Shaw Brothers Classics Vol. One Is the Pick of the Week

Shaw Brothers Classics Cube on display of the website

In my review of The Flag of Iron (1980) and Legendary Weapons of China (1982) back in February 2022, I noted that it was a grand time to be a fan of the Shaw Brothers Studio. Well, a little over a year later, and it is still a great time to dig into their films. Numerous films from that studio have been released on Blu-ray since I wrote that review. Arrow Video released Set II of their immense Shawscope series and now Shout Factory is releasing this set which includes 11 films from the legendary studio. That’s over 17 hours of kung-fu action.

The “classic” in this set’s title refers more to the date of release than these film’s status amongst kung-fu film buffs. All of these films were released in the late 1960s. making them pre-date most of the true classic Shaw Brothers films which were released in the 1970s and 1980s. But don’t let that stop you for there are still tons of kung-fu action to be found in these films. I can’t wait to dig in.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie: One of the first video games I ever played was the original Super Mario Bros. console game at a little convenience store near my house. Later, I got it on the original NES and my brother and I wore it out. Ditto all the sequels up until Super Mario World on the SNES where I pretty much stopped gaming. I still love those games and still enjoy playing them on my computer’s emulator. But I can’t say I have any particular interest in watching a movie based on the franchise. I seem to be alone in this as the film did gangbusters at the box office and was even loved by quite a few critics.

The Pope’s Exorcist: I have to admit I came to this film thinking it was about the Pope getting demon possessed with Russell Crowe’s priest coming in to exorcise him. But no, the title refers to the fact that the priest was the chief exorcist of the Vatican so sadly the Pope does not get demon-possessed. A little boy does get possessed and Crowe’s priest comes in to save him. The film whips out every exorcism trope in the book and adds in a little Da Vinci Code-esque Catholic conspiracy theory for good measure.

The Package (Kino Lorber): Gene Hackman plays a special forces sergeant tasked to bring Tommy Lee Jones back home to face a court martial. When he escapes, Hackman uncovers a conspiracy that might just go all the way to the top. You can read my full review.

Time Bandits (Criterion): Terry Gilliam’s time-traveling classic gets a 4K upgrade from Criterion.

The Man From Toronto (Sony Pictures): Woody Harrelson, Kevin Hart, and Kaley Cuoco star in this comedy about the world’s greatest assassin and the world’s biggest screwup getting mistaken for each other at an Airbnb.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Season One: I don’t really keep up with the Star Trek universe outside of the films. Until recently watching the first season of Picard, I hadn’t seen a single series since The Next Generation. But this one keeps getting really good reviews, so I might just have to check it out.

The Draughtsman’s Contract – 40th Anniversary (Zeitgeist Films): Peter Greenway’s classic drama follows an ambitious draughtsman who is commissioned to produce drawings for an aristocrat. But when a corpse is dragged out of a moat he may find his drawings reveal more than expected. I’ve never seen this and now looks like the perfect time to fix that.

Quantum Leap: Season One (Universal Studios): I was a huge fan of the original series. This new one is a sequel of sorts with a new group of scientists trying to learn the secrets of Dr. Sam Beckett’s quantum leap machine. Naturally, one of them gets stuck inside having to write wrongs of the past in hopes of returning home.

The Oyster Princess and Meryer From Berlin (Kino Lorber): Two early romantic comedies from Ernst Lubitsch get the upgraded Blu-ray treatment from Kino Lorber. I’ll have a full review soon.

Raymond Griffith: The Silk Hat Comedian (Undercrank Productions): This set features two films (Paths to Paradise, and You’d Be Surprised) from this forgotten, silent-era director.

Mat Brewster

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