Friday, October 29, 2010

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Halloween Edition! Part 1

Ku Feng says HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! as the KISS demon in BAT WITHOUT WINGS (1980). Actually, he's something else entirely in this Shaw wuxia-mystery-horror movie

Welcome to the Shaw Brothers Cinema Halloween edition! This is a two part look at numerous Shaw horror movies populated with assorted behind the scenes photos, posters and promos from various Southern Screen and HK Movie News magazines. There's also some pictures of movies that were never finished, or those that were canceled and whose footage was compiled to make a different movie entirely. There's also a handful of posters, and or promotional materials for movies that never got a DVD release through IVL during their five year contract with Celestial Pictures. If you're a Shaw Brothers fan, or lover of Asian cinema in general, I hope you enjoy this cobweb covered compendium of Hong Kong horror--oldschool style!

***CLICK A PIC TO A LARGER IMAGE, OR TO READ ENGLISH TEXT WHERE APPLICABLE***

Kuei Chi Hung's disturbing version of WILLARD (1971) details a darker side of Hong Kong, one immersed in sordid squalor. It's about an unbalanced young man named Chi Hung and his affection for snakes, lizards and bondage/torture. Finally fed up with being bullied by various cretinous individuals, Chi Hung and his scaly friends bite back with venomous fury. It's shot in a similar nightmarish style that was displayed in Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974).

The director and some of the actors seem awfully at ease being up close and personal with so many serpents; behind the scenes on THE KILLER SNAKES. Released in the early part of 1974, it led to even more disturbing subject matter from Kuei after his previous gritty films, the brutal women in prison actioner, THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973) and two modern crime thrillers, THE DELINQUENT (1973) and PAYMENT IN BLOOD (1973).

GHOST EYES (1974) is quite an original concept dealing with a hair stylist named Wang who is possessed by the ghost of a former optometrist when she becomes the unlucky recipient of an otherworldy pair of contact lenses. She begins seeing walking corpses and other supernatural goings on. This mysterious man from beyond the grave is basically a vampire who drains her life essence and that of other victims.

Chen Szu Chia gets her GHOST EYES

Kuei Chi Hung was arguably the best director of HK horror at that time and much of his career is populated by horror films and action pictures with a cruel slant. He was also adept at other genres as well including childrens films and comedies.

Hammer and Shaw Brothers teamed up for this rousing first pairing of Hammer's brand of horror and Shaw's kung fu madness to produce a wonderfully action packed comic book come to life in a spooky version of THE SEVEN SAMURAI meet DRACULA.

LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)

Baby queen, Li Ching stars in THE GHOST LOVERS (1974), a love story from beyond the grave about a man who discovers that the woman that simply loves him to death might actually be dead! You'll notice from the English text above, that there was two versions of this film, one for HK and one for Korea.

THE FEMALE GHOST was apparently intended as something of a follow up to Shin Sang Okk's GHOST LOVERS (1974). After Shin's departure at Shaw's for unknown reasons, this originally intended joint effort with fellow Korean director Chang I-Hu was left solely to him. Incidentally, GHOST LOVERS was a massive box office failure.


THE FEMALE GHOST, now under the guidance of Chang I-Hu, ultimately became the more exploitatively titled NIGHT OF THE DEVIL BRIDE and was released to HK theaters in March of 1975.

Ho Meng Hua's BLACK MAGIC (1975) was a milestone in HK horror cinema begatting a whole slew of similar movies that dealt with the superstitions of frightened natives and the mysticism practiced by sorcerers far away from modern society.

BLACK MAGIC (1975)

It's essentially a soap opera styled horror show revolving around a group of individuals who become victims of a vicious black magician and his evil sorcery. Above photos from BLACK MAGIC (1975).

SPIRIT OF THE RAPED (1976) is one of many Shaw Brothers movies that was made available, but never got released to DVD in Hong Kong. It's directed by Kuei Chi Hung. It's lurid poster artwork like this that makes one wish for a digital release sometime in the near future.

This one's based on a Malay folk tale which had been filmed before and since. Apparently a popular myth, the movie piles on the sleaze and unintended hilarity. All one need do is dig a big hole in the middle of your house, jump in and mutter some nonsense and voila...instant Oily Man! Above and below from THE OILY MANIAC (1976).

This absolutely nutty movie is directed by Ho Meng Hua. Earlier in his career, Ho had turned out some truly epic and dramatic pieces of cinema. But by this time in his career, he seemed content churning out ghoulish exploitation fare like this sleazy camp-fest. Danny Lee is the Polio afflicted Oily One who gets revenge against those who betrayed his father. He's something of a dark superhero. Definitely worth tracking down, it contains some awe inspiringly awful special effects although there's some creative abilities given the Oily Maniac.


This sequel from 1976 is also from Ho Meng Hua and is virtually identical in plot to the first movie. The cast is mostly the same although Lo Lieh takes over as the evil wizard. There's some additional exploitation value added and a scene showcasing some of the worst ever rear screen projection of all time. Essential Asian nuttiness.

BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976)

Lo Lieh controls an army of zombies by ramming six inch spikes into the tops of their heads. When the spike is removed, they age rapidly.

Director, Ho Meng Hua gives direction to Lo Lieh in BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976)

WEB OF DEATH (1976) is an extraordinary Wuxia production. After the success of Chu Yuan's KILLER CLANS (1976), Chu embarked on this tale of the 5 Venom Clan and the search for a devastatingly evil weapon that has been locked and hidden away from man. That weapon, the 5 Venom Spider is undoubtedly the wildest, most over the top creation ever devised. There's the requisite subterfuge and a romantic subplot involving Yueh Hua and Ching Li which adds a human element to this otherwise phantasmogorical swordplay fantasy with horror overtones. For more info and pictures on this film, check out SINS OF CELLULOID 5: ASIAN EXPLOITATION!

THE PSYCHOPATH (1978) is directed by Ho Meng Hua and, unfortunately, never got released to DVD in Hong Kong.

Various images from THE PSYCHOPATH (1978)

Li Han Hsiang's THE GHOST STORY (1979) is one of his many period costume Erotic Horror anthology pictures. I haven't seen many of them, but of the ones I've viewed so far, this one is the most absolute bonkers. The last story with the semi naked nuns, the gigantic statue that spits laser beams and an old battling wizard must be seen to be believed. It's basically about a group of travelers sitting around telling each other ghost stories.


BAT WITHOUT WINGS (1980) was one of some 30 Wuxia adventure movies Chu Yuan directed for Shaw Brothers. This one starts off really well in the goosebumper department, but returns to standard swordplay shenanigans shortly thereafter. Not a bad thing, but had the film maintained its Gothic ghoulash till the end, it might have truly been something special.


Over two dozen heroes come together to track down and kill 'The Wingless Bat', a notorious serial rapist-murderer. Several years later the bloodthirsty killer appears once more after a clan leaders daughter is kidnapped and another group of heroes band together to save her and uncover the truth behind the re-appearance of the 'Bat Without Wings'. The requisite sword fights, elaborate traps, double crosses and last minute revelations are found here.

More promotional materials for BAT WITHOUT WINGS (1980)

CONTINUED IN PART 2....

Assorted Bits & Pieces: Romero Week, Werewolves & Halloween On Que-Tube

Last week, Aaron of the dark cascade of horror and sleaze that is THE DEATH RATTLE asked if I'd be interested in contributing to a guest post of some kind in reference to his lively (haha, get it? Romero? Zombies? They're dead!!) GEORGE ROMERO WEEK whether it be a review, or my opinion of the man as a filmmaker. Interestingly enough, several other people were thinking something similar and contributed their thoughts regarding Romero as a director, or reminiscing about his scary monster movies. Becky of THE HORROR EFFECT, Neil Fulwood of AGITATION OF THE MIND and 2 Cool Carl from I LIKE HORROR MOVIES all contributed. Amongst Aaron's countdown, James, a writer for Fangoria and author for the blog, BEHIND THE COUCH contributed a piece and the ultimate duder, Richard of CINEMA SOMNAMUBULIST contributed as well. Get over there and get your grave on, dead heads.

Next up, Franco Gonzalez of the enlightening FILM CONNOISSEUR asked both myself and Shaun Anderson of the intellectual oasis that is THE CELLULOID HIGHWAY if we'd be interested in another monstrously massive team up. The result is a compendium of lycanthropic cinema, an assortment of FULL MOON FRIGHTS from around the world--the good, the bad and the hairy.

Finally, I received an email from Alex Rabinowitz regarding a film review web series, sort of a "Siskel & Ebert" for the alternative crowd with reviews of the best movies Netflix has to offer as well as obscure stuff and reviews in relation to cinematic themes. They also have giveaways viewers can particpate in. Check out their HALLOWEEN EPISODE. Give them a look see as well!

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