DVD Corner's blog

News, dvd and blu-ray reviews

Shawscope Volume 1 Blu-ray Review

Shawscope Volume 1 is a must own for kung fu fans.

The Shawscope Volume 1 Blu-ray set contains 12 films from the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio dating from 1972-1979. The studio was primarily known for producing martial arts films and 11 of the films here are indeed martial arts movies, but there’s also a Kaiju film present. What all is in this set, you ask? Allow me to break it down.

“King Boxer” (which is more known for its alternate title “Five Fingers Of Death”) revolves around a fighter (Chi-Hao) who is sent by his current Master to train at another institute with the hopes of winning a fighting tournament and warding off a power hungry school that doesn’t play by the rules. In order to have a chance to win, Chi-Hao must learn the Iron Fist technique.

“The Boxer From Shantung” finds Ma Yongzhen seeking fortune in Shanghai but falls in with gangsters instead. It’s a darker morality story with an unhappy ending.

“Five Shaolin Masters”- 5 students escape the destruction of their Shaolin temple. In order to defeat those responsible, the survivors must hone their own unique martial arts skills.

“Shaolin Temple” involves new recruits at a Shaolin Temple that is threatened by the Qing rule. Expect lots of drama, double crossing, and, of course, fighting.

 “Mighty Peking Man” is the only non martial arts movie here. This is actually the aforementioned Kaiju film which is basically one big “King Kong” knockoff. The plot revolves around a giant ape and a jungle woman (Samantha) who encounter the greedy Lu Tien who wants to capture them both.

“Challenge Of The Masters” has a similar plot to many other martial arts films in that its hero (Wong Fei Hung) seeks martial arts training from a Master and gets caught in a heated school rivalry.

“Executioners From Shaolin” is largely a generational family tale involving revenge against the villainous Bai Mei who destroyed the Shaolin Temple and many of its members.

“Chinatown Kid” finds the titular character (Tam Tung) venturing from Hong Kong to San Francisco to avoid gangs. Alas, he runs into more gangs in SF.

“The Five Venoms” (which is known more as “Five Deadly Venoms”) begins with a dying Master asking his current student (Yang Tieh) to locate 5 previous pupils who are all masters of their own styles- Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad. If any of them are evil, the Master instructs Yang to kill them. As Yang Tieh embarks on a quest to find the 5 pupils, he becomes caught up in their drama that involves murder, corruption, back stabbing and treasure seeking. 

“Crippled Avengers” involves a cruel martial artist (Du Tiandao) who disfigures 4 men. The 4 martial artists find strength through their disabilities and begin to train to hone their skills to eventually combat Du.

“Heroes Of The East” is about a married couple (Ho Tao and Yumiko), their cultural differences, and their individual martial arts styles that eventually lead to a feud in which Ho Tao faces off against a group of Japanese martial arts Masters led by Yumiko’s teacher.

“Dirty Ho” revolves around a wealthy Prince (Mr. Wang) who recruits a thief (Mr. Ho) to act as his bodyguard.

Although some of these films are certainly better than others (I’ll get to that shortly), each and every one is filled with entertainment. When you watch a martial arts film, you primarily want one thing- action. If you get a good original story and well developed characters, that’s a bonus, but when it boils down to it- martial arts movies thrive on action and all of these films are loaded with it. Whether you’re looking for hand to hand combat, weapon battles, or even a giant Kaiju, the Shaw Brothers knew how to deliver the goods. 

In terms of the best entries in this set, there are a few. First and foremost, “Heroes Of The East” really took me by surprise. It almost feels like 2 movies in one as the first half is a sort of screwball comedy about marriage and culture with the second half being an awe-inspiring collection of several fight sequences with numerous weapons and fighting styles on full display. It’s the most satisfying film on this set. “Mighty Peking Man” is cheesy as can be and yet it’s hard not to get swept up by this “King Kong” wannabe (although I may be biased as a Kaiju fan). “The Five Venoms” is one of the most celebrated films on this set and for good reason. Not only does it have the most intricate story, but it features truly intense fight sequences (especially in the climax). Lastly, there’s “King Boxer” which may have a rather traditional story, but is a notable and influential entry in the Kung Fu genre (and one that inspired Quentin Tarantino) due to its action and a memorable performance by underrated star Lo Lieh.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p for all 12 films. How do they look? 7 films here have been given 2K restorations- “King Boxer,” “The Boxer From Shantung,” “Challenge Of The Masters,” “Chinatown Kid” (International version), “The Five Venoms,” “Crippled Avengers” and “Dirty Ho.” Naturally, those prints are generally the most pristine looking, but really, I was blown away by all of these transfers. Having grown up in the VHS era, I saw some truly dreadful prints of kung fu and Shaw Brothers movies. Seeing these films so loving restored was a real treat.

Audio Track: Mandarin and English 1.0 DTS-HD MA tracks for all and Cantonese tracks for ‘Challenge,’ ‘Venoms,’ ‘Heroes’ and ‘Dirty.” How do they sound? To be honest, whichever Uncompressed track you pick is a good albeit not flawless option. Some of the audio has noticeable flaws or scratches, but there’s no denying that the audio has been cleaned up.

Extras:
* 2 CD soundtracks. The first disc contains tracks from “Shaolin Temple,” “Mighty Peking Man,” and “Chinatown Kid.” The second disc contains tracks from “The Five Venoms,” “Crippled Avengers” and “Dirty Ho.”
* A long booklet featuring photos, restoration notes, an essay about Shaw Brothers Studios by David Desser, credits, trivia, a synopsis and notes on each film in the set, an essay about the stars of these films by Terrence J. Brady and an essay by James Flower about English dubbing.
* Image galleries for all films.
* Alternate opening credits for “Five Fingers Of Death,” “Five Masters Of Death,” “Shaolin Temple,” “Goliathon,” “Executioners From Shaolin,” “Shaolin Challenges Ninja”. Textless opening credits for “Challenge Of The Masters.”
* US, Hong Kong and German theatrical trailers for “King Boxer” along with US TV and radio spots. Hong Kong and German trailers and a TV spot for “The Boxer From Shantung.” US and German trailers for “Five Shaolin Masters.” Hong Kong and German trailers for “Shaolin Temple.” Hong Kong, US, and German trailers and a US TV spot for “Mighty Peking Man.” Hong Kong trailers for “Challenge Of The Masters.” Hong Kong and US trailers for “Executioners From Shaolin.” Hong Kong, US and German trailers and TV spots for “Chinatown Kid.” Hong Kong and US trailers for “The Five Venoms.” Hong Kong trailers for “Crippled Avengers.” Hong Kong trailer and US TV spot for “Heroes Of The East.” Hong Kong trailer for “Dirty Ho.”
* A 2007 interview with “King Boxer” actor Wang Ping and 2003/2004 interview with director Chung Chang-wha
* New filmed appreciations for “King Boxer,” Chang Cheh, “Challenge Of The Masters” and “Executioners From Shaolin,” “Heroes Of The East” and “Dirty Ho” by film critic/film historian Tony Rayns.
* Commentary tracks- “King Boxer” by author David Desser, “Mighty Peking Man” by Travis Crawford, “Chinatown Kid” (International version) by author Terrence J. Brady and select scene commentary by actress Susan Shaw, “The Five Venoms” by Simon Abrams, and “Heroes Of The East” by author Jonathan Clements.
* A 2005 interview with Chung Chang-wha book author/Korean cinema expert Cho Young-jung.
* a 3 part 2003 documentary series titled “Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu” that includes interviews with legends like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, John Woo, Gordon Liu among others.
* A 2007 interview with “The Boxer From Shantung” actor Chen Kuan-tai, a 2004 interview with assistant director John Woo and a 2003 interview with actor David Chiang.
* A 2007 “The Boxer From Shantung” reunion chat with actors Ku Feng and Chen Kuan-tai
* 2 2003 featurettes on actors David Chiang and Ti Lung.
* A 2003 interview with “Five Shaolin Masters” actor Kong Do.
* Alternate standard definition version of “Shaolin Temple” and unrestored standard definition version of “Mighty Peking Man.”
* Super 8 behind-the-scenes footage of “Mighty Peking Man.”
* A new interview with “Mighty Peking Man” suit designer Kaizo Murase and 2003/2004 interviews with director Ho Meng-hua and actor Ku Feng.
* A 2002 interview with “Challenge Of The Masters” star Gordon Liu
* A 2007 interview with “Executioners From Shaolin” actor Chen Kuan-tai
* A 2005 featurette on actor Fu Sheng.
* 2 cuts of “Chinatown Kid”- The 115 minute International version and the 90 minute alternate version.
* A 2003 featurette on director Chang Cheh.
* A 2003 interview with “The Five Venoms” actor Lo Meng.
* A 2003 interview with “Heroes Of The East” actor Yasuaki Kurata.

January 19, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: