HK Film Archive revisits Run Run Shaw's factory of dreams (with photos)

     The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will present a new retrospective, "Run Run Shaw's Factory of Dreams", from next week to feature selected films produced by Sir Run Run Shaw. The retrospective focuses on the early days of Shaw's venture in Hong Kong to help audiences understand his entrepreneurial vision and sharp marketing sense.

     The retrospective will be held from December 12 to February 7 next year at the Cinema of the HKFA. More than 30 films of the Shaw Brothers Studio from the 1950s to the 1970s will be screened, including period epics, youth films, melodramas, musical films and wuxia action films.

     To complement the screenings, the HKFA will hold three seminars entitled "Re-evaluating Sir Run Run Shaw from the Perspective of 'Chinese Movie Magnate'", "Reach for the Stars, the Songs and the Glamour" and "We Are the Fans and We Love to Collect!", which will be held at 4pm on December 13, 4pm on January 10 and 4.30pm on January 24 respectively. Various scholars, film critics and veteran film buffs will speak in the seminars to explore Shaw's creativity in film production and his business concepts with audiences. The seminars will be conducted in Cantonese or Mandarin with free admission. There will also be post-screening talks for some of the screenings.

     In addition, the exhibition "The Foundation of Run Run Shaw's Cinema Empire" will be on display from December 12 to April 5 next year at the Exhibition Hall of the HKFA to showcase Shaw's entrepreneurship and the making of the Shaw Brothers legend. Numerous precious artefacts, including old Shaw family photos, photos and letters from Shaw's early career and handbills, will be exhibited.

     Sir Run Run Shaw moved from Singapore to Hong Kong in 1957 to establish his factory of dreams, the Shaw Brothers Studio, and greatly influenced the filmmaking industry for over half a century. Shaw had the ambition of presenting Chinese-language films to the world and recruited numerous film talents around Southeast Asia, leading to the rapid expansion of his company in the 1960s. Shaw's studio housed many renowned directors and film stars, including Li Han-hsiang, Griffin Yueh Feng, Doe Ching, Chang Cheh, Jimmy Wang Yu, Ti Lung, John Chiang, Elliot Yueh Hua, Linda Lin Dai, Patricia Lam Fung, Cheng Pei-pei and Li Ching, and produced more than 800 films in Hong Kong alone.

     The meticulously crafted sets, lighting and costumes created the magnificent atmosphere in many Shaw Brothers period epics, which started a new cinematic trend. Shaw's first film as producer, "Princess Yang Kwei Fei" (1955) was a groundbreaking collaboration with the Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi that portrayed a refreshingly different version of Princess Yang through Japanese eyes, while Li Han-hsiang's version, "Yang Kwei Fei" (1962), was a costly production that took three years to finish. Li's visually splendid piece was the winner of the Grand Prize for sustained high quality in colour at the Cannes Film Festival. Another award-winning work by Li, "The Kingdom and the Beauty" (1959), was one of his most successful huangmei diao movies and was filled with stunningly beautiful sets and costumes, turning the leading actress, Linda Lin Dai, into a superstar. Starring Chao Lei and Betty Loh Ti, "The Enchanting Shadow" (1960) played up a ghostly atmosphere with creative lighting methods. "A Maid from Heaven" (1963) featured a romantic tale between the mortal and the immortal. Li left Shaw Brothers halfway through the filming and made a new version of the same film, while directors Ho Moon-hwa and Chen Yet-sun were appointed to continue with the uncompleted work based on Li's original script. The two competing versions were released concurrently, becoming the talk of the town.

     Shaw Brothers' Cantonese film unit successfully tapped into the ethnic Chinese market in Southeast Asia with an array of youth films, featuring "the Jewel of Shaw", Patricia Lam Fung, as well as Cheung Ying-choi and Mak Kay, and kept up the strength of Cantonese cinema. Lam, who was gorgeous and fashionable, starred in most of the Cantonese unit's productions, including the mysterious schoolyard romance "Sweet Girl in Terror" (1958); the melodrama "The Merdeka Bridge" (1959), depicting the love between a songstress and a poor artist, Cheung Ying-choi; and the Cantonese opera film "The Peach Blossom Fan" (1961), co-starring Law Kim-long, Lam Kar-sing and Lam Yim.

     Romance films produced by Shaw Brothers pleased their audiences with good-looking casts and depicted love stories in the big city. Directed and written by Doe Ching, "All the Best" (1961) tells the story of a foreign-educated bachelor, Peter Chen Ho, looking for his future wife, while "Oh Boys! Oh Girls!" (1961) follows two love-pursuing sisters, Margaret Tu Chuan and Florence Yu Fung-chi. The prints for these two films were retrieved from the US and show audiences the early Shaw Brothers romantic comedies on the big screen. More funny and hilarious scenes can be found in the contemporary urban romance "The Fair Sex!" (1961) and in "My Lucky Star" (1963), starring King Hu and Betty Loh Ti as a married couple. Also directed by Doe, "Love Without End" (1961) depicts the tragedy of a songstress who sacrifices for her lover. In addition to winning Best Theme Song at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival, the film also earned the leading actress, Linda Lin Dai, her fourth best actress prize. Beyond the romance genre, Shaw Brothers' melodramas, such as Griffin Yueh Feng's "Bitter Sweet" (1963) and Lo Chen's "Her Sister's Keeper" (1963), portray family love.

     Grand musical movies not only showcase eye-catching stage settings and fashionable costumes but also the production scale and capacity of Shaw Brothers. The winner of the Golden Hay Award for Best Comedy at the Asian Film Festival, "Love Parade" (1963) features multiple sets with bright colours and exquisitely designed fashion shows, in which Linda Lin Dai shows more than 20 costumes all designed by herself. "Hong Kong Nocturne" (1967) is a story about three sisters who dance in their father's magic shows before parting ways to pursue their dreams. Starring popular young Shaw Brothers stars, namely Peter Chen Ho, Cheng Pei-pei, Chin Ping and Lily Ho, each scene of the film is distinctively entertaining in its own way. "When the Clouds Roll By" (1968) is a hybrid of romance, suspense and mysterious thriller, and its musical sequences light up the heavy story with a dreamlike youth romance. Wuxia film director Chang Cheh and scriptwriter Chiu Kang-chien took reference of Western movies in making "The Singing Thief" (1969), with ethnic Japanese singer Jimmy Lin Chong playing a diamond thief. Even today, the film is striking for its modern style. In "River of Tears" (1969), Jenny Hu plays a mysterious songstress loved by two brothers. Some interlude songs in the film were sung by famous singer Mona Fong.

     "Colour Wuxia Century" was a wuxia action film project launched by Shaw Brothers. The first work of the project was director Hsu Tseng-hung's "Temple of the Red Lotus" (1965), starring Jimmy Wang Yu. The film discards the wuxia genre's fantasy elements and strengthens the realism of action and sets, making the action choreography less stage-like. "King Cat" (1967), another well-known work by Hsu, is characterised by smooth editing, a fast pace and a condensed plot with which the average TV version cannot compare. King Hu combined the music and martial arts of Peking opera with fast-paced action and editing in "Come Drink with Me" (1966), creating a groundbreaking work that remains one of the most influential films of the genre. Directed and scripted by Chang Cheh, "The Trail of the Broken Blade" (1967) is a fusion of romance and wuxia. The male-dominated romance film features the male leads as great fighters with selfless love, and the film's complicated love quadrangle ends tragically. With the cast of John Chiang, Ti Lung and Chan Koon-tai, Chang Cheh's "The Blood Brothers" (1973) neatly portrays brotherhood and betrayal with intense emotions. Peter Pan Lei's "The Fastest Sword" (1968) focuses on the self-reflection of a young arrogant swordsman enlightened by an old sage and Lo Wei's "Raw Courage" (1969) is an adventure story with elements of wuxia and spy plots.

     Among the films of Shaw Brothers, there were also some special genres. Directed by Japanese director Inoue Umetsugu, "Apartment for Ladies" (1970) features bold modern women and their youthful vitality. Lui Kay's erotic film "Women of Desire" (1974) showcases the passion and betrayal between couples and highlights the contradictions of sexual desire and morality. Chor Yuen's "Hong Kong 73" (1974), adapted from a TVB drama, combines short situation dramas into a film-length work to portray the big news of the day. "Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires" (1974) was a collaboration between Shaw Brothers and Britain's Hammer Studios. With a bizarre plot, the film uses special effects massively, injecting Chinese kung fu elements into Western film genres.
     In view of the enthusiastic response, additional screenings of "The Peach Blossom Fan" and "Yang Kwei Fei" (1962) will be held at the Cinema of the HKFA at 2pm on December 14 and 7.30pm on December 20 respectively.

     "Princess Yang Kwei Fei" is in Japanese; "Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires" is in English; "Sweet Girl in Terror", "The Merdeka Bridge", "The Peach Blossom Fan", "All the Best", "Oh Boys! Oh Girls!", "The Fair Sex!" and "Hong Kong 73" are in Cantonese; and all the other films are in Mandarin. "Sweet Girl in Terror", "The Merdeka Bridge" and "The Peach Blossom Fan" are without subtitles, while the other films have either English or Chinese subtitles or both Chinese and English subtitles.

     Tickets priced at $40 are now available at URBTIX. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities (and one accompanying minder), full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999 or on the Internet at For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900. Detailed programme information can be found in "ProFolio 74", distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD, or by browsing the website

Ends/Thursday, December 4, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:10