Color, 1978, 115 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Lau Kar-leung
Starring Gordon Liu, Wang Yu, Lo Lieh, Yu Yang
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Dragon Dynasty (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Intercontinental (Blu-ray & DVD) (Hong Kong R0 HD/NTSC), Atlantic (DVD) (Sweden R2 PAL), Ascot Elite (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1980, 101 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Lau Kar-leung
Starring GordonLiu, Lung-Wei Wang, Hou Hsiao
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Dragon Dynasy (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Intercontinental (Blu-ray & DVD) (Hong Kong R3 HD/NTSC), Ascot Elite (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1985, 93 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Lau Kar-leung
Starring Hsiao Hou, Gordon Liu, Chia-Hui Liu, Lily Li
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (Blu-ray & DVD) (Hong Kong R0 HD/NTSC), Ascot Elite (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD)/ WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1979, 115 mins. 36 secs.
Directed by Lau Kar-leung
Starring Lau Kar-leung, Hsiao Hou, Kara Wai, Lo Lieh
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Koch Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1979, 100 mins. 17 secs.
Directed by Mar Lo
Starring Hau Chiu Sing, Tony Lung, Austin Wai, Kwan Fung, Wu Yuan Chun
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1978, 106 mins. 12 secs.
Directed by Chang Cheh
Starring Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Kuo Chui, Lo Mang, Lu Feng, Sun Chen
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1979, 86 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Chang Cheh
Starring Chien Sun, Meng Lo, Feng Lu
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Koch Media (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1979, 105 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Chang Cheh
Starring Feng Lu, Meng Lo, Chien Sun
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1980, 90 mins. 59 secs.
Directed by Chang Cheh
Starring Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Sun Chien, Phillip Kwok Chung-Fung, Lo Meng, Ku Feng
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1981, 119 mins. 12 secs. / 120 mins. 35 secs.
Directed by Lau Kar-Leung
Starring Kara Hui, Hsiao Hou, Wang Lung Wei, Lau Kar-leung, Gordon Liu
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Dragon Dynasty (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1982, 95 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Wong Jing
Starring Ti Lung, Yue Wong, Michael Wai-Man Chan
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1983, 105 mins. 27 secs.
Directed by Chih-Hung Kuei
Starring Phillip Ko, Shao-Yen Lin, Kar-Man Wai, Wang Lung-wei
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1986, 93 mins. 50 secs. / 97 mins. 32 secs.
Directed by Chia-Liang Liu
Starring Jet Li, Jianqiang Hu, Qiuyan Huang
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Dragon Dynasty (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1993, 86 mins. 43 secs.
Directed by Johnnie To
Starring Aaron Kwok, Maggie Cheung, Ti Lung
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Intercontinental (DVD) (Hong Kong R3 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

After warming the The 36th Chamber of Shaolinhearts of Shaw Brothers fans everywhere with its epic and much-needed Shawscope Vol. 1 Blu-ray set, The 36th Chamber of ShaolinArrow Video is at it again with Shawscope Vol. 2, a mammoth heaping of classics focusing on the legendary studio's output from the late '70s to the early '90s. It's a solid mix of to-tier classics and crazy, more obscure cult items, essentially serving as another stacked sampler of Hong Kong action films with a few other genres thrown in for fun.

First up and earning its own standalone disc is one of the crown jewels of the Shaw Brothers library, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which has earned a reputation over the past few decades as one of the greatest of all martial arts films. In his most famous role, Gordon Liu stars as Yude, a young student horrified by the brutal tactics of the Manchu government against his peers and their families. Seeking justice and wounded during his escape, he journeys to the nearby Shaolin temple where the monks reluctantly take him for a year-long, intense training process through its many chambers. Rechristened San Te, he proves to be a sterling but revolutionary student whose path leads to the meaning of the film's title.

Initially released dubbed to U.S. theaters by World Northal as a standard kung fu programmer entitled The Master Killer, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin was released during a particularly productive year for Shaw Brothers that also saw such favorites as Five Deadly Venoms, Crippled Avengers, and Heroes of the East. Its influence has only grown since it first appeared, particularly The 36th Chamber of Shaolinearning popularity in hip-hop culture and inspiring Wu-Tang Clan's debut The 36th Chamber of Shaolinalbum, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), as well as founder The RZA's original score for the film in more recent years.

Hitting Hong Kong DVD as part of the massive ongoing Celestial catalog releases through Intercontinental, the film arrived on legit U.S. DVD from Genius and Dragon Dynasty in 2007 featuring the Mandarin, Cantonese, and English mono tracks, plus a commentary by Andy Klein and The RZA, a "Shaolin: A Hero's Birthplace" featurette (16m41s), interviews with Liu (17m), Klein and David Chute (7m56s), and The RZA (10m14s), a stills gallery, and a Wu-Tang Clan concert video (2m8s). That same package was ported over for a famously cruddy 2010 interlaced Blu-ray with lossy audio that offered no upgrade value whatsoever, while later, very pricey Blu-rays turned up in Hong Kong (along with the two sequels) and, weirdly, in Germany with a converted 3-D option if you're so inclined.

The Arrow Video Blu-ray features a new 4K restoration credited to Celestial Pictures and L’Immagine Ritrovata; the latter's name is enough to strike fear into any film fan's heart due to their rampant destruction of cinematic color schemes, but thankfully this one is a winner and looks excellent throughout. As with the other films in the set, it features the DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono Mandarin and Cantonese tracks, plus the original English dub, with optional translated or SDH (for the dub) English subtitles. The late Travis Crawford contributes what would appear to be one of his final commentary tracks, and it's an excellent companion to the film starting with his thoughts on the story's impact as both an underdog and a training epic before going through its place in the history of Shaolin cinema and the backgrounds of everyone involved. Also included is a 74-minute selected scene audio commentary by Tony Rayns taking a purely historical, straightforward approach to the film's release and Hong Kong history. A very cheerful 2003 interview with Liu for the film's French release (20m51s) by Fred Ambroisine is also included, followed by a French-produced interview with cinematographer Arthur Wong (28m34s) from 2006 (in English) about his family history, entry into the business, and memories of the shoot and his director. The archival "Shaolin: A Hero's Birthplace" pops up again here, followed by another of Celestial's 2005 "Elegant Trails" featurettes, this time featuring Liu (6m23s) goofing around with his guitar. The always welcome soundtrack expert Lovely Jon delivers "Tiger Style: The Musical Impact of Martial Arts Cinema" (37m22s), an exploration of how kung fu cinema music (whether original or library music) not only evolved within the genre but had a seismic effect on dance, hip-hop, and other musical strains. Celestial Pictures' archival 2003 featurette, "Cinema Hong Kong: Swordfighting" (50m21s) features a slew of participants including Liu, director Lau Kar-leung, Cheng Pei-pei, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Kara Hui, David Chiang and more covering the tradition of combat cinema, the major techniques and locations, cultural traditions of chivalry, and Return to the 36th Chambermodern wuxia iterations. Return to the 36th ChamberFinally you get the American Master Killer credits (sourced from a print), a batch of trailers (Hong Kong Mandarin, Hong Kong English, U.S. TV spot, German, and digital reissue), and a 63-image gallery.

Things get much goofier in the film's divisive immediate sequel, Return to the 36th Chamber, which brings back Liu as a different character: Chu Jen-chieh, a con artist posing as a monk who offers to help some workers at a dye mill being treated brutally by management and local Manchu thugs. Posing as San Te, the phony is soon exposed and decides to take up training himself, finding much to his surprise that he might really have something to offer after all.

As long as you're aware of the dramatic tonal shift here, this sequel has a lot of offer including some dexterous physical comedy and some mid-film scaffolding feats that stand up to the training sequences in the Return to the 36th Chamberoriginal film. It's also gorgeous to look at, with the factory scenes featuring an array of eye-popping Return to the 36th Chambercolors worthy of an MGM musical. This one followed the same trajectory as its predecessor, hitting U.S theaters again from World Northal (as Return of the Master Killer) and then hitting the same video labels (minus only a Blu-ray from Dragon Dynasty). Placed on the second disc in the Arrow set, the film looks marvelous here with absolutely searing colors and fine detail throughout, plus the same language options. Extras include another Ambroisine 2003 interview with Liu (14m50s) about the misconception of the film as a direct sequel, a "Citizen Shaw" (57m42s) 1980 French TV doc with Sir Run Run Shaw showing off the studio, and the Celestial DVD extra, "Hero on the Scaffolding" (14m40s), with Liu explaining the execution of the scaffold stunts. Also included are two alternate credit sequences (HK and English), the original Hong Kong and digital reissue trailers, and a 53-image gallery.

Apparently sensing the issues with the last film, Liu and Lau Kar-leung course corrected (sort of) with the third Disciples of the 36th Chamberfilm, Disciples of the 36th Chamber, which shares space on the second disc. Here Liu switches back to his standard role as San Te, here much older and playing second fiddle to gifted Disciples of the 36th Chamberteenager Fong Sai-Yuk (Hou). A bad student and prone to standing up to those pesky Manchus, the kid sneaks out to the famous Shaolin temple where he elaborates on his experiences within earshot of the bad guys. He proves to be a valuable asset to be manipulated to take down the temple, which presses the learned monk into action. There's still a great deal of comedy here and at times it feels more like a period after school special, but the kung fu is enjoyable when it kicks in. This was made as the studio was winding down, and it's often difficult to believe this was actually released in 1985; the fact that the film centers on a fairly snotty main character doesn't exactly endear to fans either. However, if you want to spend more time at the temple, this is a bittersweet farewell to the cycle. The Arrow release looks up to par with the previous film and makes for fun viewing, with the usual three language options. Extras include a fun alternate opening credit sequence (with the late period disco-style SB shield logo) versus the recreated digital opener on the main version, plus the HK and reissue trailers and a 35-image gallery.

One Mad Monkey Kung Fuof the more enduring SB titles on the U.S. drive-in circuit, 1979's comical Mad Monkey Kung Fu puts Mad Monkey Kung FuLau Kar-leung in front of the camera (while still working behind it) as Chen, a stage performer and martial arts master known for his expert monkey style. His performances with his alluring sister, Miss Chen (Wai), make him a target for mobster Tuan (fellow director Lo Lieh) who frames him for rape and has his hands crushed for good measure. The goal is to get the hapless sister to work at a brothel, and Chen is overwhelmed with guilt. After finding a living on the street as a beloved vendor with his pet monkey, but goons who terrorize him are making his life miserable. Enter good-natured pickpocket Monkey (Hou again), who not only lends a hand but becomes his friend. As the brutality increases, the young man begins to take up monkey-style fighting to mete out justice where it's obviously long overdue.

A wild and highly entertaining film, Mad Monkey Kung Fu was a gateway title for a lot of young martial arts movie fans back when it played theaters (and before it became ridiculously hard to find for many years). Not to be confused with another 1979 Shaw Brothers film, Mar Lo's Monkey Kung Fu (though it often is), the film became even more of a sought-after item when it was reviewed by Joe Bob Briggs and popped up in his first book. The eventual unleashing of the Shaw Brothers library by Mad Monkey Kung FuCelestial meant this one finally got a legit home video release on DVD in Hong Kong, while Dragon Dynasty gave it a weirdly bare Mad Monkey Kung Fubones DVD in the U.S. in 2011 (featuring the Mandarin and English tracks). A Blu-ray from Koch Media in Germany had no English subtitle options, but it looked significantly better than the DVDs at least. The Arrow version on disc three looks even better with a crisp new 2K restoration featuring better color timing and detail (see below), and it's nice to finally have the Mandarin, Cantonese, and English tracks all together in one place. It's worth noting that this film has always fallen afoul of the BBFC in the U.K. so if you play the disc in a Region B player, it will still skip past a fleeting bit of animal cruelty involving the monkey being jerked on a leash. (The much more gruesome subsequent two shots are thankfully quite fake and involve no real animals.) A new commentary by the insanely knowledgeable Frank Djeng and Michael Worth covers all the necessary bases including the backgrounds of the two big actor-directors, the period setting, the release history, and the tradition of monkey-themed kung fu and fantasy films in Hong Kong. Rayns also pops up for a new video appreciation of the film (19m56s) covering the "trickster god" concept that's risen in popularity lately, more about the monkey figure in popular culture, and other archetypal connections including Chinese opera. He also touches on the homoerotic elements of Lau Kar-leung's films (and other filmmakers) that have brought up quite a few theories in recent years, including some symbolic flourishes that are pretty tough to overlook. A 2004 French interview with Hsiao Hou (39m59s) is really excellent with lots of anecdotes about his time on this film (his first real lead) and others as he honed his craft beyond his initial experience doing stunts. The welcome team of Grady Hendrix and Chris Poggiali, authors of These Fists Break Bricks, give a thorough and entertaining account of "Shaw in the USA" (32m12s) covering how the already international company became a powerhouse name in American theatrical action cinema. Five SuperfightersFinally you get the HK trailer, the original American trailer, Five Superfightersthe digital reissue trailer, and a 58-image gallery.

Disc three is also home to the previous year's Five Superfighters, which is a Lo Mar film amusingly enough. This one doesn't waste any time by setting up its premise during the opening credits as a lightning-fast, gray-haired stranger in black wanders into a village to shame and pick fights with any martial arts masters and students in sight. After several minutes of mayhem, the local Master Wan (Sing) and his three pupils earn the irrational wrath of the interloper who teaches them a rough lesson. Deciding their dejected master isn't up to the task of helping them get even, the trio split up to perfect their skills in preparation for a rematch.

There isn't much of a plot here, obviously, but the almost nonstop fight scenes are the main attraction here with the film barely pausing for any character development at all. The usual stock music from the De Wolfe library is especially nuts here, often adding a comedic tone and trying to push the film in a goofier direction at times than what the script seems to be intending. Either way, Kwan Fung is a blast as the antagonist who sashays around in his cape and scolds everyone else's kung fu techniques with so much zest you'll wish he had his own sequel. Again the 2K remaster here is beauty compared to the old Hong Kong DVD from 2007 (which, as with all the other masters at the time, was created at PAL speed); all three of the usual language options are here, plus the HK theatrical trailer, a UK VHS promo, and a 57-image gallery.

Invincible ShaolinOn we go to disc four with two films featuring the Invincible Shaolin"Venom Mob," a.k.a. various combinations of cast members who played the Deadly Venoms. First is 1978's Invincible Shaolin from the insanely prolific and influential Chang Cheh. The historically hefty setup is essentially a pretext for lots of training and fight scenes as the unscrupulous Qing General Pu (Lung-Wei) uses old-fashioned manipulation, competition, and covert murder to pit the rival Northern and Southern Shaolin temples against each other. Comprised of several familiar faces, the fighters represent a threat to the evil mastermind and end up training to take each other out -- unless they crack who's really behind the plot first.

Outside of the Hong Kong DVD release, this has been a trickier one to see on home video in good quality until now. The new 2K restoration shines here with the Invincible Shaolinrunning time now at correct film speed, and it's a welcome addition from the golden era of Chang Cheh epics. The combat scenes on the usual studio sets look great here and get surprisingly bloody near the end including plasma-spraying spearings and the world's Invincible Shaolinlongest post-disembowelment fight. As usual you get the (original) Mandarin and Cantonese tracks, plus the best-sounding version of the English dub to date by far; in this case the newly translated English subtitles are especially good as they lay out a lot of detailed context that was glossed over before. A 2003 Ambroisine interview with action director Robert Tai (23m59s) covers his entry into working as a stunt man after studying kung fu, which led to a busy career executing combat scenes for numerous productions including this one. In "Poison Clan Rocks The World" (26m28s), author Terrence J. Brady delivers a video essay exploring how the original Venoms and their actors had professional ties together off camera and ended up having careers weaving in and out with each other. The HK Mandarin trailer and English theatrical and digital reissue trailers are included, plus a 53-image gallery.

The Kid with the Golden ArmThe same disc also contains The Kid with the Golden Armanother Venom Mob favorite from the following year, The Kid with the Golden Arm, a particularly lively offering with a slew of memorable fight sequences including a classic climax. Packing all of the Venoms into the cast, it follows an ill-fated assignment by Yang Hu Yun (Chien) and a gang of recruits to transport a hefty gold shipment to a region hit hard by famine. Among the fighter guards are Golden Arm (Mang), Silver Spear (Feng), Iron Robe (Wei), and Brass Head (Hsuing), each of whom has a different fighting style. Along the way they're attacked and picked off, which indicates there's a traitor in their ranks.

Ornate and packed with twists (some more logical than others), this one has been an understandable cult favorite for ages thanks to its cast and unorthodox whodunit structure. A dubbed version hit theaters from World Northal, and it's been regularly available on home video ever since including a U.S. DVD The Kid with the Golden Armfrom Media Blasters' Tokyo Shock imprint and a German Blu-ray (Mandarin with English subtitles) from Koch Media. That was actually one of the best-looking of all the Shaw German Blu-ray editions, so the Arrow has less room for The Kid with the Golden Armimprovement here apart from some tweaks to the color timing. The Mandarin and English tracks are included here with English subtitles (SDH or translated); in this case the English dub is sloppier than usual so it's mainly recommended for nostalgia purposes. An alternate viewing option is included here via seamless branching to replicate an early home video version (running less than a second shorter) fixing a continuity error in the Iron Robe and Hai Tao fight scene. Also included are the textless and two English opening credit sequences, an audio-only HK trailer, an American TV spot, and the digital reissue trailer, plus a 30-image gallery.

The Venom Mob and Chang Cheh train continues on disc five with another pair of all-star classics starting with Magnificent Ruffians, which rides on the appeal of leading trio Philip Kwok, Magnificent RuffiansChiang Sheng, and Sun Chien as the titular Magnificent Ruffiansstreet rats who don't mind being beaten up by restaurant managers if they can't pay for their meals. They're approached to work as security guards by the unscrupulous Golden Sword (Feng), who sets them up as a means to get a complete monopoly in town. Of course, as it turns out you probably shouldn't try to take advantage of guys who know how to wield axes, sticks, and cleavers. Mixing comedy and violent action, this is a programmer for sure but an endearing one with an impressive acrobatic climax.

Also shown as The Destroyers, this one has been surprisingly under the radar given its credentials; outside of the Hong Kong DVD, it isn't one you'd be likely to stumble across in recent years until the Blu-ray release. The transfer here is up to par with the other ones in the set before it, looking clean and colorful throughout; the Mandarin and English tracks are featured with the usual subtitles. In the new "Rivers and Lakes: History, Myth & The Martial Arts Film" (22m34s), author Jonathan Clements takes a look at the integration of Chinese history into these films including the real background of Shaolin temples, showing how the recreations versus real locations were assembled and what the relationship is between fact and fiction. The HK trailer, German trailer, and a Ten Tigers of Kangtung46-image gallery Ten Tigers from Kangtungare also included.

Even more stars get packed into Ten Tigers of Kwangtung, which brings in stalwart stable stars Ti Lung and Alexander Fu Sheng for a fight-filled extravaganza that fits the bill if you soldier through the story's more muddled sections. During the Qing dynasty, a vengeance-seeking warrior and his nephew serve as the framework for the story of the Ten Tigers, a group of gifted Guangdong Province martial artists whose anti-authoritarian tactics made them ongoing targets throughout their lives. Shot primarily in 1978, the film was plagued with production difficulties (most notably one of several major injuries to Fu Sheng, who died in 1983) that left it incomplete until its 1980 release with the wraparound story more or less hammering it into a coherent narrative. That unavoidable bumpiness aside, the highlights here are worth it -- especially an outrageously violent gag at the end that has to be seen to be believed.

Ten Tigers from KangtungTen Tigers from KangtungAnother World Northal import, this one did the rounds on DVD from Intercontinental in Hong Kong and Tokyo Shock in the U.S.; however, the new 2K restoration here blows them both away and looks terrific. The Cantonese, Mandarin, and English tracks are included with subs, and Brandon Bentley provides a new, extremely fast-paced and dense commentary that not only draws on material from his book on Fu Sheng but fires out tons of trivia about nearly every single person involved with the production. An interview with star Chin Siu-ho from 2003 by Ambroisine (21m17s) about his martial arts training and the collaborative nature of his Shaw Brothers projects, both during and after his Chang Cheh era. Also included are a textless title sequence, Cantonese and Mandarin trailers, a U.S. TV spot, the digital reissue trailer, and a 31-image gallery.

Occupying its own disc on number six is a particularly beloved Shaw Brothers title, My Young Auntie1981's My Young Auntie, a strong star vehicle for Kara Hui. We're back in My Young AuntieLau Kar-leung territory again for this playful saga about Cheng Tai-nun (Hui), a provincial martial arts talent who has inherited a valuable house and farm from her late husband-- who was intent on keeping it from the mitts of his wicked brother, Yu (Wei). Nicknamed Auntie, she goes into Canton to visit her nephew, Yu (Kar-leung), and his immature son (Ho), who are far more cosmopolitan. When Auntie's property becomes the target of her persistent brother-in-law, a martial arts battle of wits between them all ensues.

A great gateway film for casual viewers who might not be familiar with the Shaw Brothers style (especially the much more dense Shaolin stories), this one offers a nice balance of comedy and action with Hui making for a very appealing, fast-kicking lead. The conflict with her younger relative gives the film some interesting shading, and while it's strange how Hui doesn't really partake in the big finale, it's easy My Young Auntieto see why she got My Young Auntieso much attention for this production (and starred in another solid one soon after this, The Lady Is the Boss). Though not exported as widely as many of its fellow classic features, this one turned up on Hong Kong DVD and in a surprisingly robust U.S. DVD from Dragon Dynasty featuring a commentary by Andy Klein and Elvis Mitchell, interviews with Hui (13m5s) and Chute and Klein (7m36s), two trailers (theatrical and home video), and a gallery. The Arrow release, which looks and sounds excellent as expected (with the usual Mandarin, Cantonese, and English options). Rayns provides a new select-scene commentary (46m43s) about Hui's two big starring features, the relationship between dance and martial arts, and the background of early '80s Shaw Brothers, while Hui appears for a different 2003 Ambroisine interview (29m20s) about her dancing background, her relationship with Kar-leung, and the choreography process of the kung fu scenes. The 2003 Celestial featurette, "Cinema Hong Kong: The Beauties of the Shaw Studio" (53m45s), opens with a Run Run Shaw vintage interview about the process of casting actresses, which segues into a look at some of the female icons from trailblazers like Lily Ho through the many "homegrown film stars" who became familiar faces from the '60s through the '80s. A standard def alternate version of the film is also included, clocking in a bit longer at 120 minutes and featuring some bits apparently not included in the original negative. Finally the disc wraps up with an alternate main title sequence, Mercenaries from Hong Kongthe HK and digital reissue trailers, and a 31-image gallery.

Mercenaries from Hong KongA lot of fans will probably find reason enough to snag this set with the contents on disc seven; just as Mighty Peking Man was the odd movie out in volume one, here we jump away from the martial arts arena for a mind-melting double feature from completely different genres. First up is the action frenzy of Mercenaries from Hong Kong, a violent caffeine rush of a crime film from director Wong Jing (Royal Tramp, God of Gamblers). Feeling very much like a '70s Italian action film in tone, this one starts off with a bang as vengeful hit man Luo Li (Lung) totes a shotgun into an apartment complex to force a ruthless drug-pushing pimp to swallow his stash. After much blasting and blood spattering we get to the nitty gritty as our antihero, now being chased by the mob, is hired to round up a bunch of mercenaries to rescue a woman's dad in Cambodia. Mostly though it's an excuse for car chases, motorcycle chases, explosions, fuzz guitar music, zany plot Mercenaries from Hong Kongtwists, and a massive body count.

Despite having an English dub created, this one only got limited exposure back in 1982 but proved to be a big discovery when it finally Mercenaries from Hong Konghit Hong Kong DVD. Hopefully its reputation will continue to soar with its Blu-ray release here, with the 2K restoration improving on the SD predecessor in detail and particularly color timing with lot of ruby reds giving it a real visual punch now. (It's also worth noting this runs five minutes longer, primarily due to no longer being a PAL master.) The Mandarin, Cantonese, and English tracks are all here, and the new subtitles are a big step up from the old Region 3 ones. A 2010 interview with action director Tong Kai by Ambroisine (28m50s) about the differences (or lack thereof) between Cantonese and Mandarin films, the evolution of budgets and shooting times over the years, and key figures he worked with at the studio. The original Hong Kong trailer and a digital reissue trailer are included, plus a 28-image gallery.

Now we get to the big draw here for fans of horror and way-out cinema: The Boxer's Omen, one of the most-requested Blu-ray upgrade titles from the Shaw Brothers library. The Boxer's OmenNever theatrically exported to the U.S., this one blew a lot The Boxer's Omenof minds when it hit Hong Kong VCD and then got a stateside DVD from Image Entertainment (with both a mono track and a rejiggered 5.1 option, plus production stills and lobby cards). Image Alejandro Jodorowsky helming a Hong Kong black magic film and you're in the ballpark of this indescribable celluloid freakout, which features more brain-sizzling imagery than most viewers can accommodate. One of the wildest Shaw Brothers directors, Kuei Chih-Hung pulled out all the stops with films like Hex, Bewitched, The Bamboo House of Dolls, Corpse Mania, The Killer Snakes, and three entries in the excellent The Criminals series. However, there's nothing else out there quite like The Boxer's Omen, which is impossible to adequately synopsize but let's give it a go.

In the opening minutes we have the legendary Bolo Yeung landing a nasty sucker punch on rival Chan Wai (Lung-wei) in the ring, so the wounded boxer asks his gangster brother, Chan Hung (Ko), to help him seek payback. However, the latter's trip to Thailand following a ghostly visitation at home takes a surreal turn when he ends up at a Buddhist temple. There he's induced into becoming a supernatural monk to battle the forces of a group of black magic wizards involved The Boxer's Omenin a long-running The Boxer's Omencurse on his own family. Enter the slime-slurping spiders, alligator skulls, malignant flying severed heads, sex scenes, barfing, maggots, and a scene-stealing naked witch with gigantic fingernails.

Slimy and gross yet weirdly spiritual and beautifully mounted, The Boxer's Omen is a five-course horror feast with a sense of spectacle that truly has to be seen to be believed. The array of monsters and wild production design on display should have been enough to make this a huge midnight movie, but for whatever reason this still remains one the dedicated have to seek out. The Arrow release marks the first special edition anywhere of the film (as well as its Blu-ray debut) with a very bold-looking new 2K restoration and both the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks. You also get a valuable and enthusiastic Travis Crawford commentary covering the director (including Bewitched, to which this is sort of considered a sequel), the joys of walking bat skeletons, the Buddhist themes in the story, and connections to other works of international extreme horror. A Tony Rayns appraisal of Kuei Chih-hung (21m2s) provides more info about the director and his visceral horror approach, as well as his own religious outlook (or lack of) and the tradition of black magic in Hong Kong genre cinema. Also included is an alternate version of the apartment sex scene (1m57s) with an extra shot featured in the Taiwanese VHS release, plus two Hong Kong trailers (the first one is a doozy!) Martial Arts of Shaolinand a 30-image Martial Arts of Shaolingallery.

Finally we get to the end of the Shaw Brothers road on disc eight with another double feature. Martial Arts of Shaolin, is a very late entry from 1986 with a young Jet Li as a Shaolin monk in training, Lin Zhi-Ming, first seen pulverizing a huge book and a tree with his fists. A star pupil and orphan, he ends up deciding to slip into a birthday celebration to take out the man responsible for his parents' deaths; however it turns out there are already other assassins around who carry a key to more details about his past as well as the conflict between his rebellious side and his Shaolin teachings.

Markedly different in look and feel from the prior films in this set, this entry (which follows two previous Li films, Shaolin Temple and Kids from Shaolin, but isn't a sequel) points the way to where Hong Kong action films would be heading. It's also an adieu for director Lau Kar-leung, who would keep going elsewhere with several notable films including the masterpiece Drunken Master II and a reunion with Liu with Drunken Monkey. Obviously Li became a much bigger international name Martial Arts of Shaolinafter this one, so it's been readily available on DVD in several global editions over the years including a Dragon Dynasty option in the Martial Arts of ShaolinU.S. The Arrow edition looks quite opulent - that party scene! - and makes the most of the striking location shooting in the Forbidden City, which is truly a treat for the eyes. Again the three language options are all included here with subs, while Jonathan Clements provides a very lively and well-informed commentary about the logistics of the shoot (apparently just before Bernardo Bertolucci took it to another level with The Last Emperor), the ethical questions of Buddhism at play here including the consumption of animals, and the early stages of Li's careers. A video piece by Rayns (29m40s) continues some of those threads, explaining how the film was sold at the time, the social perceptions of audiences upon its release, and the evolution of the Shaolin adventure to that point versus its heyday in the '70s. An Ambroisine interview with screenwriter Sze Yeung-ping from 2004 (42m15s) covers his own contributions as well as his appreciation for kung fu films going back to the '20s, as well as noting his work in other genres like musicals and melodramas. An alternate "unrestored" SD version (in Cantonese or English) is also included for posterity; it's in pretty rough shape but welcome to have as it includes five minutes of footage apparently only present in the film's initial engagements. The Hong Kong and Japanese trailers are included along with a The Bare-Footed Kiddigital The Bare-Footed Kidreissue one and bonus ones for Li's prior two Shaolin Temple films, followed by a 46-image gallery.

Finally we get to an epilogue of sorts with 1993's The Bare-Footed Kid, which feels miles away stylistically from anything else in the set. A remake of 1975's Disciples of Shaolin with Alexander Fu Sheng, this was directed by the legendary Johnnie To right after The Heroic Trio. Living on the street, the destitute young Kuan (Throw Down's Kwok) becomes entangling in intrigue when he becomes employed at a weaving factory tied to illicit gambling, which also factors in a business feud involving factory owner Pak (Maggie Cheung, no less). Ti Lung turns up and excels in a couple of fight scenes to remind you of the film's ties to classic Shaw Brothers, and as the informative commentary by Frank Djeng on the Arrow Blu-ray points out, it's a mixture of modern '90s camera movements with the bright primary colors of kung fu classics to give it a distinctive feel of a cinema in transition.

The studio itself had been shut down and was about to be parceled out by this point, but the presence of the logo at the beginning still makes it an official entry more or less within the Celestial catalog. The transfer here looks great and improves on the meager predecessors (a Hong Kong DVD and VCD), and in addition to that commentary, there's another Rayns analysis (16m28s) about To's early career, the remaining elements of Shaw Brothers at the time, and the shift to the The Bare-Footed Kidhome video market that was in full swing at the time. Also included are a standard def alternate opening credit sequence (3m11s), three trailers The Bare-Footed Kid(HK, UK VHS promo, digital reissue), and a 31-image gallery. As usual, the limited edition box is a collector's item in itself with an illustrated 60-page ’ book featuring new essays by David Desser, Jonathan Clements, Lovely Jon and David West, plus cast and crew listings and notes on each film by Simon Abrams. As with the first set, it's actually ten discs since you get two bonus CDs packed with De Wolfe library music tracks heard in The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, Five Superfighters, Invincible Shaolin, The Kid With The Golden Arm, Return To The 36th Chamber, Magnificent Ruffians, Ten Tigers from Kwangtung, My Young Auntie, Mercenaries From Hong Kong and Disciples Of The 36th Chamber.





MAD MONKEY KUNG FU (Arrow Blu-ray)

Mad Monkey Kung FuMad Monkey Kung FuMad Monkey Kung Fu Mad Monkey Kung Fu Mad Monkey Kung Fu

MAD MONKEY KUNG FU (Koch Media Blu-ray)

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The Kid with the Golden ArmThe Kid with the Golden ArmThe Kid with the Golden Arm The Kid with the Golden Arm The Kid with the Golden Arm


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MY YOUNG AUNTIE (Arrow Blu-ray)

My Young AuntieMy Young AuntieMy Young Auntie My Young Auntie My Young Auntie

MY YOUNG AUNTIE (Dragon Dynasty DVD)

My Young AuntieMy Young AuntieMy Young Auntie My Young Auntie My Young Auntie


Mercenaries from Hong KongMercenaries from Hong KongMercenaries from Hong Kong Mercenaries from Hong Kong Mercenaries from Hong Kong


Mercenaries from Hong KongTHE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLINMercenaries from Hong Kong Mercenaries from Hong Kong Mercenaries from Hong Kong

THE BOXER'S OMEN (Arrow Blu-ray)

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THE BOXER'S OMEN (Image Entertainment DVD)

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Reviewed on November 20, 2022