The Shaw Brothers Studio (), owned by Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd., was the foremost and the largest movie production company of Hong Kong movies.
From their distribution base in Singapore where they founded parent company Shaw Organization in 1924, and as a strategic development of their movie distribution business in Southeast Asia, Sir Run Run Shaw ( ) and his third brother Runme Shaw ( ) founded South Sea Film ( ) in 1930. It was later renamed Shaw Brothers Studio. The studio released Hong Kong's first movie with sound (which translates as "platinum dragon", or one of the slang terms for a pistol) in 1934, the company's logo borrows from the Warner Bros. Shield.
The Shaw Brothers studio is noted for directors King Hu, Lau Kar-leung and Chang Cheh. King Hu was an early director who is best remembered for his film Come Drink with Me, a martial arts film which differed from those of Chang Cheh in that it featured a capable female protagonist and revolved around romance in the martial arts world, rather than fast paced action and the tales of brotherhood which Chang Cheh would later popularize. Chang Cheh, who was more fond of the latter components, would go on to be Shaw Studios' best known director, with such films as Five Deadly Venoms, Brave Archer (based on the works of Jin Yong), The One Armed Swordsman, and other classics of Wuxia and Wushu film. Almost equally as famous was fight choreographer turned director Lau Kar-leung, who would produce such highly regarded kung fu films as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Eight-Diagram Pole Fighter.
Shaw Brothers was a studio which was modeled after the classic Hollywood system with hundreds of actors signed to exclusive contracts. While other studios rotated a good number of cast members, the Shaw Brothers assigned certain groups of actors to work exclusively with certain directors. The group from the 1978 release Five Deadly Venoms who would become known by that namesake were among the most memorable. These five were Lo Mang, Lu Feng, Sun Chien, Chiang Sheng and Kuo Chui, who had been stars in the Shaw studio for years, but did not become memorable faces until the Five Deadly Venoms. Wei Pai, who played the Snake (referred to as "Number Two" throughout the film "Five Deadly Venoms") was also part of the Venom Mob which numbered over 15 actors which appeared in almost all of the Venom movies.
In the first half of the 1970s two other stars were particularly well known and favoured by Chang Cheh in his movies: Ti Lung and David Chiang. Ti Lung is considered one of the most, if not the most handsome martial arts actor to grace Shaw Studios, but is also accredited as a capable actor who reinforced his muscular glamour with strong characterisation over his many films. Chiang on the other hand was slight and wiry and often played sarcastic anti-hero to Lung's standard archetype. In the middle of that decade the duo were overshadowed by the rise of Alexander Fu Sheng who had played supporting roles opposite them on many occasions. Fu was eventually killed in 1983 in a car accident, at age 28, ending a brief but spectacular career.
Members of the Peking Opera School, including Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, played extras and bit parts in several Shaw Brothers films in the 1970s, although they were obviously unknowns at the time.
Shaw Studios was not well known for female actors, largely due to Chang Cheh's preference for brotherhood tales, and producer Mona Fong's alleged hatred for beautiful actresses. Nonetheless, actresses like Li Lihua, Ivy Ling Po, Linda Lin Dai, Betty Loh Ti, Cheng Pei Pei, Lily Li and Tien Niu appeared in Shaw films. Cheng Pei Pei in particular is relatively well known for her starring role in King Hu's Come Drink With Me, and more recently in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as Jade Fox.
Celestial Pictures acquisition and distribution
Many Shaw Brothers classic films have become subject to bootlegging over the years due to the popularity of particular kung fu/martial arts titles. Celestial Pictures acquired rights to the studio's legacy and is releasing, on DVD, 760 out of the nearly 1,000 films with restored picture and sound quality. Many of these DVDs have come under controversy, however, for remixing audio and not including the original mono soundtracks.
Many landmarks in Hong Kong and Singapore are named especially after Sir Run Run Shaw for his generous contributions to charity and medicare. The Shaw Organisation remains a major distribution network in Singapore today.
Karmaloop TV Secures Licensing Deal with Shaw Brothers
Karmaloop TV, the new multi-platform programming network designed to help operators "reclaim" viewership among the 18 to 34 year old demographic, has announced its first film licensing deal with Celestial Pictures. The Hong Kong based company owns, restores and licenses the world's largest collection of Chinese-made films including the Shaw Brothers library of fan favorite kung fu and action classics such as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Five Deadly Venoms and The One-Armed Swordsman.
The licensing deal with Karmaloop TV also means that kung fu and action film fans in the United States will see these films in their digitally restored versions, many of which will be premiering for the first time on U.S. television in High Definition. The licensed collection includes more than 60 of the greatest martial arts masterpieces, movies which launched the careers of stars like Jet Li, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Alexander Fu Sheng, Gordon Liu and Jimmy Wang Yu.
Shaw Studios/Shaw Villa/TV City (TVB)
The Clearwater Bay studio site at Clearwater Bay Road and Ngan Ying Road is the former home of Shaw Brothers studios (built 1960-1961), as well as vacated TVB Headquarters and studios (1986 2003 and now at TVB City) and Celestial Pictures. There are also apartment blocks formerly used to house actors of Shaw. The newer Shaw House and Shaw Villa are also located here. The site has been vacant since 2003 and will likely be re-developed with no new tenants targeted.
The older Shaw House has been used for various TVB series shoots as a hospital.
- Glaessner, Verina. Kung Fu: Cinema of Vengeance. London: Lorimer; New York: Bounty Books, 1974. ISBN 0-85647-045-7, ISBN 0-517-51831-7.
- Wong, Ain-ling. The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2003. ISBN 962-8050-21-4.
- Zhong, Baoxian. "Hollywood of the East" in the Making: The Cathay Organization Vs. the Shaw Organization in Post-War Hong Kong. [Hong Kong]: Centre for China Urban and Regional Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2004. ISBN 962-8804-44-8.
- Zhong, Baoxian. Moguls of the Chinese Cinema: The Story of the Shaw Brothers in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, 1924 2002. Working paper series (David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies); no. 44. Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2005.
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