Masters of Mayhem: The Shaw Brothers at NYAFF

Posted by Charles Stockdale on 6.29.2012


Lieh Lo in Chung Chang-wha's Five Fingers of Death

In addition to bringing you popular Asian cinema’s latest gems, the New York Asian Film Festival pays respect to the Far East’s cinematic achievements of the past by screening many of the region’s great classics each year. This year, in keeping with the festival’s dedication to the always-exciting, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema are teaming up to screen three of the most action-packed, off-the-wall films from Hong Kong’s legendary Shaw Brothers Studio: Five Fingers of Death (1972), The Swift Knight (1971), and Boxer’s Omen (1983).

Shaw Brothers Studios was Hong Kong’s most prominent production company of its time, releasing over 800 films. While the studio worked in a number of genres, it is best known for its martial arts films. These include the wildly influential Five Fingers of Death, also known as King Boxer (screening June 30). Five Fingers is widely considered to be the film that kicked off the international kung fu craze of the 70s—and it’s not hard to see why it got the world so excited. The film’s story includes a number of plot points that would in time become genre staples: the studious protagonist, the unnecessarily cruel rival martial artists, and a quest for revenge that grows more and more essential as the film progresses. On top of this, Five Fingers of Death provides an above-average dose of violence, including one character’s eyes being plucked from his head and tossed to the floor.


Lieh Lo in Chung Chang-wha's The Swift Knight

In addition to Five Fingers, we will be screening The Swift Knight on July 1, which is also directed by Chung Chang-wha. The film, which Chung has declared as his personal favorite among those he has directed, also stars action hero Lo Lieh, although this time he’s set aside his kung fu skills and picked up a sword. The film is visually magnificent and manages to keep the action flying throughout, proving itslef as one of the Shaws’ greatest achievements.

Making the rare screenings of these two films all the more special will be the presence of Chung Chang-wha at both showings. Check out the Chung Chang-wha Tribute tribute video Subway Cinema put together to celebrate this historic event:


Kuei Chih-hung's Boxer's Omen

The NYAFF will also be exploring the weirder side of the Shaw Brothers in the form of the criminally underseen and underrated Boxer’s Omen (screening June 29). The film exists in the same realm of psychedelic horror as cult favorite Hausu, but ups the gross-out factor by about 100%. Black magic-driven action sequences, rainbow-colored set designs, and delightfully gruesome special effects quickly cause the film’s fairly nonsensical storyline to fall to the back of one’s mind. This isn’t a movie you need to think about—it’s a movie you need to experience.

These films are packed to the brim with cinematic action and should be seen big. Don't let the opportunity slip by; come and check out these great Shaw Brothers classics in this year's New York Asian Film Festival, which runs from June 29 – 12. Buy tickets to all three together (or any three to 12 films in the festival) and save with our NYAFF Festival Package!

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