|05-17-2012, 06:27 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2008
The Shaw Brothers Bootlegs
Did no one think of video taping any of the martial arts movies when they aired on television in the 80s? We all did the same. We had an opportunity to tape our favorite movies when they were still being shown on television. We didn't. When they stopped airing them we all decided that we wanted those movies. We went to the video stores to buy them. What we found was Saturn Video or Master Arts, both with a lot of movies we never heard of, and none of the films from television. Then we found a store that sold Shaw Brothers movies on video. The photo copy shell case boxes and xeroxed labels made it obvious these were bootlegs. But with no other way to get these movies, you bought the Shaw Brothers bootleg.
The Shaw Brothers bootlegs were copied from videos that had a legitimate release. The question is, were the legitimately released videos authorized or unauthorized? Did the company that originally release them have a deal with Shaw Brothers to do so, or was it just a disgruntled employee of World Northal releasing the films on his own. My own opinion is that World Northal's deal to broadcast Shaw Brothers movies included the home video rights. Rather than selling the films to a third party, they decided to release them on their own. Using the press kits that would have been provided to them from Shaw Brothers, press kits that included publicity stills and the original movie poster, they cut together crude boxes, and offered the films through mail order. Since letterboxing a film was still unacceptable in the 80s, World Northal decided they needed pan and scan masters. But since hiring an editor to properly pan and scan a movie was expensive, the cheaper alternative was to use the already existing television edits, blocking out the extra credit for the television edit by Larry Bensky with a new copyright credit for Shaw Brothers. The shell cases included catalog numbers, unusual for any bootlegs at the time, but expected from any company manufacturing and distributing videos. Another thing unique to the Shaw Brothers videos was the SB logo on the top of the spine, and smaller SB logos on the front and back of the box.
Legal or not, the company that released and distributed he original Shaw Brothers videos vanished the same time World Northal went bankrupt. Here is what I learned happened next. A warehouse in the city, possibly in Queens, had thousands of the Shaw Brothers videos. These were the original tapes in clam shell boxes that were printed, not photo copied, and with labels that were printed stickers, not glued on xerox copies. Someone had leased the warehouse and used it to store the tapes, and from there shipped them across the country to the video stores that ordered them. According to a local video store that bought one of the Shaw Brothers videos in the mid 80s, the price was around $80 per tape. Whoever pressed the tapes could no longer afford to pay the back lease and forfeited the tapes. The warehouse offered the tapes to overstock outlets for $7 a tape to be retailed at $10. Someone who was distributing the cut rate tapes noticed how well they sold, and as the stock ran out decided how easy it would be to photo copy the shell box and press additional tapes. Once the knock offs started appearing, bootleggers began making color xerox boxes of the knock offs. Bootleg Shaw Brothers videos were soon available across the city, and soon spread out to other cities. Only about 45 titles were on Shaw Brothers videos. Since Shaw Brothers was such a goldmine that bootleggers began searching for other Shaw Brother videos, sometimes going as far as buying and converting legally released PAL tapes from the U.K. There had been a few Shaw Brothers movies that were legally released by legit video companies, such as South Gate, but were distributed direct to rental shops instead of in stores for an affordable price. Even Master Arts and Saturn originally marketed their videos at $80 direct to rental shops who had no idea which moves were classics and which were crap. Whenever a Shaw Brothers tape was discovered in a rental shop that had not yet appeared on the bootleg market, it was like finding gold. Bootleggers paid these rental shops top dollar for the tapes and their boxes.
The following is a list of all the bootleg Shaw Brothers movies that turned up on VHS in the 90s, including the original Shaw Brothers videos with their catalog number. Covers often had two different movie titles. Both the U.S. release title and the original H.K. title. Usually the second title was on the movie poster on the front of the box.
3 Evil Masters ( The Evil Masters ) SB-1033
4 Assassins ( Marco Polo ) SB-1089
Angry Guest ( Kung Fu Killer ) SB-1080
Avenging Eagle SB-1029
Challenge of the Masters SB-1028
Chinatown Kid SB-1035
Death Chambers ( Shaolin Temple ) SB-1060
Disciples of Death SB-1026
Destroyers ( The Magnificent Ruffians ) SB-1081
Dirty Ho SB-1034
Duel of the Iron Fist ( The Duel ) SB-1082
Dynasty of Blood SB-1038
Executioners From Shaolin SB-1033
Fists of the White Lotus SB-1043
Five Deadly Venoms SB-1051
Five Masters of Death SB-1058
Flying Guillotine SB-1053
Grand Master of Death SB-1054
The Heroic Ones SB-1059
Heroes Two SB-1031
Instructors of Death/The Martial Club SB-1040
Invincible Kung Fu Brothers ( Shaolin Avengers ) SB-1062
Invincible One ( Disciples of Shaolin ) SB-1061
Iron Chain Fighter SB-1052
The Kid With the Golden Arm SB-1052
Killer Army ( The Guerrillas ) SB-1078
Killer From Shantung ( The Boxer From Shantung ) SB-1088
Kung Fu Hellcats SB-1086
The Kung Fu Instructor SB-1040
Kung Fu Vengeance SB-1039 [ Note: Never shown on Black Belt Theater. And this version was unedited for content ]
Kung Fu Warlords ( Shaolin Archer ) SB-1085 [ For a while the movie inside the box was "Thunderbolt Fist" with it's opening credits removed. "Kung Fu Warlords" finally turned up in 1993, source unknown. ]
Legendary Weapons of Kung Fu SB-1041
Master of Kung Fu SB-1027
Mortal Combat/Crippled Avengers SB-1036
Roar of the Lion SB-1053 [ Bootleg sourced directly from a World Northal video edit, including the leader that is not shown on television.]
The Savage 5 SB-1032
Seven Soldiers of Kung Fu ( 7 Blows of the Dragon 2 )( All Men Are Brothers ) SB-1079
Shaolin Handlock SB-1033
Shaolin Mantis SB-1037
Slice Of Death ( Abbot of Shaolin ) SB-1028
The Spearman ( Flag of Iron ) SB-1039
Street Gangs of Hong Kong ( The Delinquent ) SB-1084 [ For some reason the film inside the box was "Young Avenger" with the opening credit changed to "Street Gangs of Hong Kong: The Delinquent". Around 1992 someone sourced a U.K. video release of the film, with the ending that was cut out of the Black Belt Theater version. ]
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung SB-1050
Unbeatable Dragon SB-1042
Warrior of Steel ( Man of Iron ) SB-1052
Bootlegs sourced from U.K. Warner Brothers PAL. including box:
Challenge of the Ninja
Mad Monkey Kung Fu
The Masked Avengers
Return of the Master Killer
( Also included a Shaw Brother film called "The Killer" which never aired on BBT )
Bootleg sourced from Warner Brothers USA
Seven Blows of the Dragon
Bootlegs sourced from unknown video company but using same style box with no company logo:
Five Fingers of Death
Bootleg sourced from EMI UK video
"Triple Irons", which was never shown on BBT, was bootleged under it's H.K. title "The New One Armed Swordsman" but using the "Triple Irons" dub version.
Ended up at Master Arts Video:
Iron Fingers of Death [ Under the alternative title "Death Mask of the Ninja" ]
Karate Exterminators [ Under the alternative title "Lightning Kung Fu" ]
Stroke of Death (?) [ Under the title "Monkey Kung Fu" ? ]
Bootleg sourced from Embassy:
Bootleg sourced from South Gate:
Two Champions of Death
( Strangely enough, no one bothered to bootleg "Bells of Death" or "Duel of Fists". Both ended up on the trade market. )
Bootleg sourced from Trolley Car Record & Filmworks
7 Brothers Meet Dracula
Bootlegs that showed up in the 90s in handmade boxes, source unknown:
8 Diagram Pole Fighter
Blast of the Iron Palm [ the only Shaw Brothers bootleg to have been cam corded from a theater ]
Daredevils of Kung Fu
Deadly Mantis [ Yes, again. Bootleggers did not realize it was the same movie as "Shaolin Mantis" ]
Master of Disaster ( a.k.a. The Treasure Hunters )
Shaolin Martial Arts
Trade Tape available in the 90s with no box:
Bloody Avengers ( Taped off of WNEW-5 with station logo )
The following Black Belt Theater movies, as far as I knew, were never available on the bootleg market or as trade videos:
Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights
Strike 4 Revenge
The horror movie "Black Magic" was bootlegged in a Shaw Brothers Video box but without a catalog number.
An odd wrap around box for "One Armed Swordsman", possibly a copy of a movie card, existed. But contained the movie "One Armed Swordsmen" with David Chiang and Jimmy Wang Yu.
"Secret Rivals" was bootlegged in a box with the Shaw Brothers Video logo, even though the back of the box identified it as a Seasonal Film. "Secret Rivals 2" was in an identical box but with the Tamo Video logo instead of the Shaw Brothers logo.
"Dance of the Drunken Mantis" was in a box with a Shaw Brothers logo.
"Ninja Warlord" was another movie found in a faked Shaw Brothers box. It was the only
Someone went out of their way to make the box for the Golden Harvest film "Hand of Death" with Jackie Chan look like a Shaw Brothers Video, logo and everything.
"Kung Fu Commandos" was bootleged with the Shaw Brothers company logo edited on to the beginning.
A box with the Shaw Brothers logo, the Chinese poster for "A Fist Full of Talons" and the English title "Wandering Dragons" and yet a third movie inside was for a while available on the bootleg market.
"The Best of Shaw Brothers" and "Best of Shaw Brothers II" had fight scenes edited out of different Shaw Brothers movies. It was obviously put together by bootleggers.
|05-19-2012, 01:21 AM||#2|
Join Date: Oct 2007
SB Video was George Tan bootlegging tv tapes and aircheck recordings from Hawaii. He was employed at World Northal before launching Dragon Video out of New York. He grabbed tapes as the company was shutting its doors around 1989. His real name is something like Francois Saisan or something like that. Search for his name on this board and you'll get some informative threads.
|05-19-2012, 01:35 AM||#3|
Join Date: Oct 2007
Also there are threads on Southgate, Embassy, Vista and other legit home video licensors dating back to the Linn Hayes days. They might still be around, but we cleared up a lot of myth on these releases.
|05-19-2012, 04:33 AM||#4|
Join Date: Jan 2008
This is a screen capture from Embassy's release of "Dynamo" showing the one frame with Larry Bensky's screen credit, and the following frames where it is covered up with an unnecessary copyright credit. This was done in 1985. Since World Northal was the exclusive distributor of "Dynamo", they were also the only ones that Embassy could obtain a print of the film from. And here we see that World Northal was providing the edited for television print.
I have no doubt that 1989 and up every one of those Shaw Brothers movies were bootlegged, but there is enough convincing evidence that World Northal was responsible for distributing the Shaw Brothers videos before that, or at the least was in collusion with whoever was.
|05-20-2012, 02:14 AM||#6|
Join Date: Oct 2007
I just felt the need to go old school, and bring this back!
Intro to Channel 5 Saturday Drive in Movie:
Ninja now you'll see, you Wish you'd had been Wiser.
|05-20-2012, 04:27 PM||#7|
Join Date: Oct 2007
Where is the "convincing evidence"? World Northal licensed some titles to Embassy Home Video, which they had the right to do. Embassy utilized WN's incomplete tv prints, because the idea of "uncut, uncensored" wasn't a priority with video companies and kung fu movies at the time. Dragon Video bootlegs popped up around the time World Northal shut down for good.
|05-21-2012, 07:22 AM||#8|
Join Date: Jan 2008
As for the Embassy video, since World Northal was the exclusive N.A. distributor to "Dynamo" and the other titles that Embassy released, they were the sole source for master prints. In other words, Embassy had to get a copy of the movie from somewhere that they could transfer to video. That somewhere was World Northal. The print that World Northal provided was not just edited for television, but had an edited for television credit burned onto the print itself. Even back in the 80s people who rented videos did so because they wanted to see an unedited version on their screen. This was especially true with R rated films. Embassy would have preferred having an unedited print of the movie. It would have sold better than a print that was exactly the same as what was already on television. But World Northal was only providing edited for television prints at that time.
This is not meant to be proof that the Shaw Brothers videos were legit. But it does debunk any argument that the Shaw Brothers videos must be bootlegs because they were sourced from the Larry Bensky edits.
|05-24-2012, 01:12 AM||#9|
Join Date: Oct 2007
World Northal supplied edited prints to Embassy because nobody cared if these movies were uncut or not. They were considered juvenile entertainment for ethnic audiences. Tv prints for films like MR. BILLIONS and HALLOWEEN were released on big labels at the time like Key Video and Video Treasures. It wasn't because they were evil or deceptive. Uncut just wasn't a big deal like it has been in the last 20 years. Kung fu movies and European horror movies were often released in cut tv prints on home video because distributors didn't respect their own product.
The SB videos you saw were likely taped off tv and bootlegged by several possible suspects in the New York area. A friend of mine taped Hawaii broadcasts(which were the most complete save for the few that aired on Showtime and Home Theater Network) and sent them to fans in other states throughout the 1980s. He'd frequently hear about "SB Videos" with the Hawaii tv stations logo being rented in stores that had no qualms about renting boots.
|05-25-2012, 03:06 AM||#10|
Join Date: Jan 2008
Every one of the Black Belt Theater films released on Embassy has printed on the box that the films are rated R. The R rating was a selling point for the video. They would have prefered if World Northal provided an R rated print.