Friday, March 16, 2012

The Tao of Ric: True Lies & A Fistful of Meyerisms Part 3



One of the Meyers-meisters most oft repeated instances of pap peddling is his reasoning for why the Shaw Studios shut down. According to him, Shaw Brothers shut down because his staff were all demanding more money due to their popularity overseas. This fairy tale fluctuates from one ACC article and DVD commentary to the next even including the notion that Shaw threatened to fire any actor on the spot should they take an English name! Allegedly, taking an English first name would make you an enticing proposition to foreign film producers; take into consideration such names as David Chiang, Alexander Fu Sheng, Jimmy Wang Yu, Gordon Liu and even the beyond prolific Art Director Johnson Tsao.

As far as the Chinese versions were concerned, Liu Chia Hui didn't start using his Anglo alias till 1981. The Shaw's were already on shaky ground locally at this point as it were. Likewise, Fu Sheng's 'Alexander' never appeared on the Chinese credits, but it did show up on the international prints as early as 1977. Of particular interest is that around this time, Fu is PROMOTED as Alexander Fu Sheng in the Shaw's own movie magazines! David Chiang was always billed as such. Mind you, the export versions are prepared in Hong Kong so if the use of English names was so problematic, Shaw could have easily nipped it in the bud before these international versions were put together.

In another example that Shaw and his staff were clearly aware of their popularity overseas, here is a quote from... 'Director Liu Chia-liang admits that his aim is to make top kung fu films regardless of the hardships involved, for the purpose of capturing a share of the international film market. He remarks, "We want to show our foreign fans that, although the Chinese people are small in stature, we are good fighters..."'--Southern Screen, July 1977 page 30.

For years now, Meyers has repeatedly painted a not so pretty picture of Shaw as some sort of slave-driving bloodsucker using his actors and crew for his own monetary gain. Meyers later augmented his argument to state that AFTER the christening of Gordon Liu and Alex Fu did Shaw make this alleged threat. Even if that were so, that still leaves a four year window between those two actors christening themselves Alexander and Gordon.

Furthermore, in a 1982 issue of Shaw's own movie magazine, Southern Screen, they discuss how box office receipts for their films--despite the high quality of production--continued to dwindle. They persevered because those pictures were vital to their sustained success in overseas markets. In their dying days, the Shaw's were obviously not blind to HK audiences flocking to the likes of the new Big Gun of HK, Golden Harvest and other soon to be blossoming studios like Golden Princess. Shutting their studio doors (renting the facilities out to domestic and foreign production companies) to focus on television productions was a logical step since so much similar period set dramatic actioners were shown on TV without having to go to the theater and pay for it. It also helped immensely that Shaw owned TVB at the time. The logic that Shaw stopped making movies because his actors and technicians were about to mutiny is not feasible considering many of these same actors and film crew worked on Shaw's TV programs.

Ric Meyers has also made repeated statements that Shaw (specifically Sir Run Run Shaw, the sixth brother, the one who refused to accept his stupid book, mind you) only wanted to make money for himself and never wanted to create movie stars (he says this on the INHERITOR OF KUNG FU commentary, one of the tackiest, and the absolute worst commentary track in DVD history). Of course he wanted to make money. He's a businessman. But to say he didn't want to create movie stars is outrageous. If he didn't create, or promote any popular attractions it kind of contradicts the whole "making money" schematic, doesn't it? Why the hell even have your own publications promoting your product and your talent pool for that matter? How will your movies continue to make money if you don't build up your stable of actors to give the paying audience an incentive to come back and see them again? This is simply one of the most idiotic reasonings I've ever heard.

Continuing his onslaught against the Shaw's, Meyers also contributed and instigated antagonistic remarks regarding the actors and their reportedly very low wages. According to Ric, the actors were "forced" to stay in dormitories, too. Considering many actors and actresses eventually bought their own homes, or bought property overseas, Shaw being this tyrannical ruler of Movie Town seems a bit exaggerated. Furthermore, most Asians send the bulk of their money to their family, anyways. Let me reiterate: I'm not saying Shaw's paid his staff handsomely, nor am I saying he paid them pittances, I am saying that obviously it wasn't quite as bad as Meyers makes it out.

While Asian performers weren't paid exorbitant sums like those in Hollywood, the rate of pay, and the amount varies from one source to another, and their pay rate did increase over time. Again, Shaw treated his empire like a gigantic factory. And really, Movie Town was like its own self contained world by which many probably didn't need, or want to venture beyond its walls. At least this much seems to be true--the performers were paid a monthly salary plus a set amount per film. Bonuses were given to those whose films did well. Also, numerous actors were allowed to freelance over time. This is discussed further in another chapter regarding Ti Lung. The lives of Shaw's stable of stars is made rather obvious in many of Shaw's own movie promotional materials as well as an interview with Ti Lung on several Shaw Brothers Hong Kong DVDs in recent years. Bruce Lee, having become accustomed to the Hollywood lifestyle, famously rejected Shaw's initial standard contract when he returned to Hong Kong to make movies there in the early 70s. Reportedly, he was to have come to terms with Shaw's sometime in 1973, but he died before he could work there. It's entirely logical that the competition, both big and small, would have to offer more lucrative options if they were to compete and Golden Harvest (run by former Shaw executive, Raymond Chow) did that very well by snatching both Bruce Lee and Michael Hui away from Shaw's.

As already stated, Shaw patterned his empire on the old Hollywood Studio System wherein his acting stable was under contract and weren't allowed to seek work elsewhere without permission lest they be sued. He also owned a large series of ever expanding theater chains where his films and others distributed by them (including all manner of foreign imports) would be shown. While the pay may have been paltry for some, it's obvious many enjoyed a comfortable life, nonetheless. In addition, many actors were allowed to freelance and many enjoyed the fruits of their labor--For example, Ti Lung bought a HK500,000 home and owned his own private gym; Fu Sheng bought a 3.1 million Spanish style villa and likewise fancied fast cars; Liu Chia Liang drove a Benz and a Rolls Royce; Yueh Hua and Tanny owned their own home; Lo Lieh owned property in America, etc. Not too shabby for actors with their arms and legs shackled to the table legs of an Iron Fisted Boss.


NUMBERS 66-97!

66. "This is going to be a very difficult film to do audio commentary for...nominally I am here to give you fascinating information on the making of the film and the various actors..." *--Yes, all of your commentaries are difficult, Ric. If only you did one where you actually DID talk about the making of the film, or did more than lazily read off an IMDB listing for the actors and actresses whether they're in the actual films or not.

67. On the Funimation Shaw Brothers DVDs, there's a promo reel that plays prior to the films menu screen. A narrator talks over a series of scenes from the various movies and says "Shaw Brothers...who brought classic kung fu style to modern America!" No mention of Ric Meyers anywhere, sorry.

68. Judging by listening to his numerous commentaries, IMDB is Ric's best, and most trusted friend.

69. Meyers states there were no dolly shots in HK cinema till 1985 because, "They're not that sophisticated...they didn't know what wheels were in HK till, like, 1985." *--Funny that production companies like Shaw Brothers were using dollies well before then such as in 1972s THE 14 AMAZONS and THE FUGITIVE. Look for a behind the scenes image from 14 AMAZONS in the next chapter.

70. On the DRAGON INN commentary, Meyers claims the cannibalism angle is "obviously" inspired by Sweeney Todd. The consumption of human flesh has been a popular concept for centuries in Chinese history and in their written works such as The Water Margin series of novels, which have been around anywhere between the 14th and the 16th centuries. I highly doubt Sweeney Todd, a fictional character from the 19th century, was around then. Cannibalism has also been featured in numerous action movies such as another 'Inn' film, THE BLACK TAVERN (1972) and also in Chu Yuan's THE MAGIC BLADE (1976).

71. In Ric's book, Great Martial Arts Movies, he includes a list of movies he recommends. One of them is the venom flick, MAGNIFICENT RUFFIANS (1979), better known on television as THE DESTROYERS. Ric's brief description, which seems to belong to another movie, is as follows--"Patriots vs. Manchus, second team style. Plot? No. Fights? Yes!" *--First off, this isn't a Ming vs. Qing movie. Second, there is most definitely a plot and a right good one at that. Third, there's no way in hell any fan worth their MSG is gonna get a venom movie confused with any number of the kung fu--Manchu movies.

72. Also in the same book, Meyers lists the riotously entertaining kung fu flick, THE MASTER STRIKES (1980) as "Another kung fu take on RAIN MAN..." * --Okay, this can't be "another kung fu take on RAIN MAN" when RAIN MAN was made eight years LATER. What Ric really means is that RAIN MAN is a serious take on THE MASTER STRIKES...that is, if the plots were even remotely similar. Also, his use of the adjective "another" threatens the notion that there are additional Kung Fu Retard movies that RAIN MAN has somehow taken liberties with.

73. Again I will shamelessly, and sarcastically plug his "groundbreaking" book, Great Martial Arts Movies with this bit regarding the fan favorite, KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1979)--"So how do you defeat a man whose skin can't be pierced? Practice, my friends, practice." *--I doubt very seriously there are too many kung fu movie fans who have not seen KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, but after reading that brief description, I wonder if Meyers has. Planet Ric sounds more and more like a nice place to visit, but I'd never wanna live there.

74. Claims on his unused liner notes for LIFE GAMBLE (1979) that Jackie Chan's SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW (1978) and DRUNKEN MASTER (1978) are Golden Harvest movies. As most fans know, both those films are produced through Ng See Yuen's Seasonal Films production company. He fixes this on the notes that made it into the DVD, but.....

75. On the same unused liner notes, Ric maintains Fu Sheng had broken both his legs while working on an unnamed movie. He did, however, break a single leg on September 19th, 1979 on the set of HEROES SHED NO TEARS (1980). This bit remained unchanged.

76. Despite fixing some things from the unused LIFE GAMBLE liner notes, Meyers makes up for it with babbling bullshit like saying both Chang Cheh and Liu Chia Liang discovered Kuo Chui in 1973. On one of his commentaries, Ric claimed that ONLY LIU discovered Kuo in 1976 while working on SHAOLIN AVENGERS even though Liu didn't choreograph SHAOLIN AVENGERS as he was back in HK making his own movies at the time. Ric, you're confusing the reader again.

77. Judging by his unused liner notes for LIFE GAMBLE (1979), Ric can't make up his mind whether FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS is a 1982 film or one from 1984 as he swaps out the years from one paragraph to the next. The USED liner notes still have this problem.

78. In the LIFE GAMBLE liner notes, Meyers states that Chang Cheh left Shaw's several years before they closed down because he became "aware of the oncoming storm". He left because his contract had expired and it wasn't going to be renewed, and it was only a couple years before they closed the studio doors.

79. Again, on the used LIFE GAMBLE liner notes, Meyers claims Wang Yu had a falling out with Chang Cheh while filming RETURN OF THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN (1969). It was actually Run Run Shaw, which led to the already temperamental Wang Yu breaking his contract resulting in a lawsuit.

80. Oddly enough, Meyers' liner notes that ended up being used for the LIFE GAMBLE (1979) DVD should have been UNUSED, too. THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967) was not inspired by BONNIE & CLYDE (1967), nor REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955). I don't recall there being any characters running around in either of those movies missing an appendage.

79. Ric Meyers wrote for the beyond extreme and highly fabricated tabloid, Weekly World News; which should speak volumes about his legitimacy as a serious genre expert.

81. Amazingly, Meyers states on the FATAL NEEDLES, FATAL FISTS (1978) commentary that he isn't the 'be all, end all', and that he welcomes corrections if he's made a mistake(!). Claims he will credit you somehow or other, but he's yet to respond to any of my emails.

82. "My pronunciations are famous throughout the continent for being really lousy." *--This is the one time Meyers tells the truth, or knows what he's talking about.

83. Pronounces I Kuang (Ngai Hong) as Na-guy Hong (like that guy's hung).

84. Pronounces Gordon Liu as Gordon Lu-wee (like Louie as in the Fab 50s song, 'Louie, Louie').

85. Pronounces Kuo Chui as Kuo Chew-ee (like the wookie in STAR WARS).

86. Pronounces Tang Chia as Tang Chi-ya (like a Ch-ch-ch-chia Pet).

87. Pronounces Chu Yuan as Chu Yu-wan (like chew you one).

88. Pronounces Gyonshi (HK's version of a vampire or reanimated corpse) as Gi-on-shi (like Guy on she).

89. Pronounces Shuriken (ninja star!) as Shereeka (like Eureka!).

90. "...You want to know about this stuff, you [have to] come to me." *--I'm laughing at you right now. Sold that bridge yet? ( interview; Sept. 2011)

91. Meyers loved flaunting a bogus claim that Gordon Liu was originally set to star in Robert Clouse's THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975), but Yul Brynner got the role instead. He even makes a connection to Bruce Lee losing the KUNG FU role to David Carradine. He forgets (or simply doesn't know, or care) that Gordon Liu had only just debuted the year prior in Chang Cheh's SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS and didn't get a lead role till 1978.

92. Wrote for Thomas Weisser's Asian Cult Cinema rag mag where he handled such duties as making up fake letters and patting himself on the back in his 'Ric and Infamous' column.

93. "...WARRIOR FROM SHAOLIN, which is done by the fabulous Lu-wee Chee-a brothers..." *--Meyers then proceeds to refer to Gordon Lu-wee under his Canto handle, Lau Gao Fei (you mean Lau Kar Fei, right?).

94. BEACH OF THE WAR GODS (1973) is not a Shaw Brothers movie, Ric.

95. "Now this actor, could be any number of people. As much as I've looked up his face and name, I couldn't narrow it down to any less than about four different actors." *--Meyers apparently not trying hard enough to recognize Liu Chia Yung, alias Jimmy Liu, the younger nephew of Liu Chia Liang and his brother, the elder Liu Chia Yung; the latter of which directed him and Gordon Lu-wee in CARRY ON WISEGUY (1981) aka WARRIOR FROM SHAOLIN.

96. Meyers complains of a bondage and urination scene 12 minutes into the horrific SHAOLIN DRUNKEN MONK (1982); which is odd considering Meyers is a champion of Japanese rape and bondage movies and also that he acted in, and allegedly directed two bondage porn flicks. One of which saw him attacking people with a giant dildo.

97. Ric considers SHAOLIN DRUNKEN MONK the PLAN NINE FROM OUTER CHINA of kung fu movies. Prior to this, he stated that A LIFE OF NINJA was PLAN NINJA FROM OUTER SPACE. And wedged in between there, INHERITOR OF KUNG FU was simply the PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE of martial arts cinema. Apparently Meyers is a big fan of Ed Wood.


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