Reviews by Country
The Shaw Brothers loved adapting classical stories from Chinese literature and folklore: during their time as a motion picture studio they filmed several stories from the great classical novels (Journey to the West, The Water Margin, The Dream of the Red Chamber and The Golden Lotus, to start with). Hitherto, the only filmed version of Journey to the Westthat I had seen (other than Stephen Chow’s not-exactly-canonical Chinese Odyssey films) was the much-beloved Monkey! TV … (read more)
As they did with their Wuxia box set, Siren Visual have put together a set of five films from the Shaw Brothers with similar themes, packaging them up in rather a nice-looking box set with new artwork and menus on all the discs. This one’s rather less high-minded than the tales of chivalry and heroism in the last one, though — it’s a box of Shaws’ less salubrious fare from the late 70s and early 80s, when they moved … (read more)
Now that Siren have a large catalogue of releases from the celebrated Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong, they’ve started boxing them up into box sets, all the better to tempt you with. Wuxia Stories is the first one, showcasing five films from Shaws’ prolific swordplay director Chu Yuen and one from Cheng Kang, father of action director Ching Siu Tung.
For those readers who aren’t aware of it, wuxia refers to a particular genre of Chinese film and literature, … (read more)
In a departure from the wuxia/swordplay films that he’s best known for, in The Lizard director Chor Yuen brings us a period action film set in 1930s Shanghai. In a city full of wealthy foreigners and corrupt officials, a mysterious figure in black known only as The Lizard flits among the rooftops, stealing from those who don’t deserve their wealth and giving to those in need. Though a hero to the common people, the Lizard is a thorn in … (read more)
The 14 Amazons is one of those films in which Shaw Brothers pulled out all the stops: it’s got a huge cast, quite a bit of location shooting, an epic story and some huge melee battle scenes. Though many would assume from the title that it’s got either a strong feminist or exploitative slant, it’s got neither: instead, it’s a straight tale of heroism and determination that just happens to be centered around a family of women.
Their menfolk are … (read more)
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan is one of Shaw Brothers’ more infamous and influential films, one that shocked audiences when it was released in 1972. It’s since been remade by the same director (as 1984’s Lust for Love of a Chinese Courtesan) and was apparently the inspiration for Clarence Fok’s Naked Killer. It’s garnered its reputation for its marriage of the kung-fu genre with eroticism, usually a recipe for thoroughly B-grade cinema. Intimate Confessions’ acting, production … (read more)
Illicit Desire is another erotic costume drama from Li Han Hsiang, and the third from him that I’ve seen so far that is (at least partly) an adaptation from the same source — The Golden Lotus, as seen also in (unsurprisingly) The Golden Lotus and The Tiger Killer. He even uses some of the same actors, with Tanny Tien Ni, Hu Chin and Chen Ping also in this one.
This film’s a little different, though. It’s essentially three … (read more)
Clans of Intrigue is a later (1977) wuxia/swordplay film from a specialist in this genre, Chu Yuan. And he was a specialist — according to the documentary on the disc, he was generally making seven or eight films at once at any given time for Shaw Brothers, and I can count at least thirty wuxia/swordplay films in his filmography from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties. A large number of these were adaptations from the work of novelist Ku Lung, and this … (read more)