Holidays the Arrow way! Kung Fu Classics, Post-Apocalyptic
Sci-Fi, and Modern Christmas Noir
Arrow ends the year with a bang on December 6 with the release of the highly anticipated Shawscope Volume 2. This limited-edition box set picks right up where last year’s first volume left off. Featuring 14 films from the golden age of the legendary kung fu studio – 9 with brand-new 2K restorations – Shawscope Volume 2 is sure to be the must-own Blu-ray set of the year. In addition to the great selection of martial arts masterpieces, Shawscope Volume 2 comes fully loaded with bonus content and special features, including an illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing by David Desser, Jonathan Clements, Lovely Jon and David West, plus cast and crew listings and notes on each film by Simon Abrams, never-before-seen archival interviews, and two CDs of music from the De Wolfe Music library as heard in several of the films, exclusive to this collection.
In The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, San Te (Gordon Liu) prepares to fight back against the oppressive Manchu government by studying kung fu in the Shaolin Temple. Arguably the greatest kung fu movie of all, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin was hailed as an “exhilarating rendition of the legendary dissemination of the Shaolin martial arts” by the Harvard Film Archive and ranked as one of the best action films of all time by Time Out. Notably, the film had a massive impact on rap legends the Wu-Tang Clan.
Return to the 36th Chamber brings the action with a more comedic approach. Liu stars once again, but this time as Chu Jen-chieh, a small-time con man that devises a plan to trick the Manchu by posing as the head abbot of the 36th Chamber. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, was named after this film.
Director Lau Kar-leung closes out his trilogy with Disciples of the 36th Chamber. Liu once again reprises his role as San Te, but the action this time around is centered on Fong Sai-yuk (Hsiao Ho), a skilled martial artist but a poor student and a bit of a troublemaker. While less seen than the first two entries, the trilogy’s conclusion still delivers a “collection of exceptionally choreographed set-pieces.” (Far East Films)
Next up, Lau Kar-leung directs and stars in Mad Monkey Kung Fu. Chen (Kar-leung) is a master of the monkey style of kung fu and an opera star with a bit of a drinking problem. A gangster and brothel owner uses Chen’s drinking problem against him to frame him for a terrible crime that ultimately leaves Chen crippled and his sister forced to work in the brothel. Years later, Chen teaches a young vagrant his style of kung fu, who then avenges him. City On Fire called the finale “a rousing showstopper,” further praising, “It’s definitely a must see.”
In director Mar Lo’s Five Superfighters, an arrogant kung fu master travels from school to school, beating up teachers that he believes to be teaching “bad kung fu.” After embarrassing one teacher, his three pupils decide to seek training from additional kung fu masters to avenge their teacher. A bit of a lesser-seen Shaw Brothers film, Five Superfighters is highlighted by a final showdown that displays a variety of different fighting styles in one epic battle.
Invincible Shaolin (also known as Unbeatable Dragon) sees the legendary Five Venoms do battle with the Qing Dynasty. Far East Films praised Invincible Shaolin as one of the “greatest kung fu films ever” with “a solid plot, deft characterization and a powerful sense of brotherhood.”
The Five Venoms return in The Kid with the Golden Arm. After the government decides to have a shipment of gold escorted to a famine-stricken area, the Chi Sha gang intends to hijack it. The Kid with the Golden Arm was ranked 20th on Paste’s list of the 100 best martial art films, with the website calling it “pure, unadulterated old-school kung fu fun.”
Director Chang Cheh returns with more high-flying action from the Five Venoms with The Magnificent Ruffians. While lesser-known, and not quite as violent as previous films in the Five Venoms series, The Magnificent Ruffians is still a must-see for martial arts fans.
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung features an all-star cast of Shaw Brothers martial artists that includes Ti Lung, Fu Sheng, Wei Pai, Dick Wei, and Philip Kwok. The Ten Tigers fight to protect a revolutionary from the Manchu government, but their actions have fatal consequences for their disciples.
Kara Hui stars as a young martial arts champion that marries an elderly man so that he can keep his estate from falling into the hands of his greedy brother in My Young Auntie. While a bit more light-hearted than his other works, My Young Auntie still features the signature long-take fight scenes that made Kar-leung a star director of the Shaw Brothers’ stable.
In Mercenaries from Hong Kong, the Shaw Brothers capitalize on the Rambo craze of the ’80s. He Ying (Yu On-On) hires a group of ex-military to go into Cambodia and capture the assassin that killed her father. Voices from the Balcony exclaims, “Fans of Asian action films will love Mercenaries from Hong Kong!” noting that it is has “all the elements that made Hong Kong cinema in the 80s so much fun.”
The Shaw Brothers also dabbled in horror with The Boxer’s Omen. Chan Hung, a gangster from Hong Kong, travels to Thailand after his boxer brother is crippled in a fight with a corrupt Thai Boxer. While there, Chan Hung gets caught up in a web of Buddhism and black magic.
Lau Kar-leung and Jet Li teamed up for the first and only time with 1986’s Martial Arts of Shaolin. After his father is murdered, Lin Zhi-ming (Li) trains at the legendary Northern Shaolin temple to avenge his death. Martial Arts of Shaolin was a smash hit, becoming the highest-grossing film in China in 1987 and earning a nomination for best choreography at the 6th Hong Kong Film Awards.
Shawscope Volume 2 comes to a close with 1993’s The Bare-footed Kid. Aaron Kwok stars as Kwan Fung-yiu, a poor and illiterate orphan who seeks refuge after the death of his father. A loose remake of Disciples of Shaolin, The Bare-footed Kid was well received, with Asian Film Strike giving it 4 stars and calling it “a true pleasure that deserves to be rediscovered.”
Director Eric Pennycoff delivers dark comedy with a twist in The Leech. This holiday tale about a priest that faces the ultimate test of faith after welcoming a struggling couple into his home at Christmas time debuted at the 2022
Chattanooga Film Festival to rave reviews. Writing for the Daily Dead, Michelle Swope awarded the film 4 out of 5 stars, calling it “the obscenely fun, naughty Christmas horror comedy you didn’t know you needed.” The Blu-ray being released on December 6 is the perfect stocking stuffer, containing two audio commentary tracks, a making-of feature, short films, and more bonus content.
Closing out the December 6 releases is Nightmare at Noon, also known as Death Street USA. From cult auteur Nico Mastorakis (Zero Boys, Hired to Kill), residents of a small town are turned into homicidal maniacs after scientists poison the water supply. Nightmare at Noon features an all-star cast headlined by Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, George Kennedy, and Brion James. Special features include behind-the-scenes footage, on-set interviews, and a making-of featurette with commentary from Mastorakis.
Arrow’s final release of 2022 is Silent Running, coming on December 13. Director Douglas Trumbull’s stunning directorial debut takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where Earth is bordering on the brink of extinction. A botanist (Bruce Dern) on a space crew abandons orders to destroy the last of Earth’s botany and instead decides to save the plants. 50 years later, Silent Running continues to earn praise. Famed critic Roger Ebert awarded the film 4 out of 4 stars, while Gary Arnold of The Washington Post praised the film, calling it “the most original and interesting science-fiction melodrama since Planet of the Apes and a new classic of the genre.”
This new Arrow release is available in 4K UHD for the first time, restored from the original camera negative. Special features include multiple audio commentary tracks, an on-set documentary, and an archival conversation with two-time Oscar nominee Dern.