Sir Run Run Shaw has announced his retirement from Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB), the Hong Kong-based entertainment conglomerate he founded over forty years ago. The 104 year old tycoon is one of the few remaining links to the first generation filmmakers of China. The Shaw brothers, including Runje, Runme, and Runde as well as Run Run, have been running production studios pretty much continuously since the mid-1920s, originally in Shanghai and then establishing themselves in the British colony of Hong Kong. The Shaw Brothers studio in Clearwater Bay supplied an international film market in the 1960s and 70s, and, along with Golden Harvest, is credited with sparking the first wave of worldwide interest in kung fu movies.
My introduction to kung fu films came courtesy of the old Shaw Brothers studio, when I worked as a projectionist in the late 1970s at a theater in Boston’s Chinatown. The Star Cinema was dedicated to Shaw movies, two features each week. It was a true Golden Age, a period that saw the release of classic kung fu epics with stars like Gordon Liu, Alexander Fu Sheng, and the Five Venoms. The older Chang Cheh and Lo Wei films starring Ti Lung, David Chiang, Cheng Pei-pei, Jimmy Wong Yu, and Lo Lieh were still in circulation too, booked as co-features with newer releases by Lau Kar Leung and Sun Chung. The Shaw product of that era was a class act for the most part, but the studio never completely renounced its roots in exploitation film. The amazing longevity of the Shaw dynasty is due in no small part to an uncanny ability to stay on top of trends and give the public what it wants.
For more information about the early years of the Shaw brothers and their films, check out my blog post on the origins of kung fu cinema here.
And as we go into the new year…
Bey Logan reminds me that his kung fu memorabilia site is up and running at REEL EAST where you can pick up posters, T shirts, and more.