonds two ILSA entries go a long way in proving that.

This series of films (the three official ILSA movies) bear no connection with one another (they're all stand alone features) aside from the title villain and the outrageous portrayal of Dyanne Thorne. They also share extreme violence as their selling points, but none are as well accomplished as the first two entries by Don Edmonds. For this second outing, the elusive Ilsa has set up a slave shop of beautiful women to be trained as sex slaves for El Sharif and his oil Sheik colleagues.

HAREM KEEPER is a non stop barrage of some of the most insane sex and sadism scenes ever committed to film. At times bordering on the pornographic, the sex quotient is increased from the previous movie. There are no rapes this time out, although women are forced to perform sexual activities as part of their training. Most scenes see slave women gleefully pleasuring themselves with giant dildos, or enjoying the company of a man. Fans of Russ Meyer's catalog of cleavage and gravity defying breasts will have a field day here spotting the talents of Haji, Uschi Digard, Su Ling and Colleen Brennan.

The scriptwriters had a brainstorm of ghoulish ideas for ways to torture and mutilate the various victims of the movie. It's a collage of cruelty from start to finish. Over the years there have been many exploitation movies that were marketed far better than the actual motion picture itself. This is not the case with Edmonds two ILSA's. Both are the ultimate in exploitation brilliance. Preposterously shocking, HAREM KEEPER just may edge out its predecessor in overall sleaze just by its myriad amount of ideas. Structurally it's the same movie, just a different location. But it's more than a mere torture flick.

The plethora of women and spy motifs seem to foreshadow the Andy Sidaris 'Sex & Spy' features in the 80's, but with a lot of gore. The action oriented plot also features a young wrongfully deposed prince, the nephew of El Sharif who is kept locked away in a dungeon mud pit. It's also not unsettling in the manner of the previous film because of the lighter, intentionally kitschy tone that rears its grand guinol head frequently. Ilsa has two African American lesbian bodyguards who seem to dislike wearing clothes of any kind. They also have their own XENA like amazonian battle cry. EL Sharif is a sex crazed, power obsessed, oil craving madman who delights in the suffering of others.

One of the films best scenes involves a death dealing device designed by Ilsa that is truly one of the greatest killing contraptions ever conceived. It's a pneumatic dildo weapon that acts as a detonation device when ecstasy is reached. It's tested on a captive spy whose body has been savagely mutilated through torture. Needless to say the results are explosive. This doozy of a death trap is implemented once more at the finale in a choice piece of poetic justice.

Other scenes of crudity are the harem sequence wherein women are sold off and others have various signs of disease covered up so as not to scare off potential buyers. One slave girl, thinking she is being bought for her beauty soon realizes her teeth are to be chiseled out as her buyer doesn't like the "scrape of teeth". Some women are injected with silicone to make their rectums more sizable, others are force fed cream corn to fatten them up. Eyeballs are removed, breasts are crushed, feet are eaten away by flesh eating ants, bodies are beaten to pulpy hamburger, or set on fire. Not since BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1976) has their been such a display of depraved misogyny, only here it's shot with the deft hand of a professional.

Unlike the first movie, there's no one character to identify with. The lead male barely registers on life support While none of the female captives are given much characterization, but just there to be brutalized, or humiliated. The only one to be dwelled upon is Ilsa herself. A surefire villain and torturess, Ilsa is dealt some pathos this time out. She's bewitched by a man just as before, but here, she's tortured for her disobedience by being felt up by a syphillis infected peasant played by George "Buck" Flower (Boomer from the WILDERNESS FAMILY movies), who played a Nazi doctor in the first movie. The lovely and lithe Tanya (BLACK SHAMPOO) Boyd is one of Ilsa's naked bodyguards. Victor Alexander as El Sharif is devilishly over the top and delivers a performance worthy of a Bond villain.

The music is stock tracks and the opening theme (heard throughout) sounds like the main theme from Hammer's BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971). With so much violence, sex, gore, plentiful nudity, action and lovely ladies from start to finish, ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS is simply one of the best exploitation movies ever made. It's a worthy sequel and a true shame that Don Edmonds couldn't be coaxed back for a third entry to form a cinematic unholy trinity of exploitation madness and mayhem the likes of which will never be seen again.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD.

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