He made it to the Year Of The Horse, but now, in 2014, Run Run Shaw is dead at the enviable age of 106.
There is inadequate space here for me to summarize this life. Run Run and his brother Run Me were the heralded Shaw Brothers, the producers behind many hundreds of movies. At their height they literally were the Chinese film industry. Their studio was most prolific during the 1960s and 1970s, turning out dozens of movies a year. The New York Times today credited the Shaw Brothers with the very creation of the kung fu genre on film. When Run Me passed in 1985, Run Run carried on without his brother. He was a renowned philanthropist, knighted for his work in that arena.
But it’s true — the Shaw Brothers are best remembered for their cinematic peaks, and those most often came with a high kick: THE 36 CHAMBERS OF SHAOLIN. FIVE DEADLY VENOMS. THE MAGIC BLADE. HEROES OF THE EAST. KING BOXER. THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN. THE CRIPPLED AVENGERS. THE FLYING GUILLOTINE. DIRTY HO. (Gotta love that title.) Martial arts was the studio’s specialty, but in truth they turned out all kinds of movies.
Honestly, my own primary familiarity with the Shaw Brothers output comes from the weirdo hybrid pictures that came out of that heady era: THE STRANGER & THE GUNFIGHTER, aka BLOOD MONEY, a kung fu Western starring Lee Van Cleef; THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, a kung fu horror film co-produced with Hammer Studios and starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing; CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, an action sequel set in Hong Kong and starring Tamara Dobson and Norman Fell; and MIGHTY PEKING MAN, a KING KONG knock-off that must be seen to be believed. There’s nothing I love more than a bizarre genre experiment, and the Shaws came up with some of the fizziest anywhere.
All told, the Shaw Brothers produced well over 700 films. The exact number seems to vary. After a couple hundred it probably gets hard to count. Not all of the films were classics, but many were, and it’s a supreme joy to run down the filmography to enjoy some of the titles: THE WINGED TIGER, A TASTE OF COLD STEEL, THE EUNUCH, ANGRY GUEST, LEGENDS OF LUST, VIRGINS OF THE SEVEN SEAS, BIG BROTHER CHANG, RETURN OF THE CRAZY BUMPKIN, CRAZY BUMPKINS IN SINGAPORE, OILY MANIAC, COBRA GIRL, BATTLE WIZARD, SENSUAL PLEASURE, MONKEY KUNG FU, MAD MONKEY KUNG FU, SWORD STAINED WITH ROYAL BLOOD, and THE RETURN OF THE SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN. To name only a few. Please take a moment to read some of the more informed remembrances of Run Run Shaw we’re about to see. It’s fascinating reading.
For now, let’s watch that unforgettable logo another time:
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