Why Watch? A few years ago I had the extreme pleasure of seeing a vintage Shaw Brothers movie that I wasn’t allowed to talk about because a theater — let’s call it the Schmalamo Schmafthouse — was working out a deal to secure a lot more reels. There was so much magic in it. Not only the gorgeous fight choreography, but also the sheen of creative aggression and semi-fantastical adventure. It was a big movie that didn’t feel expensive. A contradiction that must have taken an immense amount of skill.
With a half century of cinema under their black belts, the Shaw Brothers were luminaries in the popularization of kung fu movies, and now The Seventh Art (via IndieWire) has stumbled upon this excellent BBC documentary from 1975 which chronicles star David Chiang’s rise to prominence and the studio’s unusual techniques.
Taste for Adventure; Fists of Fire is an incredible little gem that feeds the body, mind and spirit. Also, people get punched a lot, and Peter Cushing is in it because we get a glimpse of the set for The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. If you didn’t want Count Dracula in your documentary about martial arts, blame Hammer Films.
More than the lesson in the genre masters of the time, it’s also a fascinating time capsule on how we once reported on filmic traditions and pop cultural movements. It’s tough to imagine this same kind of documentary being made today discussing the growing allure of superhero movies, but it’s easy to imagine wanting to commit the rest of the day to Shaw Brothers flicks after this excellent half hour behind the scenes.
What Will It Cost? About 28 minutes.