November 03, 2005


Shaw Brothers logoThe major story in Chinese film over the last 5 years has been Celestial's purchase of the Shaw Brothers library. 700 and some odd movies from the heyday of Chinese martial arts film had lain, hidden and unreleased, in the Shaw Brothers vaults since the late 70's and everyone figured they would never see the light of day.

Then Celestial purchased the entire library and started releasing the movies on DVDs, restored and looking good. But these were Region 3 DVDs, how would sad Americans see the movies? Enter Miramax, which purchased 50 movies from the library in 2003 and then...and then...they did nothing with them. Nada. Zero. Zip.

Now, Image Entertainment has bought 30 movies from the Shaw library and will probably roll them out sooner rather than later. More details later, but for now some of the titles they picked up are HEAVEN AND HELL (wild, Chang Cheh exploration of the afterlife via Power Rangers special effects and giant dance numbers), THE SHADOW BOXER and THE MAGIC BLADE.

For those who aren't already thrilled, Image are the folks who do the Criterion Collection.

The Miramax deal remains in effect.

November 3, 2005 at 08:38 AM in News | Permalink


Image doesn't do the Criterion Collection. They bought Criterion's distributor, Home Vision (and fired most of the staff), giving them exclusive rights to distribute Criterion. Their own discs are a mixed bag at best.

Posted by: Fred | Nov 3, 2005 10:39:09 AM

Let me rephrase, then: they distribute Criterion. Can't fault them for taste, you know?

So what are some of their discs that have a good and bad reputation, so that Shaw fans know the spectrum of what they can expect?

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Nov 3, 2005 11:40:37 AM

Some of us "sad Americans" have all region players and so don't care about silly things like not being able to see the Celestial discs. (Which are quite good BTW) ;)

Posted by: Rich Drees | Nov 3, 2005 12:39:13 PM

I hear you - I've got an all-region player but I had been hearing rumblings about the Image deal for a while and was hoping that they'd go all out for these releases, so I held off on buying the big titles. That didn't keep me from picking up the cult stuff, but I was holding out for treat-filled versions of 36th CHAMBERS and DIRTY HO.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Nov 4, 2005 5:43:01 AM

They way I've heard it, Celestial is doing the restorations cheap and digitally, and I've heard complaints about the digital haziness of some of the new restored prints (like Intimate Confessions...)

Posted by: phyrephox | Nov 4, 2005 10:06:19 PM

A lot of the Celestial discs have been released on Region 3 and on VCD with English subtitles so it's easy to check the quality of the restorations.

They started out by restoring some major prints that are the ones doing those Shaw Retro tours over the past 2 or 3 years, although a handful of titles were unrestored prints: they looked good to me but were scratchy or had some faded color.

The DVDs were restored digitally but they look amazing. You can read about the process here:

or here:

However, they were never able to sell as many of the Shaw DVDs as they wanted, the market demand just wasn't all that great, so in recent months some of their restorations have been on VCD only. There's also been some complaint about the audio work they've done on some of the discs.

I don't know about the INTIMATE CONFESSIONS print but the disc looks great to my untrained eye.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Nov 5, 2005 5:28:27 AM

Very few releases were VCD only. And they haven't done a VCD only release for quite a while, giving me hope that they've abandoned the idea.

As to audio, yeah there have been some problems. Early on, they tried to offer 5.1 sound & the results were terrible. This was quickly abandoned. Occaisonally a film will come out with really wacky foley effects or obviously redone music. In some cases, this is because the original audio elements have degraded to the point of no return.

For example, with "Rear Entrance" Celestial had to recreate all the audio, including dialog. As far as I know, that's the only time they've had to re-dub a film.

And I've had very few complaints about the picture. Some early discs were blurry, but this problem has disappeared. My biggest complaint is that the discs weren't anamorphic for the first few months. Now all the DVDs (with the exception of the few 1.33:1 films) are anamorphic.

I'm excited to see what Image will release, but I think it's important to keep in mind that they will not be re-remastering these films. Celestial already did the work, why repeat it? The DVDs released here will likely look exactly the same as the Celestial discs.

Still, if more people can see SB movies as they were intended to be seen, that's all for the good.

Posted by: Ian | Nov 5, 2005 7:49:38 PM

I thought that Miramax had bought the North American rights to all the Shaw Bros Martial Arts movies. Now, I had assumed that Harvey kept those rights with his new company.

So I'm curious as to whether these are the Martial Arts movies or whether these are Shaw Bros movies that aren't martial arts that the Weinsteins HADN'T bought.

Also, IIRC, when the Miramax bought the NA rights, they didn't buy the English audio (maybe NO audio) and were going to REDUB them when they chose to release them (in the year 2097, no doubt). SO i'm also curious as to whether these movies will have the full soundtrack, english subs and the Old-School English dubs (which I have this curious attraction to!).

I'd definitely purchase the R1s (even though I've already amassed a huge lib of the R3s) if they got the original english dubs on them, but it's a non-starter if they redub them and/or rescore them.

btw, some of the Celestial discs need to be "fixed". Off the top of my head, SHAOLIN TEMPLE is non-anamorphic and there are a few titles (early releases) that really need to be 16:9.


Posted by: Goro | Nov 6, 2005 6:03:01 AM

Like he said, "The Miramax deal remains in effect." Miramax bought the rights to release 50 films. They still have the rights to release those 50 films. Image's 30 films are a separate set.

Of course, with over 900 films to choose from, there's plenty to go around.

Posted by: Ian | Nov 6, 2005 6:53:56 AM

"However, they were never able to sell as many of the Shaw DVDs as they wanted"

Well, with over 700 titles to be eventually released, that's a lot for even a dedicated fan to buy. My enture DVD library is some 700 titles, with the SB releases only being about 4-5% of that. (But growing!)

Also, that's a lot of titles for a retailer to stock too. There's only so much shelf space...

Posted by: Rich Drees | Nov 7, 2005 11:10:01 AM

In the states and am/have been trying to get a hold of 'Intimate Confessions', Goodwill had it but it has been sold out for quite a while. Looking for input or any leads.

Posted by: zapper | Nov 8, 2005 5:40:11 PM

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