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Monday, January 25, 2016

Movie Talk - Shaw Brothers' Movies

I told ya I wasn’t done with the Shaw Brothers. For those who don’t know, Shaw Brothers Ltd. was a movie studio that produced a ton of movies in the 20th century. While they may be best known for their kung fu movies from the 1970’s, they started churning out movies long before then. They actually stopped producing movies in 1987 to work on television productions. I hadn’t really heard of the company all that much.  I know I’ve had to have seen some movies that were made by them before Netflix.

The 36 Chamber trilogy of movies were just a small bit of what the studio did martial arts-wise. I don’t know how many martial arts movies they did, but it was a lot. Recently, I noticed that Netflix has started to put a lot of these older movies on there, so I decided to watch some of them. I have to say that I was quite surprised by what I found. The movies I’ll be talking about today are Shaolin Martial Arts, Kid with the Golden Arm, and Five Deadly Venoms.

Shaolin Martial Arts
Shaolin Martial Arts was released in 1974. I don’t know many of the actors but Gordon Liu (San Te from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) had a small role in it. In the movie, trouble starts to brew between the Shaolin students and the ruling Manchu clan. The Manchus eventually declare war on the Shaolin and a lot of the students and teachers are killed. It gets worse especially when the Manchus send a couple of deadly martial artists to do the rest in. Only a couple Shaolin students survive. In order to avenge their fallen brothers, they have to master certain styles of kung fu.

I thought this one was pretty good. The story is well-told. I liked the heroes in the story who were played by Chi Kuan-chun and Fu Sheng.  You really didn’t know which of the Shaolin students would make it at points. I liked most of the supporting characters too. One of them provided some much-needed funny moments. I also liked the villains especially the two experts that got brought in. I kind of had to laugh at the expert whose whole body was pretty much invincible.
You can definitely tell that guy at the right is evil. He's got that look.

 The fight scenes were pretty good.  They all were well done and pretty exciting. The training scenes for both heroes were well done as well. I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. It has a simple story but I will say it is well told. Other than that, there isn’t really much more to say about the movie.  It’s a pretty good one to check out.

Kid With The Golden Arm
Kid With The Golden Arm was released in 1979. It actually features a lot of the actors from the next movie I’ll talk about in a minute. In the movie, the Chinese government has a few operatives escort cargo to a famine stricken area of the country. Unfortunately, the operatives have to deal with the Chi Sha gang who want to steal the cargo for themselves. Luckily, the operatives have help from a government agent who has a love for the liquor. Men are lost on both sides of the conflict as the cargo moves closer to its final destination.

I thought this was good but it’s my least favorite of these three movies. The story was okay for the most part. It tries to provide some twists. I did like a lot of the characters to this one. Hai Tao, the drunken agent, was pretty hilarious. He may have been a drunk, but he was probably the smartest hero around. I also liked Silver Spear and Short Axe. The villains were pretty comic book-y and I did like that. When you got guys called Iron Robe, Golden Arm, and Brass Head, it makes you wonder if the Adam West Batman is going to show up.
Yes, the movie ends like this and it is kinda perfect.

The fight scenes were also pretty good. Just know that there are a lot of them. That brings me to my dislikes. There were things I really wasn’t a fan of though. The story is a bit light. The movie is full of fights and that does get a bit taxing after a while. There were also some characters I wasn’t a fan of. The hero in white was pretty annoying and I wasn’t sad when he died. Overall, this was a fine movie but it just felt too action-heavy for me.

Five Deadly Venoms
The final movie for this post was released in 1978. It’s revolves around five fighters who use moves that are derived from poisonous animals: centipede, toad, snake, scorpion, and lizard. Their dying teacher sends his last student out on an important mission. He’s worried that his former pupils have been using their skills for evil and he wants his last student to find the good pupils. He doesn’t know who they are since they all wore masks during their training. The student eventually stumbles upon the five students and has to team up with the remaining good guys to stop the bad ones from doing their evil deeds.
Hey, it's the new season of Power Rangers!

Man, this thing was hard to synopsize within a few sentences. Luckily, that’s not a bad thing because I really enjoyed this movie. With the dudes jumping around everywhere and wearing masks, you’d think that it would be light on story. It’s actually far from that. The story is really good and it’s got some suspense to it since you don’t know who all of the ex-students are at first. You get treachery, backstabbing, corrupt judges, and all that. You kind of wonder if the heroes are going to make it out alive by the end.
Hmm... that's weird!

I liked the heroes to the story. The evil students were also interesting since they had their own codes and ways of doing things. There aren’t too many fight scenes here since the story takes up a lot of time. The fight scenes that are here are pretty good. The choreography and weapon play made for some good viewing.  There really wasn’t anything bad about the movie. I did think that things got a little rushed toward the end. Other than that, this was really good.

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In the end, these were good for the most part. If you’re curious about them, then you have my approval. Netflix has other movies done by the Shaw Bros., so I’ll be checking the rest out some day. Well, I’m off for tonight. Peace, God Bless, and be wary of organizations that have guys called Iron Robe and Brass Head. They may be evil kung fu fighters or evil news people.


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