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Shawscope: Volume One (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Films (Overall)
The Video (Overall)
The Audio (Overall)
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

12 classic kung fu films of the 1970s from the great Shaw Brothers studio are collected here -- half of them newly restored from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films -- in this massive box set.

Shawscope: Volume One is a massive collection that gathers twelve kung fu classics from the Shaw catalog, all released in the 1970s. The set kicks off with 1972’s King Boxer (A.K.A. Five Fingers of Death), the film that put the kung fu genre on the international map and then moves on to director Chang Cheh’s The Boxer from Shantung. Chang Cheh, by the way, dominates this set and is probably the most prolific of the Shaw directors. The set closes out with the masked Venom Mob in The Five Venoms and then The Crippled Avengers.

I’d give a rundown of all twelve films in this collection, but it would be beyond the scope of this review. What you need to know are the basics – most of the films rely little on narrative and have very basic plotlines, most of them involving rival clans, rival martial arts schools, kung fu assassins, or corrupt officials. There is one oddball film in the collection that stands out, Mighty Peking Man. This one is basically King Kong set in India with a buxom Russian blonde of the jungle who seems like the female Tarzan or maybe a Russian Sheena. It is not a good film by any measure, but it’s worth watching for a laugh.

The two standouts are the two openers and two closers and Challenge of the Masters, a bit of a convoluted tale in which, of course, rival kung fu schools compete against each other, and a goofy, untrained student must hone his skills to defend his school against an assassin.

This collection is gold for fans of kung fu films and Arrow have done a masterful job of restoring some of the best of the Shaw 1970s catalogue and pairing them with some of the better looking available HD masters from Shaw.

The Video

Shawscope: Volume One features brand new 2K restorations by Arrow Films from the original camera negatives of King Boxer, The Boxer from Shantung, Challenge of the Masters, The Five Venoms, Crippled Avengers, and Dirty Ho. There is also the brand new 2K master of the longer international cut of Chinatown Kid from original film elements. The rest of the films are not new restorations from Arrow, but are presented in 1080p as well, with all films being in the “Shawscope” 2.35:1 anamorphic format.

Of the films presented in this collection, the newly restored films from Arrow are obviously the best-looking ones, with King Boxer and The Five Venoms being two of the most outstanding examples as far as color and contrast. The best of the best are the films that stand-alone on disc by themselves, such as, again, King Boxer, and The Boxer from Shantung. These films have the higher bitrates and resolve the film grain a bit better, along just a bit more crispness of detail. Any one of the newly restored films you look at, however, and you will see a clean and natural look but one that is also organic and free from any sort of excessive DNR or issues with edge enhancement. You also get more than enough detail to expose the makeup and adhesive used for the wigs on the actors. Try not to let it distract you.

The films that haven’t been newly restored by Arrow are a mixed bag. Chinatown Kid looks the worst of the collection with frames with tramlines and lens dirt or defects straight through the presentation. Generally, however, these are great looking transfers that have these kung fu classics from Shaw Bros. looking better than ever.

The Audio

The various Mandarin and occasional Cantonese monaural soundtracks as well as the English monaural dubs are in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The sound is quite good for monaural audio from this genre of the era. Louder sounds and music can sound a little distorted, but this seems to be a part of the package with these films.

The Supplements

Below is a complete listing of all the disc specific specs and bonus features. Additionally, Shawscope: Volume One comes with a 60-page book featuring new writing by David Desser, Simon Abrams, and Terence J., Brady, with cast and crew information for each film, plus trivia and soundtrack information. New artwork for each film by artists including Matthew Griffin, Chris Malbon, Jacob Phillips, Iian Sheady, Tony Stella, Darren Wheeling, and Jolyon Yates. Arrow also includes 2 CDs with original soundtrack music from the Shaw films.

Disc 1

King Boxer (AKA 5 Fingers of Death)

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio:  Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by David Desser
  • Tony Rayns on King Boxer (1080p; 00:42:56) – A newly filmed appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns of King Boxer and the international kung fu craze it ignited, produced exclusively for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Interview with Chung Chang-wha (1080p; 00:39:54) – An interview with the director of King Boxer, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003 and 2004
  • Interview with Wang Ping (1080p; 00:25:51) – An interview with the co-star of King Boxer, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2007.
  • Interview with Cho Young-jung (1080p; 00:33:24) – An interview with the author of Chung Chang-wha: Man of Action, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2005.
  • Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu (720p; 00:49:36) – The first in a three-part documentary on Shaw Brothers’ place within the martial arts genre, produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003 and featuring interviews with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, John Woo, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, Cheng Pei-pei, David Chiang, and many others.
  • US Opening Credits (1080p; 00:01:26)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 1
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 2
    • German Theatrical Trailer 1
    • German Theatrical Trailer 2
    • US Theatrical Trailer
    • US TV Spot
    • US Radio Spot
    • Digital Reissue Trailer
  • Image Gallery

Disc 2

The Boxer from Shantung

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio:  Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Interview with Chen Kuan-tai (1080p; 090:22:43) – A conversation between the star of The Boxer from Shantung and actor Vincent Tze, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2007.
  • Interview with David Chiang (1080p; 00:31:49) – An interview with the co-star of The Boxer from Shantung, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003.
  • Interview with John Woo (1080p; 00:08:02) – An interview with the legendary director on his early days as an assistant director to Chang Cheh on The Boxer from Shantung, Frédéric Ambroisine in 2004.
  • Double Masters with Ku Feng and Chen Kuan-tai (1080p; 00:13:46) – A conversation between the two stars of The Boxer from Shantung, filmed at a Shaw Brothers reunion by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2007.
  • Alternate Opening Credits:
    • Partial HK Credits (1080p; 00:02:24)
    • Alternate English Credits (720p; 00:02:19)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • German Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • US TV Spot (720p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Disc 3

Five Shaolin Masters

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio:  Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Tony Rayns on Chang Cheh (1080p; 00:36:45) – A newly filmed appreciation of the director by film critic and historian Tony Rayns, produced for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Interview with Kong Do (1080p; 00:22:54) – Interview with Five Shaolin Masters co-star Kong Do (a.k.a. Chiang Tao) filmed in 2005 by filmmaker Frédéric Ambroisine.
  • Elegant Trails (720p) – These profiles of the actors were produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003:
    • Ti Lung (00:09:30)
    • David Chiang (00:08:04)
  • US Opening Credits (1080p)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • US Theatrical Trailer
    • German Theatrical Trailer
    • Digital Reissue Trailer
  • Image Gallery

Shaolin Temple

Bonus Features:

  • Standard Definition Version – An alternate standard definition master of Shaolin Temple included for posterity to represent, in some respects, a truer presentation of how the film looked on its original theatrical release.
  • Alternate Opening Credits:
    • HK Theatrical Credits (1080p)
    • US Theatrical Credits (1080p)
    • Alternate English Title Sequence (720p)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer
    • German Theatrical Trailer
    • Digital Reissue Trailer
  • Image Gallery

Disc 4

Mighty Peking Man

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio:  Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Travis Crawford
  • Interview with Keizo Murase (1080i; 00:19:22) – A brand new interview with suit designer Keizo Murase about his work on the film.
  • Interview with Ho Men-hua (1080p; 00:24:04) – This career retrospective interview with director Ho Meng-hua was filmed in 2003 by filmmaker Frédéric Ambroisine.
  • Interview with Ku Feng (1080p; 00:07:18) – An excerpt from an interview with actor Ku Feng, filmed in 2004 by filmmaker Frédéric Ambroisine.
  • Behind the Scenes Super 8 Footage (1080i; 00:28:29) – Newly uncovered Super 8 footage of the making of Mighty Peking Man, transferred from the last surviving VHS copy in the archives of suit designer Keizo Murase.
  • Unrestored Version – This standard-definition version of thew film – while inferior in quality to the high-definition presentation on this disc – is included for posterity as, in some aspects, it is arguably a truer representation of how the film looked on its original theatrical release.
  • Alternate US Credits:
    • Goliathon Theatrical Opening (1080p)
    • Goliathon TV Credits (720p)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • German Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • Dutch Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • US Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • US TV Spot (1080p)
    • US Re-release Trailer (1080p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (1080p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Disc 5

Challenge of the Masters

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0 | English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Tony Rayns on Lau Kar-leung (1080p; 00:28:35) – A newly filmed appreciation of the director by film critic and historian Tony Rayns, produced for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Interview with Gordon Liu (1080p; 00:20:23) – An interview with the iconic actor, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2002.
  • Textless Opening Credits (720p; 00:03:12)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 1 (720p)
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 2 (1080p)
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 3 (720p)
    • HK Theatrical Trailer 4 (720p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Executioners from Shaolin

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Tony Rayns on Lau Kar-leung (1080p; 00:28:35) – A newly filmed appreciation of the director by film critic and historian Tony Rayns, produced for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Interview with Chen Kuan-tai (1080p; 00:17:28) – A conversation between the star of both films and actor Vincent Sze, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2007.
  • Alternate English Credits (720p; 00:02:58)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • US Theatrical Trailer 1 (1080p)
    • US Theatrical Trailer 2 (720p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Disc 6

Chinatown Kid (International Version)

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary by Terrence J. Brady
  • Interview with Susan Shaw (1080p; 00:23:43) – A select scene video commentary by one of the stars of Chinatown Kid, recorded by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2021.
  • Elegant Trails: Fu Sheng (720p; 00:07:21) – This profile of the actor was produced by Celestial Pictures in 2005.
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • US Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • US TV Spot (1080p)
    • German Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • UK VHS Promo (720p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Disc 7

The Five Venoms

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0 | English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Simon Abrams
  • Interview with Lo Meng (1080p; 00:19:12) – An interview with the star of both films on this disc, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003.
  • Chang Cheh: The Master (720p; 00:17:32) – A short documentary about the director, produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003.
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • US Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • US TV Spot (1080p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Crippled Avengers

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Interview with Lo Meng (1080p; 00:19:12) – An interview with the star of both films on this disc, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003.
  • Chang Cheh: The Master (720p; 00:17:32) – A short documentary about the director, produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003.
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (720p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery: (1080p)

Disc 8

Heroes of the East

 2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0 | English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Jonathan Clements
  • Tony Rayns on Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho (1080p; 00:30:20) – A newly filmed appreciation of both films on this disc by film critic and historian Tony Rayns, produced for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Interview with Yasuaki Kurata (1080p; 00:25:23) – An interview with the co-star of Heroes of the East, filmed by Frédéric Ambroisine in 2003.
  • Alternate Opening Credits (1080p; 00:02:29)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • US TV Spot (720p)
    • US VHS Promo (720)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Dirty Ho

2.35:1 AVC 1080p

Primary Audio: Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0

Secondary: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0 | English DTS-HD MA 1.0

Subs: English

Bonus Features:

  • Tony Rayns on Heroes of the East and Dirty Ho (1080p; 00:30:20) – A newly filmed appreciation of both films on this disc by film critic and historian Tony Rayns, produced for Arrow Video in 2021.
  • Alternate Opening Credits:
    • Dirty Ho (1080p; 00:03:21)
    • Dirty Avengers (1080p; 00:03:07)
  • Trailer Gallery:
    • HK Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
    • Digital Reissue Trailer (720p)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

A virtual treasure trove of kung fu gold packed with gorgeous restorations, HD masters, and bonus features genre fans will love. Highly recommended.

Shawscope: Volume One is out December 28, 2021 from Arrow Video


  • Studios & Distributors: Shaw Brothers | Arrow Video
  • Directors: Jeong Chang-hwa | Chang Cheh | Lau Kar-leung, et. al.
  • Run Time: 1272 Mins.
  • Release Date: 28 December 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Mandarin DTS-HD MA 1.0 | Cantonese DTS-HD MA 1.0 (Some Films)
  • Secondary: English DTS-HD MA 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
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Shawscope: Volume One (Blu-ray Review)12 classic kung fu films of the 1970s from the great Shaw Brothers studio are collected here -- half of them newly restored from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films -- in this massive box set.
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