Run Run Shaw, one of the icons of the Hong Kong martial arts film industry, died of undisclosed causes at his home in China. He was 106.
With the help of his brother Runme, Shaw is largely responsible for creating the kung fu genre as its known today. Over his incredibly lucrative and prolific career, Run Run released around 1,000 films worldwide through Shaw Brothers Studios. The company’s films have inspired everyone from Quentin Tarantino to members of the rap group Wu Tang Clan.
Although Run Run Shaw and his brother Runme worked in the film industry since the 1920s, Shaw Brothers Studios wasn’t officially established until 1958. After opening a sprawling state-of-the-art studio in rural Hong Kong, the company began churning out upwards of 40 motion pictures per year beginning in 1961. Although the studio occasionally ventured into world of horror and drama, they’re mostly known for their contributions to the kung fu genre.
Included among the many noteworthy titles produced during the studio’s heyday were The One-Armed Swordsman, Five Deadly Venoms, Five Fingers of Death (aka King Boxer), and The Flying Guillotine. However, just about every fan of genre has their own personal favorite Shaw Bros. movie.
Shaw Brothers was heavily influenced by Hollywood; even their logo was reportedly inspired by Warner Brothers. Everyone from director John Woo to Chow Yun Fat to Jackie Chan worked with the studio at one point or another. Run Run Shaw also produced a few US flicks during his career, including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Kung fu was big business in China during the late 60s and 70s. While Americans viewed these flicks as comical, Chinese fans were dead serious about the martial arts genre. Since so many people were willing to pay, sometimes Shaw Brothers cranked out flicks there were painfully low-budget and more than a little wonky.
“We’re here to make money,” Run Run Shaw told Time in 1973. And make money they did; Five Fingers of Death, which was reportedly produced for just $300,000 back in 1972, ultimately made millions of dollars around the world.
While Run Run Shaw is known for his contributions to Hong Kong cinema, his accomplishments didn’t end there. He also set up the Shaw Prize, which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in China. The awards are split into three categories: the Prize in Astronomy, the Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the Prize in Mathematical Sciences.
According to ECNS, the Shaw Prize recognizes folks who have “achieved distinguished and significant advances, who have made outstanding contributions in academic and scientific research or applications, or who in other domains have achieved excellence.” The honors are given out annually in Hong Kong.
— Michelle Clifford (@sleazoidexpress) January 7, 2014
— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) January 7, 2014
Folks who want to see some of the flicks Run Run Shaw and the Shaw Brothers Studio cranked out in Hong Kong back in the day currently have plenty of options available to them as of this writing. Check out the recommendations at Kung Fu Cinema forums or this list at Internet Movie Database to get you started.
[Top Image from Shaw Brothers’ Five Fingers of Death]