Ive been reading alot about the history of Shaw Brothers Studios. Ive learned many things about the strudios and their effect on popular cinema. Here are some exerpts from an article that will shed some light on the studio and why QT is so influenced by them:
“During its 1960s and '70s heyday, Shaw Bros. had the largest privately owned movie studio in the world, churning out 40 movies annually. Some directors made three or four films a year.”
“The Shaw Bros. library is so rich in genre, you could study it for ages,” Chung said.
Watching the old Shaw Bros. films is bound to prompt comparisons with movies being made in Hollywood by Hong Kong directors and actors, many of whom got their start at Shaw Bros. studios.
John Woo, whose themes of heroism and loyalty and carefully composed action shots owe much to Chang Cheh, his mentor. Chang directed more than 60 martial arts films for Shaw Bros. during its golden era, including “The One-Armed Swordsman” in 1967 and “Five Deadly Venoms” in 1978.
During the 1960s and ‘70s, Run Run Shaw was determined to create a new style of martial arts movie. He wanted his “martial arts century” to deliver more realistic action and psychological detail than earlier Chinese films, which reflected the influences of Peking opera in their action and character portrayal.
Shaw advised his directors on which new foreign films to watch for ideas. Chang, for example, was quick to absorb the techniques and styles of such directors as Sam Peckinpah and Akira Kurosawa.
One of Chang’s martial arts choreographers, Lau Kar-Leung, went on to direct some of Shaw’s most popular films, including the 1978 cult favorite “36th Chamber of Shaolin.”
These directors, said film scholar David Bordwell at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, created a film language that “communicated the qualities of grace and force so effectively that you almost feel the kinetic impact, not just from the martial arts moves but also through the framing and cutting” of the film.
Without the budgets or technology for flashy special effects, the Shaw films relied on their actors’ physical prowess and directors’ resourceful camera work and hiding of wires and trampolines.
“When you look at the old pictures, you have to wonder how we made them, without computers or anything,” said Lawrence Wong, director of film production and a veteran of numerous Shaw Bros. classics.
Fight scenes in “old school” kung fu movies typically used long, carefully composed shots, giving a clear view of the martial arts techniques, with their staccato rhythm of explosive punches, kicks and blocks.
This cultural disconnect, aggravated by the hilariously bad dubbing endemic to the genre, contributed to martial arts movies’ reputation among mainstream foreign audiences as little more than gore and kitsch-in other words, cult fare.
The cult status, Bordwell said, was reinforced by distribution patterns. During the 1970s, the movies played mostly at inner-city theaters and other down-market venues under the radar of mass audiences and critics, cross-fertilizing other genres and subcultures, from “blaxploitation” and horror films to rap and reggae music."