Several years before the martial arts film craze erupted in the U.S. in the early seventies, Chinese action films classified as wuxia, a combination of sword fighting and martial arts in a period setting featuring noble anti-heroes, were already dominating the Hong Kong film industry. The masterminds behind this new trend were Runme and Runde Shaw, who had initially founded the Tianyi Film Company in Shanghai with their brother Runje in 1925. Once they opened their Hong Kong movie studio in 1958, the two Shaw Brothers begin to produce box-office hits like the 1962 historical drama The Magnificent Concubine. Then, the unexpected success of The One-Armed Swordsman in 1967 launched a new action genre for the studio and the floodgates were open. One of the best of these latter efforts is The Boxer from Shantung (1972), which was a major hit in China but is not as well known here. Starring martial arts expert Kuan Tai Chen, the film is a spectacular showcase for the charismatic athlete/performer and a wonderful introduction to martial arts movies produced by the Shaw Brothers.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Arrow Films
Life is a Carnival
Most Japanese film fans and cult movie buffs are certainly familiar with maverick director Seijun Suzuki for his ultra-stylish and unconventional yakuza thrillers Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967). Not as well known are the numerous genre films he was assigned by his studio Nikkatsu in the late fifties/early sixties. One of his most atypical efforts is The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain Pass (Japanese title: Toge o wataru wakai kaze, 1961), which is like a more adult variation on James Otis Kaler’s Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks with a Circus except, in this case, the protagonist is not a kid but a college student majoring in economics. There is also no circus, just a traveling carnival troupe with an uncertain future. Yet, the tone is surprisingly upbeat and cheerful with moments of slapstick comedy, musical interludes, dramatic incidents and a subplot involving competitive yakuza gangs, who are closer to bumbling schoolyard bullies than menacing gangsters.Continue reading
…And You Thought Donald Pleasence Was Creepy?
Angela Pleasence, like her father, has a face made for the cinema though not in the realm of conventional leading ladies. Even as a young actress appearing in bit parts in movies like Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush (1968) and The Love Ban (1973), she was never a winsome ingénue or the lovable girl next store. Her uniquely peculiar beauty – especially those hungry eyes that bore holes right through you – must have somehow hindered her movie career because her film roles have been few and far between. She is mostly remembered for her television work, particularly her role as Catherine Howard in the 1970 TV mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, but she should have had the film career her father had on the basis of Symptoms (1974) alone.Continue reading