Admittedly, I know just a few superficial facts about the famed studio from Hong Kong known world wide as the Shaw Brothers. Flash the logo in front of me and I think of the movies that would play on station Buffalo 29 that was picked up locally here in Canada while growing up. They had a time slot that would play the Kung Fu films and cause my parents to turn the channel in kind of a half hearted look of disgust. The other two things that strike me are the fact that Hammer studios joined the Shaw operation to release both The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires and Shatter. Lastly that Five Deadly Venoms is a cult favorite among aficionados and still comes up in conversations I might have with other film fans.
So I thought it was about time to check out some of these Shaw Brothers titles I have acquired since being released under the Dragon Dynasty line for home video which led me to this strikingly photographed tale of murder and revenge from director Chung Sun. Ti Lung stars as an outlaw on the run from his former associates known as the Iron Boat Gang led by Ku Feng as the Master of 13 assassins. He’s trained them from childhood to be master artists in Kung Fu and weapon skills showing no mercy to those he assigns them to kill and rob.
When Ti Lung meets up with an equally skilled warrior with a comedy side to his persona played by Sheng Fu, we shall see Lung’s story told in flashbacks of how he came to be exiled and hunted by his former brothers. Fu appears to have a hidden past himself that will fully develop itself over the course of this ninety minute action packed journey that sees the two become uneasy allies with Lung never quite knowing why Fu is willing to risk his own life when the waves of assassins attempt to either kill or take Lung back to his former Master. The secret that Fu carries with him will become an obvious one as time elapses and will conjure up other titles that you may recall using the same plot twist.
It’s during the key flashback that we’ll see the reasons why Lung is a marked man. While recovering from wounds suffered during a wonderfully staged robbery, Lung finds himself the guest in a home where he sees what he has missed out on. Friendship, family and the possible love of a young woman. In a cruel twist of fate, his Master Ku Feng sends Lung back to the home with his brothers to kill all that live within it. It’s at this point that he swears vengeance on his Master leading to the numerous fights along his journey culminating in the final duel that offers viewers plenty of excitement and tragedy before the curtain comes down.
The fight scenes are well choreographed for this layman and offer plenty of wizardry with slow motion camera work, weapons and just enough blood splashed across the screen without being overtly gory just for the sake of exploitation.
Far from being any kind of a knowledgeable historian on the Shaw Brothers output, I approached this title with a sense of discovery. The colors are vibrant from the outfits on the various characters to the sets, the flags or pennants if you prefer to the temple settings. It’s rich in tone and Ti Lung and Sheng Fu develop an almost “dynamic duo” flavor to their fighting skills which does of course include the backward flips and lunging from the ground to the heights of balconies and rooftops. I think that’s where they lost my parents all those years ago on afternoon television.
Something a bit different here at Mike’s Take On The Movies but a worthy addition to the library here at home and one I would recommend as I continue to search out and rediscover or in this case discover titles from the past. Just like the title of this blog points out.
Oooh, you’re hopefully going to be an even bigger Shaw Bros. fan now. Too many crazy action gems to count, but you know that from those days watching as a kid…
I had seen a couple years ago but other than Five Deadly Venoms, I don’t recall too much. Hammer Films not included as those are required viewing in this household.