Thursday, May 11, 2023

Shaw Brothers Cinema Presents: Raymond Chow Talks Shaw Brothers Productions

In June of 1969, then Deputy General Manager of Shaw Brothers Studio, Raymond Chow gave an interview for TVB's Radio Hong Kong (now RTHK) about how films were made at Movie Town--the magic factory where the Shaw Brothers produced dozens of films a year for an entertainment-starved populace. Reporters and members of the audience asked Mr. Chow detailed and thorough questions about the inner workings of the company, its stars, how the films were made, and the HK film industry itself. This vintage discussion offers a unique look into HK film production at the time, and from the perspective of Run Run Shaw's then right-hand man, the future president of Golden Harvest, Raymond Chow. (Top: Raymond Chow answering questions on Radio Hong Kong)

This interview contains a dozen images, many of which are rare, from when Chow was at Shaw Brothers Studio and various times at Golden Harvest from 1970-1973.
RAYMOND CHOW OPENING STATEMENT: Hong Kong is a small place with a large population that's limited by its surroundings. Forms of entertainment are limited for its 4 million residents. The cinema has become one of the most important forms of entertainment for us here in the last ten to twenty years. According to statistics from the UN, Hong Kong residents accounted for the largest number of moviegoers in the world. There are 115 movie theaters in Hong Kong--24 of which show first-run Western films. Ten years ago there were only four theaters in Hong Kong showing Mandarin films. In ten years the audience has increased twenty-fold in comparison. In HK, Taiwan, and Singapore and Malaysia, Chinese films continue to win over foreign viewers. In the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam trends are moving in a similar direction. This is one of the great rewards of HK filmmakers. (Insert: Run Run Shaw and his protege Raymond Chow study films in a screening room in 1966)
Our film industry has made a significant contribution to its development in foreign markets. If we hire foreign directors and actors to work in HK, the Immigration Bureau will try its best to give us conveniences. However, compared with other industries, the assistance we receive is still not ideal. For example, it is necessary to relax film censorship. We know their responsibility is to uphold the law and morality, but if it is too strict, and although we have the opportunity to appeal, it is far too time-consuming and troublesome. This can have an impact on the box office. This is especially true in regard to how scenes involving exposure of the human body are handled. We don't see this doing much harm to society. On the contrary, there are pornographic books and periodicals with far more revealing pictures and obscene words that can be purchased at anytime out on the street. The bad influence of such material is many times worse than what little we show on-screen. Film has a cultural and educational responsibility, so we all try our best to find good themes. The film industry hopes that the government can provide more support to help Hong Kong's economy and prosperity. (Insert: Raymond Chow, Leonard Ho, Angela Mao, Nora Miao and others at Golden Harvest's first New Year's Party in February of 1971; the company had 70 employees at launch)

QUESTIONER: What are the qualifications to become an actor, and how can one become a successful actor?

RAYMOND CHOW: The most basic requirement for an actor is fate. What makes an actor pleasing to viewers isn't necessarily their appearance or how pretty they are. It is mainly due to their acting abilities. Unfortunately, there is no special training school for this in Hong Kong. We often hear about the miracle of becoming famous overnight, but for every young person who is interested in joining our industry, we point out quite frankly that success in the movies can only be achieved through continuous hard work; which is by no means as easy as ordinary people might think it is.
QUESTIONER: We want to know what is the basis for trends in Mandarin movies made in HK? Can Mr. Chow predict the next trend in Hong Kong?
RAYMOND CHOW: Here in HK, action films are currently the most trendy. In a narrow sense, martial arts films are quite popular today. The birth of a trend, such as something like clothing styles or automobiles, is difficult to analyze. According to our opinion, at certain periods of time, there were two or three films from a particular genre that were especially well-shot and became very popular and successful due to word-of-mouth. When this happens others will follow suit and the trend is created. The same is true for the rise of James Bond and other spy pictures in the United States. Chinese martial arts films are booming and for a reason. Further analysis shows that action movies are more welcomed by audiences because there are plentiful action sequences and fewer dialog scenes; there's less for the viewer to think about and just be entertained by the maneuvers on-screen. In foreign countries, for example, the tide has turned to films with a heavier emphasis on sex. But Hong Kong's Chinese people have different tastes and our inherent morality is also different. Even with the exposure to more Western films, our martial art productions should continue to maintain their current popularity. (Insert: Bruce Lee, Raymond Chow, Jimmy Wang Yu at Chinese New Year Party in 1973)

QUESTIONER: If the world trends towards more sex on-screen, will Shaw Brothers also make sex films to cater to the audience tastes?

RAYMOND CHOW: As I said moments ago, movies with heavier doses of sexual content may not be accepted by Chinese audiences. It is currently impossible for us to make such movies.

QUESTIONER: As for revealing scenes in motion pictures, the government's Film Censorship Office often prohibits showing anything too revealing, which may seem unfair to you or some viewers. In the US, producers have their own organization that rates their films into four categories. Mr. Chow, do you think this system could work in Hong Kong?

RAYMOND CHOW: This is not only the case in America but in Japan as well. There is no government film inspection agency in Japan. The five major film companies there set up their own organizations to review their own works. This system may not be very ideal in Hong Kong. The government here is different from other places so we cannot generalize it. We hope that our industry can have its own committee to receive certain issues in a consultative manner with the governments prosecutorial office. For political review, the government's inspection office can take care of itself. That is, what we want is a self-regulating body, but we are not advocating to completely replace government censorship. 
(Insert: Raymond Chow, Leonard Ho and Wang Yu off-camera on the set of BEACH OF THE WAR GODS in 1971)

QUESTIONER: In addition to local films, there are many Mandarin films made in Taiwan. Can Mr. Chow explain the difference between the two markets?

RAYMOND CHOW: Most of the Chinese films made outside HK are produced in Taiwan. Generally speaking, Hong Kong is better than Taiwan in terms of technology. Taiwan has the advantage in terms of location because of their geographical environment. Taiwan also puts more emphasis on literature and art because it publishes more books and novels, and the movies are mostly adapted from them. Hong Kong has a majority of action films; by that I mean there are more action movies shot in HK. Taiwan's literary productions are much better than ours due to the lack of locations here. We often have to go to Korea and Japan and Taiwan.

QUESTIONER: There seems to be a shortage of film directing talent in HK. Many of our films rely heavily on foreign talent as directors. What is the reason for this?

RAYMOND CHOW: Film is a comprehensive art that requires talents from various fields to make your company more successful. Take Hollywood for example, the most developed film industry in the world. Its success is due to to its eclectic ability to recruit talents from all over the world. Many famous directors are not American, but British and Italian. Many famous stars are Swedish are European. The distinction between national borders should be discarded and there should be no mentality of rejecting foreigners in our industry. By integrating talent from various countries, we can exchange experience and absorb more knowledge from different countries. We often hire Japanese directors and technicians to collaborate on our productions. At the same time, we also send our staff to Japan and Europe to study. Recently, we have sent five university graduates to Japan to specialize in five-year university film courses because we lack these facilities in HK to train talents. We hope that they can apply what they have learned to our industry upon their return. (Insert: Raymond Chow with Bruce Lee at the Golden Harvest New Year's Party in 1972)

QUESTIONER: We hire Japanese filmmakers, but what about foreign actors like Brigitte Bardot participating in our domestic pictures?

RAYMOND CHOW: If there is a suitable script and production costs are possible, we are of course very willing to invite Brigitte Bardot or other equally famous foreign stars to perform in HK. What matters is the issue of money. At present, our market is still narrow and cannot be distributed worldwide like American or European films. However, if stars like Brigitte Bardot were to come to HK to make movies, the remuneration would be extremely high and we may not be able to afford it.

QUESTIONER, HO DE CHONG: I feel that female movie stars are favored in HK over male stars. What is the reason for this?

RAYMOND CHOW: I think this isn't accurate. Perhaps Mr. Ho is biased towards female stars so he feels they are more valued. In our company, there are 75 male actors and 73 female stars. I think most male audience members welcome female stars. Women viewers mostly love the male stars though they may be reluctant to express this feeling due to their conservative values. The industry has evolved beyond female stars being more popular than the men. This is my personal observation.

QUESTIONER: Although I like some female stars, I agree with Mr. Ho's statement that the women are more valued in HK. I wonder if Shaw Brothers promotion of female actors is more obvious? Take the Asian Film Festival as an example; it is always a woman that wins Best Actor. I have never heard of a man winning for Best Actor. I am wondering if the acting skills of male actors seen as inferior to the women?

RAYMOND CHOW: This is also an inaccurate statement. For film companies, promoting the women is just as important as promoting the men. And our publicity is mostly based on the film itself as opposed to a particular star headlining it. As for the Asian Film Festival's methods of selecting stars for their awards, the judging committee of the festival is composed of two well-known locals who have knowledge of the film industries within the seven participating regions. The selection meeting is made up of a 14-member committee that is held two weeks prior to the festival. The judging process is not influenced by any one person. In fact, representatives from the various countries do not gather for the local meeting at the festival. They rate the pictures after watching each film individually. Therefore, it is impossible for Shaw Brothers or the Hong Kong Producers Association to deliberately promote a certain actor or actress as the Best Actor. The real power of selection lies with the committee. Then it's in the hands of the four judges. (Insert: Raymond Chow signing Joseph Kuo Nan Hung at Shaw Brothers in 1968)
QUESTIONER: How many Shaw Brothers movies are made each year?
RAYMOND CHOW: Based on our current production numbers, it is about 40-45 films per year. Last year we produced 41.
QUESTIONER: What is the scope of your company's distribution?
RAYMOND CHOW: Our main markets are Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan; and other Southeast Asian regions such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, Indonesia, etc, are all important markets. We also have a reach as far as North and South America, but those are markets are comparatively smaller at the moment. Recently we have enacted a plan to open up the market in South America by dubbing some of our films in English to be released there. ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967) is to be the first to see release in Brazil.  (Top: Chang Cheh, Raymond Chow, Kao Pao Shu at Shaw's New Year's Party in 1970)
QUESTIONER: Is the Hong Kong market more important in comparison to the foreign market?
RAYMOND CHOW: In terms of the current domestic film market, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia are all equally important. The number of viewers is difficult to estimate accurately. In our experience, in HK along, the number of viewers for a popular movie ranges anywhere between 600,000 to 1,000,000 viewers. 

QUESTIONER: In terms of taste, is there a preference for one type of film with audiences in different regions?

RAYMOND CHOW: There's not much difference between regions. What Chinese and foreign viewers want are good movies. Currently martial arts films are the most popular. The level of excitement and the styles and movements is attractive to men, women and children. Literary films are quite popular with audiences too.

QUESTIONER: Are local producers creating their own trends or just following what's fashionable overseas?

RAYMOND CHOW: At present, the production of domestic films is undoubtedly more prosperous than in previous years, and more popular. The market is also expanding but not yet stable. As a result, many producers aren't comfortable taking chances with doing something different, and almost always make films to cater to the interest of the audience. Our film industry is different from foreign countries like the United States and India and other places. The distribution in their own countries can more easily recover their costs. (Insert: Raymond Chow seeing Lo Wei and his crew off at the airport on their way to America to shoot YELLOW FACED TIGER, aka SLAUGHTER IN SAN FRANCISCO)
QUESTIONER: How many stages do you have inside the studio and how many workers are there?
RAYMOND CHOW: Shaw Brothers currently has ten indoor film studios and five permanent outdoor sets with a staff of 1,700 people.

QUESTIONER: Do you always use the same outdoor sets?

RAYMOND CHOW: Before shooting we often change the scenery slightly. It's not easy to notice in the film. Like one of the street sets, if you change the color or replace the signboards on the shops and rearrange interior furnishings, the same set will take on an all new look.
QUESTIONER: Of the 1,700 staff members, how many are actors and how many are other personnel?
RAYMOND CHOW: Of all the male and female actors who have signed contracts with the company account for 160 to 170 people; and we still recruit other performers and extras at any given time. These are temporarily hired from outside the company. The rest are workers--most of which are carpenters, then electricians, painters and masons. Shaw Brothers has many departments so the number of people employed for each department is quite large.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Chow, please take us through the entire filmmaking process--from the pre-production to the film's release.
RAYMOND CHOW: The first step of course is writing the script. We currently have 18 screenwriters. Everyone selects stories from famous works and novels and submits them for review. A screenwriter then compiles an outline and then passes it along to prospective directors. Once a director is appointed and goes over the outline with the writer, then the script can be written. After it has been reviewed and has been deemed satisfactory, it is handed over to the production department for planning and preparation for shooting. The next step is to make decisions on the staff and the actors. The producer then assembles the personnel and the sets, costumes and props are ordered. The leading protagonist is decided upon first, followed by supporting players. After the actors are finalized, a formal meeting is held to discuss the roles with the actors. A few days before the start of shooting, the actors participate in wardrobe tests and the director and producer study over them to ascertain if the costuming meets the needs of the plot. If there are no major problems then shooting can officially begin. (Insert: Runme Shaw in Hong Kong discussing the business with Raymond Chow)

QUESTIONER: How long does it take to get the actual stage of filming?

RAYMOND CHOW: From the moment we begin pre-production, if the script doesn't encounter any problems, filming can officially begin within six weeks time.

QUESTIONER: How long does it take from the start of shooting to completion?

RAYMOND CHOW: Generally speaking, the working days for a film range between 40 and 60 days. The so-called working days are not continuous. The impact of weather conditions, for example, are unpredictable. As per our past experiences, it takes about 3 to 4 months to complete the shooting portion of a film.

QUESTIONER: Can you tell us about the shooting process itself?

RAYMOND CHOW: A film usually runs for one and a half to two hours, but the shooting process can last up to 60 days. The movie you watch may look very beautiful and move at a fast pace, but the actual shooting of those scenes is arduous for the performers in ways viewers can't understand. Before we shoot a scene, the staff has to get the set ready for filming; this includes the background of the stage and the lighting of the set. The luminosity alone is very hot. Especially in summer months when actors may be wearing heavy clothing, beards and hoods as seen in period costume films. You can't be seen sweating even though the heat from the lamps can feel like the equivalent of five thousand electric stoves. This is extremely uncomfortable for the actors and unimaginable for viewers who haven't experienced it for themselves. Moreover, the working hours on any given day are 8-10 hours. In some cases when filming on exterior locations, the actors must leave for the set before the sun rises. Depending on where they are, actors may be filming out in the scorching sun or in heavy rain or snowfall. The suffering of the staff lasts for days to capture what the audience sees on-screen for only a few minutes.(Top: Raymond Chow and Shintaro Katsu on February 12th, 1971 celebrating a joint production company between them)

QUESTIONER: After filming wraps, what other work is there to do?

RAYMOND CHOW: After we finish shooting, we go into post-production and that takes between one to two months to complete. Normally, we shoot 40,000-50,000 feet of film, but we only need to use 9,000 feet of what was shot for the official screening. So, we discard the unsatisfactory and damaged parts and edit the rest together. We then dub in the dialog, the sound effects, and the music. Fortunately, we have our own color printing equipment in HK which saves a lot of time instead of printing abroad.

QUESTIONER: The production process of a Mandarin film is so complicated with so much manpower used, how much is the average cost of a production?

RAYMOND CHOW: It depends on each film company. The cost of an ordinary independent production company is relatively low. According to our estimation, it is about HK$500,000. For Shaw Brothers, the production costs required can range between HK$800,000 to HK$1.5 million. For some large-scale pictures, if they need to go to foreign countries to shoot location filming, the cost can reach HK$2 million. (Insert: Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho at court in 1971 over the lawsuit involving similarities between ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN and ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN)

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) review

Eddie Albert (Ted Fletcher), Susan George (Laura Fletcher), Doug McClure (Alex Curtis), Amy Barrett (Amy Fletcher), Mako Hattori (Otami), Toshiyuki Sasaki (Shigero), Toshiya Maruyama (Masanori), Tsuyako Okajima (Mayjo Witch), Henry Mittwer (Zen Monk)
Directed by Kevin Connor 

The Short Version: THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982) is a curious blend of old-fashioned Japanese ghost story with modern day sex and violence. Slashers were bigger business than haunted house pictures, so a movie with paranormal elements of a Japanese nature turned out to be a hard sell for audiences. In a way, HOUSE was ahead of its time since modern Japanese horror became popular in America in the early 2000s. Elements of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979), Japanese folklore, samurai's and severed limbs DWELL within this HOUSE.

A writer and his family move into a 200 year-old house in Kyoto, Japan. Told beforehand the isolated country home has a reputation for being haunted, they move in anyway. It isn't long before the angry spirits that died there over a hundred years earlier--a samurai, his unfaithful wife and her lover--return to terrorize and possess the new occupants to recreate the horrific crime all over again.

Director Kevin Connor (you can read our expansive interview with Mr. Connor--including the making of this film--HERE) is once more reunited with Doug McClure; only here, McClure isn't stranded in some lost world populated by monsters, but one of a trio of characters possessed by vengeful Japanese spirits in Kyoto. Edward Albert and Susan George are the husband and wife who move to Japan and find themselves the victims of a 140 year old curse lurking in the house they've just purchased. 

Slasher movies were in vogue at the time, while haunted house pictures held a smaller share of the horror market. Martial arts movies were likewise fashionable and Connor's movie contains slivers of that genre as well. It's an international mishmash of elements that the producers were possibly hoping-if nothing else--that audiences would latch on to the Oriental mystique of it all.
Based on a reportedly unpublished novel titled 'Where Evil Dwells'  by James Hardiman (James William Edward Hardiman), the film adaptation had been in the planning stages as early as 1978, according to old magazine articles. Hardiman was a former merchant seaman who later became the Vice President of the Rank Organization. Upon his arrival in Hollywood in 1956, he would hold executive jobs at companies like Walt Disney Productions, CBS and Columbia. The author of 13 published works, his unpublished 'Where Evil Dwells' was written for the screen by his former partner, Robert Suhosky.
When filming finally began, it was a co-production between UA and Toei of Japan. The main problem with the movie is you know how it's going to end very early on; there's few surprises along the way, although one left-fielder is a nighttime attack by the male ghosts in the form of two enormous spider crabs!
Having photographed New World's GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) the previous year, Jacques Haitkin's subtle camera snaps some foreboding shots of the title abode from a variety of angles--giving the viewer a look at the surrounding countryside and blowing reeds. There are also some welcome aerial shots of Kyoto's rural areas. Haitkin would go on to be Wes Craven's DP on A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984); and other genre pictures like THE HIDDEN (1987) and SCANNER COP (1994).

The cast inhabiting THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS is great, but appeal is likely best appreciated by the Drive-in crowd. Acting is fine across the board, just there's little else to chew on aside from the escalating horror leading to the predictable finale. 
As escapist horror, HOUSE works well enough so long as you don't expect too much on the exposition front. As is, it's not nearly as lovingly mounted, meticulously directed as his first movie FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1974); nor as memorable as the massive cult favorite MOTEL HELL (1980).
For example, the infidelity angle isn't explored much beyond the fact the audience is aware the apparitions intend to recreate the same night of murder and mayhem so that the souls of their victims take their place. Other than a few facial expressions of "what's happening to me?", McClure and Susan George's characters never vocalize their bodies being invaded, they just get on with it.

Director Connor's original cut of the movie was much different from the theatrical release; resulting in his displeasure that audiences didn't get to see his intended vision.
Edward Albert alternated between movies and television and did lots of low budget action and horror. The son of Eddie Albert of GREEN ACRES (1965-1971) fame, Albert Junior made an impression early on starring opposite Goldie Hawn in 1972s BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE. He won a Golden Globe for his role as a blind man but was unable to capitalize on his breakout status. For a while, Albert was romantically involved with Kate Jackson of CHARLIE'S ANGELS (1976-1981). He was a good actor relegated to smaller, but no less entertaining productions. 
Among his credits was Irwin Allen's goofy WHEN TIME RAN OUT (1980) and the lead heroic role in New World's exploitation favorite GALAXY OF TERROR (1981). Then there's ELLIE, the 1984 comedy-revenge flick co-starring Penthouse Pet Sheila Kennedy and Award-winning actress Shelly Winters. GETTING EVEN (1986) saw Albert in action hero mode taking on a villainous Joe Don Baker. Sadly, Edward Albert died from lung cancer at only 55 years of age. 

Doug McClure was a childhood favorite and affectionately referred to around these parts as "The King of the Monster Movies". Most famous for playing Trampas on the 90-minute western TV series THE VIRGINIAN (1962-1971), Doug did lots of action and adventure films like SHENANDOAH (1965) and THE KING'S PIRATE (1967). 
It was his four lost world movies for Kevin Connor that really made him a superstar with kids; those being THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976), THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977), and WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978). 
By the 1980s, McClure's star was fading, but some leads came like the exploitation classic HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) and an obscure but prescient movie called FIREBIRD 2015 AD (1981) about the US government banning gas-powered vehicles. 
Unfortunately, and in a similar fate that met Edward Albert, Doug McClure would die from lung cancer at the young age of 59.

British actress Susan George is Edward Albert's wife who becomes increasingly disenchanted with their new haunted home. An underrated actress, she was quite good at doing emotional outbursts in pivotal moments of a character at the breaking point. 
She held her own in a movie about a babysitter stalked by a killer escaped from an insane asylum called FRIGHT (1971); and menaced and raped by thugs in STRAW DOGS (1971). She was DIRTY MARRY to Peter Fonda's CRAZY LARRY (1974) and a troubled and abused housewife in the big budget exploitation of MANDINGO (1975). A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS (1976) was a riveting thriller with Susan in distraught housewife mode again, and of course there's the ludicrousness of ENTER THE NINJA (1981) where she acted in the same capacity with Franco Nero battling Christopher George and Sho Kosugi. Her acting career wound down by the mid-80s, married actor Simon MacCorkindale and raised horses.
As for director Kevin Connor, he moved on to much bigger topics in a smaller medium--the television mini-series. He would work with numerous big name actors and actresses in such popular and top-rated mini-series' and TV-movies like MASTER OF THE GAME (1984), NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II (1986), GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1989), LIZ: THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR STORY (1995), MOTHER TERESA: IN THE NAME OF GOD'S POOR (1997), FRANKENSTEIN (2004), and BLACKBEARD (2006). 

In one way, Kevin Connor's haunted house movie was ahead of its time. Twenty years later, American companies would be remaking blockbuster Japanese horror hits in a similar vein. Connor's 1982 spooker is serviceable horror told in an old-fashioned way that delivers a handful of creepy moments. If you're a fan of Japanese horror in the mold of GHOST OF YOTSUYA (1959) or even KWAIDAN (1964), you'll likely find something to hold your attention hidden within the walls of this HOUSE.

This review is representative of the Scream Factory blu-ray double feature paired with GHOST WARRIOR (1986). Specs and extras:  01:28:06

Sunday, February 19, 2023

An Interview With Actor and Filmmaker Jaime Luk Kim Ming

"[I] go to the interview and there's David Chiang, Ti Lung, and Chang Cheh... it's so amazing because I'm in the room with my idols! [Chang Cheh] was a very important man in Hong Kong Cinema... In the old days, it was all real action. It was all real martial arts performance... In those days we didn't have to have a permit... If we do a car stunt inside the city.. just do it."
You may not know his name, but if you're a fan of Hong Kong Cinema, and especially the martial arts movies from the Shaw Brothers Studio, then you surely know the face of Jaime Luk Kim Ming. He has participated in over 200 motion pictures as an extra, a bit actor, supporting player, and the occasional leading role. If you're a fan, you've seen him in the background; to the left or right of the heroes and villains; and sometimes front and center. Additionally, he's performed virtually every job behind the camera as well. Beginning his career with the Master of Masculine Cinema, Chang Cheh, Jaime Luk worked for virtually every major director at Shaw Brothers Studio. Upon exiting Shaw's, Mr. Luk worked with various independent companies and other majors like Golden Harvest; as well as collaborating alongside Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. Other than his many years as an actor, Mr. Luk is also an award-winning filmmaker--signifying one of Hong Kong Cinema's most extraordinary careers that covers its golden age all the way up to today. 
In this interview, Mr. Luk--one of the most recognizable faces in all of HK cinema, discusses and details many of his experiences, shedding light on what it was like making movies in those days. The interview is complemented by dozens of images of Mr. Luk from many of the films he appeared in.
VENOMS5: How did you get into the film industry? Was it always something you wanted to do when you were young?

JAIME LUK KIM MING: It was all by accident. I joined Chang Cheh's production company, Long Bow, when I was 17. Long Bow was a branch of Shaw Brothers. I'm still in school at this time. Kung Fu movies were so popular that many independent companies started making them. So my schoolmate saw the advertisement for Chang's Company and he's going to sign up so he asks me, "Are you interested in signing up too?"  I'm thinking about it and he didn't wait for me to answer. He asks me to just give him two photos. He wants to send a letter for us both so I give him the photos. Three or four weeks went by and we both get a letter asking us to come in to do the first interview. (Insert: Jaime in Chang Cheh's FIVE SHAOLIN MASTERS)
At that time, David Chiang, Ti Lung and Chen Kuan Tai were the big stars. Every Saturday at midnight we would go to watch the new release. So we go to the interview and there's David Chiang, Ti Lung and Chang Cheh sitting there to do the interview. Already it's so amazing because I'm in a room with my idols! The talk wasn't long, maybe two or three minutes. I'm so ecstatic because these three giants are in front of me. The only thing I remember was a question from Director Chang. He says, "How old are you?" I said, "I'm seventeen". And he said, "Seventeen? You are tall and big (laughs)". And that's all I remember. (Insert: Jaime in DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN)
After the interview, one of the staff told me they received 3,000 letters. That day they interviewed around 150 to 200 people. Two weeks later, somebody came to my home and gave me a screen test notice telling me when to appear. At that time in the Hong Kong film industry, they wouldn't call you at home; they must come to your residence and hand you the notice personally. A week later I go to the Wah Da Studio--it's a famous studio that operated outside of Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest for the independent industry. There's maybe 10 to 15 people there to do a screen test. When I arrived I see another schoolmate; it's Fu Sheng! He and I were in the same primary school together. We grew up together. We did sports together, running track and this sort of thing. He had already signed with Shaw Brothers so we talked before I got called in for my test. I hadn't seen him for five or six years.(Top: Jamie in Chang Cheh's THE BRAVE ARCHER; Insert: Fu Sheng in 1975)

V5: What did you do in the screen test?

JLKM: It was to see how I performed in a fighting sequence. I go in and then 5 or 6 stuntmen circle around me (laughs). I've never been in this kind of situation before so it's overwhelming. Lau Ka Leung (Liu Chia Liang) is there with Tong Kai (Tang Chia); two more superstars in the movie world for me. I'm thinking to myself, "Wow! This is amazing!"  I do whatever they tell me and one of the stunt guys points to me and says, "Oh... you're really fast! Don't hit me, don't hit me (laughs)!"  We did two sequences of action for the test. It was quite an incredible experience. I go home and two weeks later the courier comes again with another letter. He tells me, "Director Chang would like you to come down and sign the contract". I'm stunned. I ask what kind of contract and he tells me it's an actors contract. Since I'm under 18 I have to get my parents permission and signature first. (Insert: Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia)
V5: What were the stipulations of the contract?
JLKM: It was HK$1,000 a month plus a bonus for every movie I did. This was 1973. An office worker's salary was HK$300 to HK$500 a month. So this was a big deal for a seventeen year old. At the exact same time, I got another letter for acceptance to a college. So on the one hand I can be paid HK$1,000 by Chang Cheh and on the other I can pay HK$1,000 for the school fee for the first half-year. Of course, I take the movie contract because I don't have the money for the school fee. My parents couldn't give me the money so that was my beginning in the film industry. (Top: Jaime in Chang Cheh's NA CHA, THE GREAT; Insert: Jaime in Chu Yuan's DEATH DUEL)
When I went down to sign with Chang Cheh there were only ten of us that signed up. Chi Kuan Chun was one of them. He performed the logo for Chang's company. We were all in the studio watching him do it, pulling the bow string back. Ah, it was such a happy time. This was around April or May of 1973 and we would start in July. After that I was so excited. You know what was my first thought? "I can see Bruce Lee (laughs)!!!"  I thought now it was possible to meet him, but unfortunately, he died before that could happen; right when my contract started. It was so sad when he died.
V5: What did you do first after signing with Long Bow?
JLKM: We had already begun training before signing. Action and acting training, and talking with extras for experience on the set. Beginning in July, I worked on my first movie, SHAOLIN DISCIPLES (MEN FROM THE MONASTERY). At this point in 1973 and into 1974, we are shooting with Chang Cheh in Hong Kong in the studio and on location. Then we received a notice that we would be going to Taiwan to make movies. In June of 1974 we all go there with Director Chang. However, while ten signed with the company, only six remained to film in Taiwan. Chi Kuan Chun, myself, Lam Fai Wong, Li Chen Piao and a few others. After we arrived we had some others join the company like Leung Ka Yan (Liang Chia Jen) and Johnny Wang Lung Wei. Later, we had some Taiwanese stuntmen join our team. Sometimes actors like Chen Kuan Tai couldn't be there so we needed more stuntmen. Many of them came from the Opera school like Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, Chiang Sheng and Lee Yi Min. (Top: Jaime in MEN FROM THE MONASTERY; Insert: Jaime in Chang Cheh's CRIPPLED AVENGERS)
V5: Did you get to hang out with the Taiwan guys much?
JLKM: Not much. Because the Hong Kong guys all stayed in the same dormitory and the Taiwan people went back to their homes. So we didn't interact much when we weren't working together on the set. Then in 1976, Chang Cheh tells us we are going back to Hong Kong. (Jaime in Chang Cheh's THE MAGNIFICENT WANDERERS)
V5: During the filming did you fly back and forth between HK and Taiwan a lot?
JLKM: Only for the Chinese New Year. We would fly back for one or two weeks then return to Taiwan to resume shooting.

V5: Did you film more than one movie at the same time while in Taiwan?

JLKM: Chang Cheh wasn't like Chu Yuan. He would only shoot two movies at once and not six or seven. Two were especially big movies, BOXER REBELLION and MARCO POLO. (Top: Jaime in BOXER REBELLION)

V5: MARCO POLO was the movie where Lau Kar Leung and Chang parted ways. Do you know the reason why they split?

JLKM: After the first year in Taiwan Lau went back to Shaw Brothers to shoot his own movies. He wanted to be a director himself, that's why he wanted to leave. Taiwanese Kung Fu instructors, Hsiao Ying Ke (Chen Hsin I) and Hsieh Hsing, came in at that time and we worked with a Taiwan stunt group. At the end, the Taiwan guys all came back to HK with us. The contract they signed with Chang Cheh was changed over to the Shaw Brothers. It was 15-20 people, I think. Dick Wei was one of the group, too. He was a fighting instructor for the police force in Taiwan before he started his movie career. (Top: Jaime in Chang Cheh's THE NEW SHAOLIN BOXERS; Insert: Dick Wei at Golden Harvest in 1981)
V5: So now you're back at Shaw Brothers and you begin working for other directors...
JLKM: I'm still working for Director Chang Cheh but also others like Chu Yuan. The Taiwan group that came with us, most of them only worked for Director Chang. But some, when they had time, would be asked by other directors to join their productions. I did many movies for Chu Yuan. This was the most busiest time of my career. Sometimes I was doing three movies a day (laughs). (Insert: Jaime Luk in Chu Yuan's THE SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN)
V5: How was that schedule?
JLKM: From 9 in the morning till maybe 2 in the afternoon is one movie; then 2pm to 7pm is another one; then 7pm to midnight on a third. I'm running around all day, it's so amazing. At Shaw Studio they would start at 7 in the morning and finish up between midnight and 2am. They have to stop. We didn't have much overnight shooting. So for me, my hours were almost always from 7am to 2am. And every set involves action--jumping up and down and doing fight scenes all day long.... so amazing, but still young, right? (Insert: Jaime in Sun Chung's THE DEADLY BREAKING SWORD)

V5: Were you shooting a lot of takes back then? How many takes did Chang Cheh do?

JLKM: Yes, sometimes 7,10,15 takes. Chang Cheh not so much. But one time we were filming a big action scene. I won't say the name of the actor but he couldn't get it right and we got up to 29 takes and it was still no good. Later, working with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, sometimes they did 50 to 60 takes. (Insert: Jaime in Chang Cheh's LIFE GAMBLE)
So when we and the Taiwan group come back to Hong Kong, we are all working together; but I wasn't strictly doing movies for Director Chang. I have to work with other directors. But some of them, I was unable to work on their films because the company would assign us to films where work was available. (Insert: Jaime in Liu Chia Liang's DIRTY HO)
For example, one of Director Chang's movies might be full so they'd place me somewhere else where a spot was open. The Taiwan group worked mostly for Director Chang. He started another action training class, too; almost 30-50 people. That was when Lo Mang came. FIVE VENOMS (1978) was the most popular movie for them. The situation was just like in Taiwan--they stayed in the dormitories and after work, we would go to our own homes. The traveling was rough at times, because you're working all day till at least midnight, then go home and have to be back early the next day. (Top: Jaime in the background and fighting Lam Fai Wong and Chi Kuan Chun in Chang Cheh's SHAOLIN TEMPLE; Insert: Jaime in Hua Shan's THE BROTHERS)
Eventually, I got my own dormitory at the studio which made things much easier. Inside Shaw Brothers when we weren't working on set together we played basketball, riding motorcycles, horse-riding, and other things. Shaw Brothers had their own stable with a dozen or so horses, so we would ride them to give the animals exercise. (Top: Shaw Studio dormitories in 1979)

I was working a lot at this time. However, I was working for Director Chang less than before; till about 1980 or 1981. After that I left Shaw Studio and worked outside for other companies including independents, Cinema City, and later on I joined Golden Harvest. So my period with Director Chang was from 1973 to 1981. (Top: Jaime in Chang Cheh's ODE TO GALLANTRY)

V5: What kind of man was Chang Cheh?

JLKM: He was a very tough, very strong director and a straight man. He always knew everything that was happening on the set. He always knew what he wanted and how he wanted things to look. He would tell Lau Ka Leung and Tong Kai what he wanted and they would do it. I watched his movies when I was a kid. (Insert: Chang Cheh in 1980)
V5: In those days he seemed to work non-stop.
JLKM: Everyday! In the morning he's talking to the scriptwriter and other members of the production team to get ready for shooting. For Director Chang, his shooting schedule was always in the morning. If we had to do location shooting we started at 7am. We go out to the location and wait. Inside the studio, it's 9am. Director Chang would always appear at 11am or 12pm because he had so many things to do in the morning. So morning call for Director Chang we start around 11 or 12. We would have the first set-up ready when he arrived. From day one it was like this. Early on I would think to myself, "Why is Director Chang so late (laughs)?"  From the first day to the end, it was the same. It was Chang's working style but he was efficient. (Jaime in SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS)
There are multiple generations of Director Chang's group. First generation was Jimmy Wang Yu and Lo Lieh. Second generation was David Chiang, Ti Lung, Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan Tai... I'm in the third generation. Those ten guys signing the contract for Chang's Film Company were the third generation; also Lau Ka Fei, or Gordon Liu. (Insert: Jaime in Chang Cheh's TEN TIGERS OF KWANGTUNG)

V5: His first film was SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS (1974), that's one of my all-time favorites.

JLKM: I was there! I was one of the guys in the back. Gordon Liu signed up in Taiwan. But before we left, he got called back to work with Lau Ka Leung. Gordon and myself were close friends at this time. He signed with Chang's company because of Lau Ka Leung. He learned Kung Fu from him from a small boy. When I left Shaw Brothers I was so busy I didn't get the chance to work with Director Chang again as I began learning other jobs on the production team besides acting. (Insert: Jaime and Gordon Liu singing at Run Run Shaw's New Years Party at Shaw Brothers Studio in 1979)
V5: One of your jobs outside the studio was CENTIPEDE HORROR (1982). Do you recall anything about this film?
JLKM: (laughs) Oh, CENTIPEDE HORROR! This film I was just helping my friend Lee Pak Ling. All the scenes with the centipedes we shot in Malaysia. The rest of the movie was filmed in Hong Kong. When we came back with the footage of the centipedes we had to rewrite the script to fit with the footage. I helped in the planning and the shooting of the film. 

V5: Margaret Li, Li Han Hsiang's daughter, she puts all those centipedes in her mouth...

JLKM: It's real! She did that for real! Everybody was afraid of the centipedes; nobody wanted to handle them. But she got in there and told the crew, "Okay, come on! Let's do it!" And she starts putting them all in her mouth one after the other (laughs). She was wonderful in that. She worked with me again on one of my movies I directed called REINCARNATION (1987). (Top: Margaret Li regurgitates half a dozen centipedes in CENTIPEDE HORROR)

V5: How did Michael Miu Kiu Wai feel about doing a horror movie? He was known for being a TV actor at the time.

JLKM: Oh yes, he was quite good in it. He didn't mind doing it. At that time he wasn't popular yet. A few years later he was a big star. 

V5: Are the spells seen in these kinds of films scripted or based on actual legends?

JLKM: Yes. For our film it was Malaysian legends. Are they real? I don't know. You have to trust it otherwise you cannot film it (laughs)!

V5: Going back to Shaw Brothers, you worked for Director Sun Chung. How did he compare to Director Chang Cheh?

JLKM: He was the second Chang Cheh (laughs)! I did a lot of movies for him, too. He lives in the US right now. He was very good to me. Almost all of his films I have some part in them. I remember one time Mona Fong stormed into the studio where we were filming (laughs).... "Why are we waiting on the director to come to the set?!"  We're waiting outside and Sun is coming and he hears what's being said and he starts cursing outside the set (laughs). So you can imagine what happened with that! They argued a lot. (Top: Sun Chung in 1982; Insert: Jaime Luk in Sun Chung's AVENGING EAGLE)

V5: What about Kuei Chi Hung? Were you there when he set the Shaw Studio on fire while filming ARSON: THE CRIMINALS III (1977)?

JLKM: I did two movies for him. I was there when the studio caught fire. I was filming in another studio that night and somebody came running in, "Stop! Stop! There's a fire in the lighting department!" Many of us ran to the location and you can see the smoke coming from the windows. The fire wasn't that huge yet, but still, the building was in flames with some of the staff still inside. People were jumping down from the second floor. The cameraman was burned on his arms and face. Everybody was so mad and I will tell you why (laughs).... everybody's saving everybody, trying to put out the fire then Mona Fong comes in yelling, "What happened?! What happened?! What caused the fire?!" And everyone got so mad because her first question after that was, "WHAT ABOUT THE CAMERAS?!" (laughs)... she just care about the cameras (laughs)! At that time she was in control of all the Shaw Brothers productions.

V5: It seemed on so many of Kuei's movies people were injured...

JLKM: Kuei was a crazy guy! I didn't get to work with him much.

V5: The first time you were a director was on LOVE WITH THE PERFECT STRANGER (1985). (Insert: Mona Fong at Shaw Studio in 1974)

JLKM: After I left Shaw Brothers, I worked outside with other companies like Cinema City and Always Good Film Company, the same group as Golden Princess; I worked for them for a few years... '81, '82, '83... I started my first movie as a director in 1984. But before that while at Golden Princess, I was the production manager, the script supervisor, and other things for the company. I even did some of the stunts. 
The first movie where I was doing multiple jobs was a movie with Sammo Hung called CARRY ON, PICKPOCKET (1982). This was my first time with Sammo Hung. He's really tough! We did lots of things, fighting scenes and car stunts, but the biggest thing I remember is we were shooting a big fighting sequence on a ship. I went to find a ship we could use and there was one that was going to be torn down. I tell them, "We want to shoot for two weeks aboard this ship". They agreed to let us film on it but for only two weeks as it was to be dismantled. This film was the longest shooting time for me in my career. I filmed for 52 hours straight... NON STOP! It was the longest shooting days of my life.

V5: How long did you sleep after that?

JLKM: I went back home and slept for only a few hours, then woke up in a shock, "Ah! The cast is waiting!" And I have to go back and film again. So we continue shooting more and more footage and eventually our time is up and we're still not finished. The person in charge of the shipyard tells us they can't wait anymore. I tell him, "Sorry, but we cannot stop. We must finish the filming". So... (laughs) we begin filming in another area while they tear down a section of the ship (laughs). "Oh, we have to tear down this part...", so we move to the back area, and then another spot to keep shooting and shooting (laughs)... it was so funny. We were all working together--we were trying to finish and they were trying to tear the ship apart! It was so tense, I loved it. I had quite a good experience working with Sammo. Just that one sequence, we shot almost a whole month, I think. (Top: Jaime in CARRY ON, PICKPOCKET; Insert: Sammo doing a stunt)
V5: How many jobs did you do on CARRY ON, PICKPOCKET?
JLKM: I was the production manager, script supervisor, I was an actor, and after shooting wrapped I worked with the editor to put the movie together. After this picture I worked mostly on Frankie Chan's films for Always Good Productions. Then Danny Lee came and we worked together on OH, MY COPS! (1983). Danny Lee is part of the second generation of Chang Cheh, so we knew each other already. This was just before Danny began working with John Woo. So after OH, MY COPS! (1983) and LAW WITH TWO PHASES (1985)--Danny won Best Actor on this one and I handled the production as well--he set up his own company with Golden Princess called Magnum Films. The first movie for Magnum was ROAD WARRIORS (1987).

V5: You were a leading actor in this one. Can you discuss this production?

JKLM: I already worked alongside Danny a lot at Shaw Brothers with Director Chang and others. He got in touch with me one day to tell me to come to his office. I had helped him a lot at Golden Princess, and his new company was also under their umbrella. I knew everything about their working procedures so I ask him, "What should I do this time?" And Danny says to me, "I need you to act in a movie for me and play one of the highway patrol". I remember one morning we were shooting a riding scene and I was running late getting to the set. I quickly put on my police uniform and I'm rushing to get to the set when a real policeman stops me and asks, "Ah! Why are you dressed like that?! (laughs) Next time, don't dress like this on the street! Wait till you get to the studio (laughs)!"  (Top: Jaime in Danny Lee's ROAD WARRIORS; Insert: Jaime in Patrick Yuen's THE FIGHTING FOOL)

Another time we were shooting in a real police station. Everybody's lined up and I'm on this Honda 650, I think. I'm supposed to drive and then turn and I keep going and they're yelling for me to stop and I forgot how to stop (laughs). I almost crashed into a real police wagon and stopped just before.

Another time we're shooting on the highway at midnight. I ask Danny what he wants me to do and he says, "Just follow me". I'm on the motorcycle and Danny is going faster and faster and I'm going, "This is too fast for me (laughs)!"  It was so funny.

V5: At that time in Hong Kong did you have to get a permit to film on the street like that?

JLKM: In those days we didn't have to have a permit but we did have to notify the police that we would be filming on the street. So no official permit for shooting, but we couldn't put up a roadblock for filming. They'd tell you to be careful and don't disturb the traffic. If we caused a jam or an accident they would shut us down. (Insert: Jaime in Chu Yuan's JADE TIGER)

V5: How did you do the car stunts if you weren't allowed to block out civilian traffic?

JLKM: You just do it. Sometimes we choose a quiet street or somewhere outside the city. If we do a car stunt inside the city.. just do it. And if anything happen just... run (laughs). Today it's different. You can apply and they will try and set a time for you to film on the street.

V5: Going back a few years, you won a Best Screenplay Award for your first movie as a director on LOVE WITH THE PERFECT STRANGER (1985). How did you feel winning an award for your work?

JLKM: Because I had already helped writing scripts for Danny, Sammo, and other directors, I decided to write a script for myself and just follow my instinct. Also, I don't like sad things; I like happy things. I wanted to do a romantic comedy for my first movie as director. And the reason I started my next stage of my career directing a love story is because nobody was expecting it. If I had directed an action movie, nobody would be surprised. I came from Director Chang's company, I did action and stunts, even some time as an Action Director on some movies. So everybody would expect me to do action. I love romantic comedies, myself. I watch them a lot; especially the American Romantic Comedies. Things from Woody Allen and movies like LOVE ACTUALLY (2003). 
I wrote this script myself. Not thinking about winning any awards, I just follow my instincts and passion for this kind of movie. By this time I've already worked a lot outside Shaw Brothers for Golden Princess. So I tell them it is time for me to be a director and I want to shoot this script. They tell me, "Oh, this is just a standard love story. There's no action. It's not suitable for the market right now."  (Top: Jaime in Sun Chung's THE KUNG FU INSTRUCTOR)
Then Lee Pak Ling, remember him, from CENTIPEDE HORROR? He was still working at Shaw Brothers and was very close to Mona Fong. I talk with him and he says to come back and we will try to make it at Shaw Brothers. Derek Yee (Erh Tung Sheng) was the leading actor. So we set up a group of people to pitch the idea to the company. I'm not a good presenter, you know? I'm very bad with that (laughs). The romantic comedy in HK around this time was starting to get better with audiences. I present the idea to them and they ask me how much of a budget do I need. I tell them I don't need much because I can shoot most of the scenes inside Shaw Brothers Studio; that means it costs nothing. You can see the house and some of the offices inside the studio, etc. They give me the go-ahead because they need more productions being made. (Insert: Lee Pak Ling filming THE SUPREME SWORDSMAN in 1979)
But first, there was a requirement that I have a full script beforehand. At that time, shooting outside of Shaw's, many companies didn't require a complete script. Nothing to shoot? It's okay, just set up a fight scene and keep rolling (laughs)! So I ask my friend, Tang Wing Hung, to help write it and we finish it in two to three weeks. Then Shaw's gave us permission to start. (Top: Jaime in Chu Yuan's THE PROUD TWINS)
The funny thing is--this story that nobody knows--and I have to tell you... after my first day of shooting, because I have worked a lot for the independents, they have a different working style from the Shaw's. They were run like a real company. If you start at 7am you have to stop at 5pm. They want to avoid paying too much overtime. So sometimes they would change crews to keep from going into overtime. Also, Chu Yuan, so famous, right? Almost all his shooting was at night. He would start at 3pm and go till midnight, sometimes 1 or 2am. If the start time is 3pm you should be finished by 12am. You then have a two-hour window before the company has to pay extra to all the workers. So... (laughs) after midnight to 1am you would hear someone go, "Ahhhhhh, it's tiiime, it's tiiime!" to let you know it's close to quitting time. Now, if you get close to 2am, you would hear something fall from the sky (makes banging sound).. a piece of wood or a stone hitting the floor (laughs). This is to let the director know he has to stop. It was so funny! (Insert: Jaime with Cheung Kwok Wah in promotion for AVENGING EAGLE)

V5: So this was Shaw Brothers and not the independent company?

JLKM: Yes, Shaw Brothers. At the independent company you just keep going like I told you before when I worked 52 hours. You get paid for all the hours. So there's differences in working outside Shaw Brothers. So, on my first day filming my movie we booked the villa of the leading lady, Wong Siu Fung. We booked the house for one day; and you have to finish in one day. If you work overtime you have to be paid more, right? And also, you'd have to pay double for the rent of the place. I'm shooting early morning until dawn--we wrap and go home. The usual way at Shaw Brothers, for every director... Director Chang, whoever, all the rushes they shot for the day would be developed by midnight and ready by morning. (Insert: Jaime in Chu Yuan's PURSUIT OF VENGEANCE)
The production department, like Mona Fong or, in the early days, Run Run Shaw, they would watch all the rushes in the morning. This would be 7 to 10 movies shooting together. They would check everything. For example, Director Chang's starting and finishing time, how many shots he did, and so on. That was the usual way. After my first day, I went down to the studio and Lee Pak Ling says, "Oh, what about yesterday? Is everything okay? I heard nothing from Mona Fong."  If something is wrong you'd get a call to come up and discuss the problem (laughs). Lee asks me, "Do you remember how many shots you got yesterday?"  I said, "No... I just kept shooting till we finished. How many shots did I do?"  Lee then says to me, "You did 72 shots."  (Insert: Jaime in Li Han Hsiang's THE GHOST STORY)

V5: Seventy-two set-ups? In one day?! Wow...

JLKM: Yes. That included the wide shots and closeups and everything else. I then asked Lee, "Is that normal?" And he says, "...No" (laughs). See, I just kept shooting and shooting and never asked about the number of shots I needed. At Shaw Brothers, every director would do 20-30 set-ups in one day; sometimes a little more. Lee told me, "You did double that". I said "So", and he said, "You passed (laughs)!" After that, Mona Fong never watched my rushes again. Lee told me to just keep doing things like that and I'd be okay (laughs). (Insert: Jaime in Sun Chung's RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH)
Finally, I have assembled my rough cut. At that time, we were still shooting movies without live sound because it cost quite a bit more filming live audio. Lee calls me and tells me Mona Fong wants to see my rough cut. We go to the screening room and the movie begins; no sound or anything. Ms. Fong goes, "Aiyaaa, no sound. Can anybody say some of the dialog?"  I tell her I can do it. So the whole movie, most all the dialog, including the extras dialog, I repeated for her. Occasionally I'd be reciting the dialog and I'd hear Mona Fong... (makes snickering sound)  like that. (Top: Mona Fong in December of 1981; Insert: Jaime in Sun Chung's KID WITH A TATTOO)

V5: (laughs) I take it she was pleased with your movie?

JLKM: Yes. Then after the screening, Lee Pak Ling came back to me and said, "Your film is okay. Nobody will touch your film again (laughs)". It was great! Because some of the directors, after their screening, would be told, "Oh, I don't like this scene", or "this dialog isn't good", all the time. I expected them to find something they didn't like but all I was told was it was okay to proceed to post-production. (Top: Jaime in Lu Chin Ku's LOVERS BLADES; Insert: Jaime in Chu Yuan's MURDER PLOT)

V5: And then to win an award for Best Screenplay afterward...

JKLM: Yes! And Pauline Wong, our leading actress, it was her first film role. She was a model at the time. I saw her on television and when I met with her I told her we didn't have much budget. She told me to just tell her what to do, that she'd try to do what I wanted. She said, "I don't know what to do (laughs)". It was very easy to communicate because it was her first time in a movie. Everything she did came out so natural and so well that she won the Best Actress Award on her first movie. One of the main judges at that time was Li Han Hsiang. After the awards ceremony Li came up to me and told me he had a big argument with the other judges. He said I should've won for Best Director. I told him, "It's fine, I can try again next time". (Top: Pauline Wong; Insert: Director Li Han Hsiang in 1973)
I did get another award for THE CASE OF THE COLD FISH (1995). That was a very good movie. I worked with Danny Lee again, for his Magnum Films Company. We went to many film festivals with that movie. We went to Helsinki in Finland, and Hawaii... we didn't go to Cannes, though. I was busy shooting something else at the time. (Insert: Danny Lee in THE CASE OF THE COLD FISH)
One thing I have to tell you about this movie. We were doing a screening at the Hong Kong Film Festival and there was a Q&A session with me, the director. Many from the UK and America in the audience enjoyed the film because it was a cross-cultural picture between the Chinese and the foreigners. I understand both cultures so it was quite good. It was also a police story--this one taking place in a small village. After the screening somebody asked me what my budget was and I told them US$1 million. They gave me this stunned look and said "Really?!" The company handled the budget, I just asked for what I wanted (laughs). (Top: Michael Wong and Michael Chow have their differences in THE CASE OF THE COLD FISH; Insert: Michael Wong and Shing Fui On)
Then, a few days later I'm in the subway talking with a friend. Suddenly, two foreign girls approach and ask, "Are you Jaime?" And I say, "Yes, is everything alright?" And the ladies say, "We love your movie so much!"  I'm shocked in this moment so I ask what movie they're referring to and one of the ladies says, "THE CASE OF THE COLD FISH". I ask them if they saw it at the festival and they tell me yes and ask for my autograph. It made me so happy because the foreign people enjoyed the movie, not just the local audience. (Insert: Jaime Luk and Lam Fai Wong)

V5: I bet that made you feel good. Such great memories.

JLKM: The old days!

V5: One of your best known films as a director is ROBOTRIX (1991). How did this film come about? Were you influenced by THE TERMINATOR (1984) or ROBOCOP (1987)?

JLKM: You could say that. I made that one for Golden Harvest. It was a made-to-order movie. Mr. Tsai Lan (Chua Lam) called me to come down and talk to him about a film. He said he was interested in doing a co-production with Japan. He had some things already planned out like the storyline and the actresses. He asked me to help him out with the film and I told him just let me do it; so he says to me, "Do it fast" (laughs). I co-wrote the script. It was quite a big production and it shows. 
At that time Golden Harvest had four studios to shoot in. Studios A and B were the biggest. After we did the planning and set design we instruct the crew and they go about building everything. I didn't realize how big everything was going to be. Yuen Biao comes to the set and marvels at the size of the sets. I tell him it's not as good or massive as Jackie's. Biao tells me, "No... you're occupying A and B together. And we are waiting. Hurry up (laughs)!"  It was quite an interesting movie. Tsai Lan told me, "We have to make this movie a Category III". I asked him, "How?" And he says, "You know how (laughs)!"  The actresses knew already. So the violence had to be stronger and there needed to be more sexy scenes. (Top: Jaime in Sun Chung's DESTINY'S CHAMPION; Insert: the lab set in ROBOTRIX)
For example, when the policeman is run over by the car; usually we don't show it in this way with the body being mangled in closeup. With the Category III rating you have to do it. The whole point is showing more violence. It was a good experience with Tsai Lan. We knew each other when we both worked at Shaw Brothers. I remember going to see him in his office many times and he'd be doing calligraphy when I walked in. He handled many big projects, especially with Japan. Another SciFi one he produced was THE CAT (1992).

V5: He worked with the Japanese at Shaw's for some productions.

JLKM: Yes, like THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975), THE SNAKE PRINCE (1976), and THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977). He had a very good working relationship with the Japanese.

V5: How was it working with Amy Yip Ji Mei?

JLKM: She was very good. Just like, "Tell me what to do". She was actually so amazing to direct. She did most all of the action herself. Of course, she had a stunt double, but she did a lot of the action on her own. 

V5: Out of your entire career, which individual was the most influential to you and why? Who did you learn the most from?

JLKM: Of course, it is Director Chang Cheh. Then there's John Woo; he himself was an assistant director to Chang. I was also influenced by Steven Spielberg. The foreign filmmakers too, not just the Chinese directors. A lot of American movies influenced me. As I told you before, I love the American romantic comedies. LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) I love so much. Some of Woody Allen's work is good, but quite a difference to our style. Something like ANNIE HALL (1977)... he's a legend. Oh, Polanski's THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) was a big influence on me--Horror Comedy!

I did some horror comedies like DOCTOR VAMPIRE (1990) and another called REINCARNATION (1987). The last one I got the idea from the Warren Beatty movie HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978). That was a very good film. Actually, one other that may have been the biggest influence on my life in the movies was ROMEO AND JULIET from the 60s. This film was branded into my mind when I was a kid. I was ten years old, something like that. When it came out in Hong Kong I went to the theater to see it six times. In those days, we were watching Director Chang's action movies and suddenly, ROMEO AND JULIET (1968) comes out and blew my mind. It made me think, "Oh, movies are not only action". The script and presentation was so good. Those kinds of movies are so wonderful.

V5: Looking back, do you miss those days compared to now?

JLKM: Yes, I miss those times a lot because now, the way of shooting is a more international style; not like before when it was the Hong Kong way. You asked me before if we had permission to shoot car stunts in the street and I said, "No, you just do it". That's the best time. Sometimes we would shoot a fighting scene with knives out on the street and we'd shoot it in the same way.. nobody knows. Just running into the crowd in the center of the city. We're fighting and there's fake blood spraying and the people look shocked and stunned thinking it's real. The director would yell cut and we'd all run away. (Top: Jaime in Chu Yuan's CONVICT KILLER; Insert: Jaime in Lo Mar's FIVE SUPERFIGHTERS)
V5: Did the public find out later?
JLKM: Sometimes you'd read about it in the news the next day!

V5: It reminds me of Chang Cheh and a very small crew going to San Francisco without a permit to shoot footage of Fu Sheng walking around for THE CHINATOWN KID (1977).

JLKM: They only shot footage of Fu Sheng and no one else and the rest is on a set. It wasn't as modern as it could have been. When they came back to Hong Kong I filmed for one day, maybe two, on that movie. I was also working for other directors during that production. I also managed Fu Sheng's wedding and was the Best Man. I was so sad when he died. (Insert: Jaime Luk in the middle behind newlyweds Fu Sheng and Jenny Tseng)
I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to work with Lu Feng, Kuo Chui, and the others that came from Taiwan. We had a very good relationship; especially Kuo Chui. I worked with him outside Shaw Brothers on other films. This reminds me, the day of Chang Cheh's funeral, everybody in Taiwan came back to Hong Kong to pay tribute to him. EVERYBODY. I was in the main student funeral group. There were so many people there. I have some news clips of the funeral I kept as remembrance of him. He was a very important man in Hong Kong Cinema. (Insert: Jaime in Chang Cheh's THE CHINATOWN KID)

V5: Last question, were you surprised to learn how popular these old movies are after all these years?
JLKM: You could say that; because for me, most of the action films right now are made with an abundance of computer generated imagery. The action itself is enhanced with special effects. In the old days, it was all real action. It was all real martial arts performance. That's the difference. In a fighting scene you can count the number of maneuvers they are doing; sometimes it's over twenty moves before the camera cuts. Today it's not much beyond three moves before the camera cuts. There are more edits than in the old days when you could see the real Kung Fu. That's the reason why people like to watch the old Kung Fu movies. Right now, shooting my movies I use the modern techniques with the computer graphics. And I always tell the stunt kids, "Why can't you do this like the old days for me? Fifty years ago, I did this before (laughs)!"  They can't imagine. They tell me, "Nahhh, it's different now (laughs)". Lovely memories. (Top: Jaime in Chang Cheh's SHAOLIN AVENGERS; Insert: Jaime in David Lam's FIRST SHOT)

I'd like to give an immense and sincere thanks to Mr. Luk for giving so much of his time for this interview. We wish him the best on all his future endeavors. If you'd like to read more about Director Chang Cheh during his period filming in Taiwan for his Long Bow company, you can read our in-depth article HERE.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.