Shawscope Volume One: Limited Edition Box
review by Bobby Blakey
I love all things martial arts and grew up with the iconic Kung-Fu Theater on TV that often times featured films from The Shaw Brothers. Fans of the famed movie studio will no doubt be excited for the upcoming release of the Shawscope Volume One: Limited Edition Box Set.
For those that don’t know, the studio officially originated in 1958 as the successor to the Tianyi Film Company. Under the leadership of Run Run Shaw, the company popularized kung fu films and launched many careers of some of Hong Kong's biggest stars. The studio's films have had a lasting impact, going on to influence the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Wu-Tang Clan. With the release of Shawscope Volume One, Arrow looks to shine a much-deserved light on 12 kung fu classics from the Godfathers of Hong Kong Cinema.
This set includes a variety of films from their archive including Deadly Venoms, Shaolin Boxer and so many more making this a must have set for martial arts fans everywhere. I could go on and on with my love for their films, but since there are so many here just want to highlight some of my favorites and the overall look and tone of the set.
I love all these films but King Boxer, also known as Five Fingers of Death is an iconic entry from the Shaw Bros that is not only great, but as a huge fan offers up one of the earliest appearances of the always awesome Bolo of Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport fame. That alone is enough for me to be a fan of this film even though it’s a quick appearance, but the film also offers up plenty of great action. There are some great memorable moments that clearly influenced Kill Bill, The Last Dragon and more.
This one pulls no punches with a brutal sequence of his hands being beaten that’s not overly visual, but shot so great for the time that you still feel his hands being smashed. Of course there are some great moments of multiple people’s eyes being pulled out and tossed to the floor. Like most it also offers up the always great training sequences that make them all the better and of course to make the character learn the lessons outside of just fighting. I love this one and revisiting it is a big reminder to why it is such an iconic film in the genre.
Another highlight for me was Boxer from Shantung that is one of the better of the bunch filled with tons of hyper violent action. The story is one we have seen a 100 times over typically in mob flicks of the low end guy working himself up the ranks to run things. This brings a fun narrative to the flick and plenty of moments to get the fists flying.
The final fight sequence in the movies is outstanding featuring one man versus a hatchet gang that lasts well over 10 minutes and is great fun to watch. The ending wasn't what I was expecting, but is damn entertaining and pulls no punches. Heroes of the East showcases a wide variety of styles showcased. The story is silly in the genesis of why they are fighting, but worth the fun anyway. It’s a fun discovery of style vs style as the always great Liu searches for each Chinese style to match the next Japanese fighter that is filled with great fights and a plethora of weapons.
Lastly was another I had never seen, Dirty Ho. This is one I had never seen and loved the mix of humor and martial arts. They offer up some truly brilliant choreography here with most not even being full on fights but just attempts to taunt or test each other. Make no mistake there are some full on ass beatings, but it all meshes together really well to make for an entertaining and sometimes silly flick. Despite being a comedy there is a darker direction to this film by the ending that helps it to stand out to something more than just throwaway laughs. These films usually offer up great training sequences and this one is no different with some great ones. The final fight is a blast to watch taking a more serious tone while still being lighthearted.
I could go on and on but thought I would just highlight these as some of the most I enjoyed. They are all great with The Mighty Peking Man being an interesting choice as the only non-martial arts themed film in the collection and a nice variety. I know the Five Deadly Venoms is no doubt one of the most well-known kung-fu flicks of all time, but wanted to showcase some others that haven’t gotten enough praise in this collection.
This 10-disc mega-box set containing 8 Blu-rays and 2 CD limited-edition set includes hours of bonus content including new and archived interviews, newly commissioned artwork for each film, and a 60-page booklet with writing on the films, including cast and crew info and trivia. This is the first of multiple Shawscope volumes Arrow plans to release in the future and one that any martial arts lover must have in their collection.
Bring home the Shawscope Volume 1: Limited Edition Box Set on December 28th from Arrow.