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!

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