films seen
82/95
average score
2.42*
nationality
China - 79 years old
status
R.I.P. (1923 - 2002)
more info

One of the most prolific Shaw Bros directors. His dedication to the martial arts genre is mythical, Chang's entire oeuvre is a testament to the Shaw Bros school of film making. Not the best of the bunch, but surely the most archetypical.

Solid pieces

Legend of the Fox

Fei Hu Wai Chuan
1980 / 129m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Legend of the Fox poster

What the later Cheh Chang films lack in ambition and spirit, they make up for with quality of execution. I was a little hesitant to start this 120-minute Shaw Bros production, as the runtime seemed quite excessive for the type of films they usually deliver, but I have to admit that I wasn't bored for even a second. It's the usual Shaw Bros shtick, just a tiny bit better.

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Chin Siu Ho grew up an orphan, never sure of who his real parents were. Until one rainy day, when he meets a mysterious stranger, who reveals Ho's parents were two legendary martial artists. When Ho finally discovers who is responsible for the dead of his parents, he starts working out and begins to plan his revenge.

The plot is basic, but Chang takes his time to flesh out the legend. It's still a little bumpy in places, but compared to many of his other films it feels a lot meatier. The action is on point too, but that's no surprise, with more than 15 years experience and countless more martial arts films under his belt. One of Chang's best films.

Invincible Shaolin

Nan Shao Lin yu Bei Shao Lin
1978 / 98m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Invincible Shaolin poster

One of Cheh Chang's finest. Not that is a very remarkable film, it follows the Shaw Bros formula to the letter, but at this point in his career Chang was so skilled in making these films, he could probably direct them in his sleep. For people not too familiar with the formula though, it makes for an ideal entry point in Chang's overwhelming oeuvre.

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The plot probably couldn't be any more basic. A malicious general tries to divide North and South Shaolin in order to seize the power. Once they see through his little plan, the best and brightest start their training to put an end to his coup, after which they face off in a rather lengthy and action-packed finale.

Usually these training scenes mess with the pacing, but they are actually pretty fun and inventive here. The film is filled with familiar Shaw Bros faces, the action is varied and well executed and once the final battle has a winner, the wrap-up of the film takes less than a minute. It's all very basic and predictable, but when the execution is on point that's hardly a problem. Martial arts/Shaw Bros fans are bound to have a good time with this one.

Life Gamble

Sheng Si Dou
1978 / 96m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Life Gamble poster

A pretty recognizable Shaw Bros production, though studio fans will no doubt notice the little details that make this film stand out in Chang's oeuvre. It's probably not enough to convince non-believers of the studio's appeal, others are sure to welcome the minor upsets and shifts in focus, as they make the film slightly less predictable.

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A jade jewel is the big prize of a gambling competition. The jewel attracts many interested parties, each sporting their own underhanded tricks to get to the jewel. To stand a chance, Feng approaches an old blacksmith to forge him seven daggers, the problem is that the blacksmith doesn't feel like coming out of retirement.

The film is slightly less focused on classic martial arts scenes, the fights are a bit sneaker and more subverted here. It's also interesting to see a more prominent female cast featured, not just in minor secondary roles either. It's these little things that create a somewhat different vibe, though very much within the confines of Chang's typical output. Good fun.

Have Sword, Will Travel

Bao Biao
1969 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Have Sword, Will Travel poster

60s Cheh Chang. There is a notable difference with the 70s Shaw Bros films. The early ones are more often shot on location, can be a bit grittier and feel a bit livelier. The downside is that the action scenes weren't quite as good, which somewhat negates the positives. Have Sword, Will Travel is a very solid entry in Chang's oeuvre though, sure to please fans of his work.

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The plot is simple, but that's hardly a surprise. Once a year Feng travels to the big city with a shipment of silver. Due to his declining health he hires two bodyguards, but they don't get along too well, even after Feng saves one of them. When they are attacked by the Flying Tiger gang, they have no choice but to work together.

This is one of those films where nothing in particular stands out, but everything just feels solid and accomplished. The action is decent, the location adds a bit of flair and the pacing is perfect. The film never drags (except maybe during what is no doubt one of the longest death scenes ever) and the finale is done and dusted before you know it. Good genre fun.

The inoffensive

The Weird Man

Shen Tong Shu Yu Xiao Ba Wang
1983 / 87m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Weird Man poster

Cheh Chang treading on Yuen Chor territory. I don't think Chang is the best man to handle martial arts/fantasy crossovers, but The Weird Man delivers what the title promises. The fantastical elements are goofy, there's a level of oddness that is pleasant and there sure are some memorable moments.

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The plot is based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A power struggle between magistrate Gong and general Sun leads to the death of Yu Ji, a Taoist priest. Yu Ji may be dead, but his body is being protected by five of his disciples and his spirit returns to take revenge on the ones who wanted him dead.

The soundtrack is goofy, the material is slightly more fantastical than usual and there's a bit more comedy tucked away. The fights are decent, the pacing is solid and even though I've seen plenty of similar films already, I wasn't bored. It's a perfectly fine Cheh Chang film, but not amongst his best work.

Heaven and Hell

Di San Lei Da Dou
1980 / 88m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
3.0*/5.0*
Heaven and Hell poster

Consider this Cheh Chang's struggle for relevance. With the appeal of the Shaw Bros martial arts films dwindling, people like Chang finally had to reinvent themselves. Heaven and Hell is a mix of fantasy, martial arts and even some musical elements, but it takes a while to come into its own.

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Five martial arts experts are unjustly thrown into hell. Not willing to give up, they struggle through the various levels of hell in order to reach Buddha. Once there, they plead to be resurrected. Buddha grants them their wish, but each of them has to fight and conquer the men who got them thrown into hell.

The hell scenes are the obvious stand-outs, though it's clear Chang isn't quite as gifted as Chor. The action is decent but not that remarkable, the musical bits early on feel superfluous. Luckily the film gets better as time passes and the second half is pretty fun, sporting some rather atypical Shaw Bros scenes.

Shaolin Rescuers

Jie Shi Ying Xiong
1979 / 110m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
3.0*/5.0*
Shaolin Rescuers poster

Cheh Chang and his Venom crew get back together for yet another martial arts film. It can be a bit tricky to discern individual films when you watch them one after another, so spreading them out is probably a better idea. I had quite a bit of fun with this film, but it's pretty typical and generic Shaw Bros material, so not ideal if you're planning a marathon.

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Jin has a pretty boring life. He is employed by a tofu store, so he tries to make his job more interesting by incorporating martial arts exercises into his work. His life takes a turn when he meets Xiguan, a refugee who is looking for a place to hide. Jin takes him in and promises to help him, even when he discovers Xiguan is being trailed by a gang of lethal killers.

The start of the film is a bit funnier, an obvious attempt to adapt to the popular martial arts films of that time (with people like Jackie Chan and Woo-Ping Yuen driving the changing dynamic). After a somewhat promising starts it's back to the regular Shaw Bros formula. Which is done well, it's just not all that exciting or special.

The Daredevils

Za Ji Wang Ming Dui
1979 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Daredevils poster

One of Chang's lighter martial arts films. Quite a lot of acrobatics and demonstrations in this film, with much of the actual fighting being saved for the lengthy finale. A true Shaw Bros production and a typical film for Chang, which makes it a perfect entry-level film for people not yet familiar with his work. Good fun.

The Magnificent Ruffians

Mai Ming Xiao Zi
1979 / 105m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Magnificent Ruffians poster

An entertaining and action-packed Cheh Chang film, but when you're already familiar with his work you won't find anything new here. It's always nice to see Chang do what he's good at, on the other hand when you see too many of these films in a short time span, it can get a little too repetitive.

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The Magnificent Ruffians is a somewhat inconspicuous entry in Chang's oeuvre. It plays like a sort of blueprint of Chang's work, sporting a rather basic setup, followed by a bunch of training scenes and pre-finale brawls that lead up to a long and excessive showdown at the end of the film.

Performances are a little weaker than usually the case, the variety in fight choreographies makes up for that though. At 105 minutes, the film is a bit too long (these Shaw Bros films work best when they stay within the 90-minute limit), but overall this is another fun and entertaining film that is sure to appeal to any Shaw Bros fans out there.

Crippled Avengers

Can Que
1978 / 107m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Crippled Avengers poster

A fun but pretty basic Shaw Bros production. The first half hour is a bit confusing maybe, with lots of character introductions in between the fighting, but once the story settles down it should be pretty familiar territory for everyone who has already seen a couple of their films. People who have seen too many will find a nifty piece of Cheh Chang filler.

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Not able to cope with the loss of his wife and the mutilation of his son, a wealthy martial arts master goes berserk in a small village. Four survivors band together and call in the help of another martial arts master, who teaches them how to fight and make the best of their handicaps, so they can take proper revenge on their assailant.

It's a very typical setup (something bad happens, the victims regroup, go into training and find their revenge after a lengthy but rewarding fight). Cheh Chang has made these films by the dozens (literally), but people who appreciate the genre (the training are fun and the final fight is pretty creative) are sure to have a lot of fun with it.

The Brave Archer

She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan
1977 / 127m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Brave Archer poster

The start of Chang's infamous Brave Archer tetralogy. It's a rather messy film, that still feels a little too short at two hours long, but it's nice to see an ambitious film like this come out of the Shaw Bros studio. It's not one of Chang's very best, but it sure is one of his more intriguing films.

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A young orphan finds shelter with five martial arts masters. They try to teach him their skills, but the boy just isn't very good at martial arts. Unsure of what to do with him, they send him out into the world to gather experience. On his quest he bumps into a peculiar beggar, who turns out to be a skilled, young girl.

The plot is all over the place and the lengthy introduction is a bit much. But there's lots of action, the performances are spirited and sets do look better than usual. The film feels like all Shaw Bros films wrapped up into one. The ending is a little unfulfilling, then again that's why there are three more sequels. Good fun.

Boxer Rebellion

Ba Guo Lian Jun
1976 / 137m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Boxer Rebellion poster

No doubt one of Cheh Chang's most epic undertakings. It's not really his best film though, as the Shaw Bros style doesn't really lend itself to producing epic cinema. Their film traditionally thrive on pacing and impressive action cinematography, not elaborate characters and/or effective drama.

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China is tearing at the seams and Western nations are readying themselves to increase their power in Chinese territories. Five martial artists join forces, thinking themselves untouchable by Western weapons. They inspire a group of young fighters to help them, but their first encounter with real guns is not what they'd hoped.

There are some truly impressive action scenes, it's just that there's way too much padding in between. The film is overflowing with familiar Shaw Bros faces and the quality of the production is pretty solid, but it's not good enough that it should be stretched beyond the 2-hour mark. Still, for fans of Chang's oeuvre this is a must-see.

Shaolin Temple

Shao Lin Si
1976 / 126m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Shaolin Temple poster

Another solid Cheh Chang/Shaw Bros film. The comedy at the start was a welcome surprise, but this section of the film is rather short and once the story settles in Shaolin Temple quickly moves on to a more serious vibe. I wouldn't have minded a somewhat lighter film for a change, then again that's not really why people became fans of the studio.

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One of the emperor's generals successfully double-crosses him and claims his spot on the throne, banishing the emperor from his country. One of the emperor's slaves escapes and seeks out the Shaolin monks. They accept his request and train him to become a worthy fighter, after which he returns to the castle to take on the general.

At two hours, the film is probably a bit too long. The amusing intro and the lengthy final fight (close to half an hour) make the time pass a little quicker though. There are also more characters dying in this film, which ups the stakes and make the plot a bit more interesting to follow. Shaolin Temple is a solid entry in Chang's crazy big oeuvre, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

The Shaolin Avengers

Fang Shi Yu yu Hu Hui Qian
1976 / 97m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Shaolin Avengers poster

A fine Cheh Chang film. Chang does what he knows best and delivers a film with plenty of martial arts acrobatics. The Shaolin Avengers is exactly the type of film Chang got famous for, and with good reason. Martial arts is simply what Chang excels in, this film offers yet more proof of that.

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Recently I've been watching some lesser known Chang films, films that often found Chang dabbling in different genres and settings. It's nice to return to his classic martial arts fare after that, because the different in quality is significant. There's a little drama here, but the majority of the film is spent on action scenes.

It's not just the classic martial arts stuff either, the ending has a bona fide pole fight, a personal favorite of mine. It's scenes like these that elevate this above about the countless other Shaw Bros offerings. While not a truly exceptional or spectacular film, The Shaolin Avengers is solid fun that is sure to appeal to fans of the Shaw Bros offerings.

All Men Are Brothers

Dong Kai Ji
1975 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
All Men Are Brothers poster

A direct sequel to The Water Margin, a film I haven't seen yet. While I do my best to watch film franchises in the correct order, availability is somewhat of an issue with Chang's Shaw Bros output. And since most of his films are pretty basic martial arts stories anyway, I figured it wouldn't hurt much to go ahead and watch All Men Are Brothers. Turns out I was right.

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A bunch of rebels are holed up in a fortified base. The emperor has sent his best men to break through their defenses, but this turns out to be quite a bit harder than expected. The rebels even manage to capture some heroes, the others devise a plan to attack the base from the inside.

There's a bunch of familiar Shaw Bros faces here, the film is pretty action-packed, and it's nice to see Chang shot quite a bit on location. In the end though, it's just another typical Shaw Bros/Chang production that doesn't do quite enough to set itself apart from the rest. Not a bad film, but not really a standout either.

Marco Polo

Ma Ko Po Lo
1975 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
Marco Polo poster

It's not often you see a Western character pop up in a Shaw Bros film. China has plenty of local heroes it can celebrate, but apparently they were ready to try something different. The result is negligible. This is just another typical Cheh Chang production, only with a white guy running around in the cast. It's no surprise then this experiment was rather short-lived.

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The famous Italian adventurer Marco Polo finds himself in China. There he is recruited by the Chinese government to track down some rebels in the south. Tracking the rebels down is easy enough, but when they face Polo, they persuade him to join their cause instead. The rebels want revenge for the death of one of their friends.

The first third of the film is spent on the setup, the middle part sees the heroes start their training, the final part has them testing their newly acquired skills on the bad guys. The fact that a white dude with a well-known name happens to be amidst all that is just an inconsequential detail. This is solid but predictable martial arts fare, nothing more, nothing less.

The Bloody Escape

Tao Wang
1975 / 84m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Bloody Escape poster

Chung Sun is one of the lesser known Shaw Bros directors, even though his track record is quite impressive. Together with Cheh Chang he tackles The Bloody Escape, a rather simple but effective martial arts production that brings the goods if you're looking for a prime 70s action flick.

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Hui is a member of a gang of ethical robbers. They don't kill their victims and only steal half their possessions. When the leader of the gang dies, new rules are established and their robberies are suddenly a lot more violent. Hui doesn't feel at home in the gang anymore and leaves them behind, but by doing so he made himself some new enemies.

It's not often that you see a Shaw Bros production shot on location, so that's a nice detail. Other than that, the somewhat stricter focus on action stands out, but in the end this is just another vintage Shaw Bros martial arts flick. It's fun and entertaining, not a minute too long, but it's also pretty expected and by the numbers.

Heroes Two

Fang Shi Yu yu Hong Xiguan
1974 / 93m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Heroes Two poster

Happy to see another bona fide, vintage Cheh Chang martial arts flick from the seemingly endless Shaw Bros library. This is what Chang does best. Rebellion, revenge, historic settings and people kicking and punching each other. There's nothing original or surprising here, but Shaw Bros/martial arts fans are sure to have a blast with this one.

Men from the Monastery

Shao Lin Zi Di
1974 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Men from the Monastery poster

A predictable, though somewhat more brutal Cheh Chang film. Like most of his films, this one sticks close to the blueprint. These Shaw Bros martial arts features are solid filler for fans of the genre and minor deviations from the formula help to keep it at least a little fresh, as long as you don't expect to see anything that truly breaks the mold.

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The titular monastery is the Shaolin temple, where four individuals come to train and learn from the local monks. They all have qualms with their Manchu oppressors and seek help from the teachers to take their revenge. It's not much of a plot, but it suffices for this type of film.

There are quite a few scenes shot on location, which is always a plus (I'm not the biggest fan of Chang's studio work), the finale has some nice visual touches and the fights are somewhat more brutal than usually the case. These are shifts I'm sure only dedicated Shaw Bros followers will notice, but they make that this film does stand out in Chang's oeuvre. Solid martial arts filler.

Blood Brothers

Chi Ma
1973 / 118m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Blood Brothers poster

The Shaw Brothers productions cultivated such a particular style that they can appear almost timeless (though they generally look older than their production year). Chang's Blood Brothers is a welcome exception, looking a bit more modern, mostly due to moving out of the studio and doing some actual takes outside.

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The story revolves around the camaraderie between Ma, an army man, and two small-time bandits. Ma trains the bandits to become veritable warriors, and together they rid the land of rebels and robbers. When Ma is eventually promoted to general, he feels beyond reprimand and starts an affair with the wife of one of his friends.

Two hours is long for a Cheh Chang film, but I can't say the film felt slow or stretched. The fights scenes are a bit stilted though and the film doesn't try too hard to set itself apart from all the other Chang productions, but fans of the Shaw studio will find a fun and entertaining martial arts romp here. Pretty much what could be expected from a film like this.

The Delightful Forest

Kuai Huo Lin
1972 / 93m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Delightful Forest poster

The by then typical Shaw Bros/Cheh Chang formula in full effect, only executed well enough to make this an enjoyable film. It's been a while since I watched a Shaw Bros feature, that always helps. Since their films are so much alike, watching many of them in close succession always leads to saturation.

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This film revolves around Wu Sung, a sword fighter who is exiled after he was found guilty of murdering his adulterous sister-in-law. When he arrives at the prison camp one of the guards decides to cut him some slack. When the guard get swindled by a local brute a little later, Wu Sung wants to return the favor.

The film is a bit bloodier than usual, it's always nice when the action is shot on location and there are some fun action choreographies, other than that this was a pretty regular Cheh Chang martial arts flick. Revenge is the keyword, the cast feels familiar and the pacing is solid. Generic but fun.

Trilogy of Swordsmanship

Qun Ying Hui
1972 / 108m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Trilogy of Swordsmanship poster

This was somewhat of an oddity. A Shaw Bros anthology, featuring three martial arts stories. In some ways, it makes a lot of sense, since the directors don't need to drag out a simplistic story to make it a feature length film. On the other hand, do we really need three similar Shaw Bros films for the price of one?

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The first film has a local general vying for the hand of an innkeeper, she is more interested in the mysterious stranger visiting her inn. The second film tells the story of a soldier and courtesan who can only be together when they catch a criminal, the third film is about a hero who fights a corrupt government. Nothing out of the ordinary in other words.

Anthologies are an ideal format to try out some new things, Trilogy of Swordsmanship isn't the least bit interesting in exploring that avenue. The film is little more than a trio of shortened Shaw Bros productions. It's no better or worse than a run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production, so this one is for fans only.

Duel of the Iron Fist

Da Jue Dou
1971 / 111m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Duel of the Iron Fist poster

A very solid entry in Chang's seemingly endless oeuvre. It's one of his more action-oriented martial arts epics, starting off with a major (and quite violent) battle sequence and never really slowing down after that. It's what Chang does best and it's no surprise then this turned out to be one of his better films.

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Chieh is a young recruit who messes up when he kills the boss of his own gang. He is banished from the group and leaves his village. When he returns one year later, he learns that two rivaling gangs have joined forces. Once they're made aware that Chieh is back, he becomes their main target.

It's a bit bloodier compared to most other Shaw Bros releases, apart from that it's a very standard release. The only issue I had is with the runtime, which is a bit excessive for a simple film like this. Otherwise, this is another quality Cheh Chang film that is sure to please his fans, though it won't win him any new ones.

Vengeance!

Bao Chou
1970 / 98m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
3.0*/5.0*
Vengeance! poster

A pretty kick-ass revenge flick. Chang's more contemporary films are usually among his weaker ones, but this one is clearly an exception to the rule. Just a smidgen too slow in places, but the action more than makes up for it. Some very lengthy and solid action scenes show why Chang became one of the Shaw Bros' leading men. Good fun.

Return of the One-Armed Swordsman

Du Bei Dao Wang
1969 / 105m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Return of the One-Armed Swordsman poster

More one-armed swordsman fun. I'm not the biggest fan of the series, there's a bit too much overt melodrama in them, but this is probably the best of the bunch thanks to some nice variety in styles and enemies. It's still far from Cheh Chang's best work, but at least I didn't get bored.

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The one-armed swordsman has left the world of martial arts to live a quiet life with this wife, but of course he can't escape his past. It doesn't take long before he is invited to a tournament organized by a shady clan boss. All the other clans in the vicinity are invited too, so it's obvious the man is up to something.

There's quite a lot of action in this one, there's also quite a few different weapons that make the fights more interesting. The drama in between is rather cheesy and the plot is pretty basic, 15 minutes shorter would've been much better, but there are enough memorable moments in here to make it worth your time. Not bad.

The Invincible Fist

Tie Shou Wu Qing
1969 / 93m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Invincible Fist poster

A film that feels like it was directed by someone who finally established his blueprint and is running through the formula to tweak things here and there, hoping to push it a little further. The Invincible Fist is vintage Shaw Bros martial arts cinema, a pure genre film that doesn't surprise, but sells itself on execution.

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Lo Lieh is tasked with battling a criminal gang. Hoping to learn more about them, he infiltrates the gang. What he doesn't know is that they have moles too, and Lieh soon becomes their target. To make matters even more complex, Lieh falls in love with the blind daughter of the gang's boss.

The film is nothing more than a bunch of familiar scenes and plot points stringed together. But the fight scenes in the rain do look extraordinary, there is some very cool weaponry and there's an actual post-climax finale, a true rarity. Not the best Cheh Chang film out there, but Shaw Bros fans have plenty to look forward to.

Golden Swallow

Jin Yan Zi
1968 / 89m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
3.0*/5.0*
Golden Swallow poster

Fine Cheh Chang film that looks surprisingly well for its age. It's a true Shaw Bros production, except for the many scenes that were shot on location. The martial arts is decent, the plot is nice enough and Chang sneaks in some pretty shots. Pretty much what you can expect from a decent SB film, only a tad more stylish.

Trail of the Broken Blade

Duan Chang Jian
1967 / 104m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
Trail of the Broken Blade poster

Another early Cheh Chang flick. It's a pretty good precursor to the 70s highlights of Chang's career, a film that is already quite epic in nature, offers a fair bit of martial arts and a very typical revenge plot. It's not quite up there with his best work yet, but it's no surprise this is the path Chang would choose to pursue.

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After avenging his father, Li goes into hiding. There he meets Fang, a capable martial artist who gets mixed up in a bitter fight with some goons. Li tries to stay out of Fang's affairs, but as he grows closer to Fang it becomes increasingly difficult to turn a blind eye, especially since Fang's adversaries don't care for a fair fight.

The cinematography (including the scenes shot on location) look better than Chang's later work (as is typical for the Shaw Bros productions), the fights on the other hand can still feel a little flaky. Still, Trail of the Broken Blade is an entertaining film and no doubt part of the blueprint that would lead the Shaw Bros to big success in the following decade, so well worth a watch.

The Magnificent Trio

Bian Cheng San Xia
1966 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Magnificent Trio poster

Not quite Chang's first film, but this is the oldest one that is easily accessible to his fans. It's not hard to see why, as The Magnificent Trio is a perfect blueprint for the following 20 years of Shaw Bros martial arts cinema and thus a film with some historic significance. But it's also just a pretty decent film regardless.

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Like other early Chang films, the direction is surprisingly solid. It's probably a mix of the inability to quickly skip through yet to be established genre clich├ęs and the lack of pressure to deliver multiple films per year, but these older films often feel more finished and detailed than the 70s and early 80s ones.

That sounds great, but it also means the pacing is a bit slower and the martial arts scenes aren't that elaborate yet, which is kind of the reason why I like the Shaw Bros martial arts catalogue. It's the classic contradiction between good cinema and good genre cinema. That said, Chang films will still find plenty to like here.

Worthy but flawed

House of Traps

Chong Xiao Lou
1982 / 95m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
House of Traps poster

A title that is pretty self-explanatory. Though a pretty standard Shaw Bros production, Chang has shifted the focus away from core martial arts scenes to a more varied array of traps that have to be conquered by the protagonists. It's a welcome attempt to do something different, but in the end the intended effect isn't really there.

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A corrupt prince orders the theft of a valuable jade relic. Once he has the object in his possession, he hides it in the House of Traps, a place nobody ever returned from alive. Min and his crew aren't afraid to take on this dangerous mission, and they plan a pretty risky operation to retrieve the jade relic. It will take all their strength and wits to return in one piece.

It sure sounded like a lot of fun, but the traps are a bit too DIY for my taste. If you have to rely on sound effects to make a trap appear more dangerous, you're not doing it right. Other than that this is a short and amusing SB filler flick. Maybe it's because I expected more from this one that it left me behind slightly disappointed. Cheh Chang fans should definitely give it a go though.

Ode to Gallantry

Xia Ke Hang
1982 / 83m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Ode to Gallantry poster

A pretty basic Cheh Chang film. Not nearly enough action to be a stand-out entry in his oeuvre, but fans of the Shaw Bros films will find that the studio's usual charm is fully present. It's short and the pacing is decent, but for an 80s film I expected a bit more. Not the worst thing he's ever done, but rather forgettable.

Masked Avengers

Cha Shou
1981 / 92m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Masked Avengers poster

It's a strange observation, but the later Shaw Bros productions often feel a tad more rushed, not quite as polished as their late 60s/early 70s work. Maybe they got a bit sloppy, as they'd been remaking the same film over and over again, but for a big player in a movie industry known for quality by repeated refinement, the Shaw Bros catalog forms a notable outlier.

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A brutal gang of masked robbers is terrorizing the land. Wherever they go, they leave behind a trail of death and destruction. Yuen is a young clan leader who is fed up with the masked gang. Rather than wait for his town's inevitable demise, he finds out where their headquarters are located and goes there with a troupe of local fighters.

Masked Avengers is a bit bloodier than your average Shaw Bros film, but that's hardly a selling point (with blood looking like cheap red paint). The fight choreographies are a notch above average and the pacing is on point, so at least that makes this film worth a watch. Pretty basic Shaw Bros filler, but if you're in the mood for a simple and entertaining martial arts flick, it's a decent enough option.

The Sword Stained with Royal Blood

Bi Xie Jian
1981 / 104m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Sword Stained with Royal Blood poster

Run-of-the-mill martial arts flick from Chang. The action is solid, but the film is at least 15 minutes too long, not in the least because it's mostly just added dialogue. The drama is very limited and breaks up the film once too often, apart from that it's a decent but ultimately forgettable Shaw Bros production.

Ten Tigers of Kwangtung

Guangdong Shi Hu Xing Yi Wu Xi
1980 / 91m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung poster

One of the later Cheh Chang films. It shows that he was fully settled into the martial arts genre by then, probably a bit too much. Ten Tigers of Kwangtung is a decent Shaw Brow production, but also one that feels quite haphazard and repetitive, more like a best-of than an actual individual film.

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When the Kwangtung Tigers kill one of Tung's family members, Tung gathers all his nephews and vows to take revenge. The Tigers are a fearsome bunch though and the only way to get to them is to separate them, which is easier said than done. To help them out, Tung calls in the help of 5 Shaolin masters.

Expect a slew of familiar Shaw Bros actors doing their usual thing. There's a lot of kicking, punching, hurling weapons at each other and some brutal murders. What there isn't much of is coherence or creativity. I'd probably like this film better if I'd seen it a bit earlier in my exploration of Chang's oeuvre, but as a 60th+ plus film it's just a bit too expected.

The Flag of Iron

Tie Qi Men
1980 / 113m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Flag of Iron poster

One of those Shaw Bros films that relies solely on a single idea or concept to differentiate itself. The titular iron flags are the weapons of choice for the good guys, the martial arts scenes are all built around the tricks and attacks that can be executed with them. Apart from that, this is your standard, expected Cheh Chang production.

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The Iron Flag Clan and the Eagle Clan are age-old rivals. When the Eagles get thoroughly beaten by the Iron Flags, they want to call a truce. It's really just a trap to mess with the Iron Flags. To keep the peace, the Iron Flags agree to send away one of their strongest fighters. He discovers what really happened to his clan and vows to set things right.

Deceit, revenge and martial arts, the classic ingredients for the most core Shaw Bros films are all present here. The weapons add something new to the action scenes, but I wasn't too impressed with these somewhat unwieldy weapons. All that remains then is a simple but somewhat amusing film, fun for fans of the studio, others can probably skip it.

The Rebel Intruders

Da Sha Si Fang
1980 / 99m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Rebel Intruders poster

Cheh Chang meets the new wave. Classis Shaw Bros martial arts with additional comedy bits, that feel like they were taken from a Jackie Chan/Woo-ping Yuen film. The result is pretty decent, but not as good as its peers. It's a decent Shaw Bros film, but it can't really distinguish itself from the many (many) others.

Two Champions of Death

1980 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Two Champions of Death poster

Like many of Cheh Chang's late-career films, Two Champions feels a little obsolete. It's not a bad film (not too surprising considering Chang had been making these exact films for over 15 years), but it struggles to stand out within an oeuvre that is filled with very similar productions.

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The Shaolin are facing the Wu Tangs once again. Two Shaolin fighters are sent on the mission one after the other, to aid the Qing empire in their struggle with the Wu Tang. They meet up and form a strong duo, but they somewhat underestimate the power of their adversaries.

Everything is done by the book, the film doesn't even make an effort to set itself apart. That's probably why it feels a little stale and unadventurous. There's a decent enough finale, some familiar faces and the pacing is fine, but if you're like me, and you've seen 70+ Chang films already, there's just no way I'll be able to distinguish between this one and about 25 others two weeks from now.

Five Deadly Venoms

Wu Du
1978 / 97m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Five Deadly Venoms poster

One of Chang's bigger successes. The Venoms would return in quite a few subsequent films, this is where they came to be. I can't say I was all that impressed with the film though. It spends more time on the intrigue and plot, not really what I want from a Shaw Bros production. The martial arts scene suffer as a consequence, which is a shame considering the fun setup.

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A martial arts master trains five pupils and teaches each of them a different style of fighting. When they move out into the world, the master receives word that one of them might be abusing his powers. To find out who isn't behaving, he trains a sixth fighter who knows all their techniques. He has to find out who is bringing dishonor to his master.

The quest to find the culprit takes up a lot of time, which sucks because the performances aren't that great, neither is Chang's direction. The action looks a bit crummy compared to this other films, even though all the elements are there for some good old martial arts fun. I ended up a little disappointed, though Shaw Bros fans are sure to find something here.

The Brave Archer 2

She Diao Ying Xiong Chuan Xu Ji
1978 / 110m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Brave Archer 2 poster

The Brave Archer saga continues. This second film offers more of the same, but that shouldn't come as a big surprise, as that goes for more than half of Cheh Chang's oeuvre. It might've been a mistake to watch these films out of order, then again I don't think it would've impacted my overall appreciation that much.

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The story felt pretty messy, but maybe that's because I didn't remember much from the first film. Kuo Tsing, who knows the contents of a much coveted book, wants to marry Ying. Fung also wants to learn what is written inside the book, so he kidnaps Ying and hopes to use her as bait.

The plot takes a bit too much focus here, and with almost two hours on the clock, the plot starts weighing down what is essentially just basic martial arts entertainment. It's probably because I didn't care much about the characters and their fates, that's just not what makes these Shaw Bros films stand out for me. There are some fun fights and decent sets, but I prefer my Cheh Chang films a bit shorter and snappier.

Magnificent Wanderers

Jiang Hu Han Zi
1977 / 94m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Magnificent Wanderers poster

A decent Cheh Chang film. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but Shaw Bros addicts are sure to get their fix from this film. A couple of solid martial arts fights, some light comedy and a limited runtime so there's little time to get bored. It's remarkable how many of these films Chang directed, but they provide solid entertainment so who am I to complain.

The New Shaolin Boxers

Cai Li Fa Xiao Zi
1976 / 96m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The New Shaolin Boxers poster

It's a mix of the old and the new, but ultimately little more than basic Cheh Chang filler. The training sequences really feel like classic Chang, but the setting is a bit more modern. Not exactly contemporary, but clearly not the rural, historical setting we usually see in the Shaw Bros films.

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There's plenty of martial arts action in New Shaolin Boxers, which is always a plus. The synchronized training sequences in particular jump out, but the fights themselves are nicely choreographed too. Add to that some familiar faces and most Cheng/Shaw Bros fans will have plenty to look forward to.

The romance and bits of drama in between though are of much lower quality, and slow the film down. Like many of Chang's films, the middle part drags a little, luckily it's a short film and it doesn't take too long before the finale kicks in. A pretty typical Cheh Chang film in other words, not bad, but not all that remarkable either.

Five Shaolin Masters

Shao Lin Wu Zu
1974 / 105m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Five Shaolin Masters poster

A precursor to the five venom films. The crew is already intact here, only it doesn't quite feel like a five venoms film yet. It's a bit of an atypical Cheh Chang film I guess, though knowing this is a Shaw Bros production, a statement like that has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Shaw Bros signature is very present, it's just a couple of minor details that set this film apart.

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Five elite fighters band together and decide to rebel against their Manchu oppressors, whose reign has taken a severe toll on the Ming people. Each of the five warriors sets out to recruit some strong fighters, hoping to train them into well-oiled fighting machines, so they can take on the Manchu leaders with a small army of their own.

The martial arts scenes aren't quite as good here, but the training scenes are pretty cool, and it's fun to see such a broad cast of varied individuals wage a miniature war. It's a welcome diversion in an oeuvre defined by similarities, though the impact remains quite limited. Ultimately, this is just another Shaw Bros/Cheh Chang collab.

Na Cha the Great

Na Zha
1974 / 90m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Na Cha the Great poster

With all the Ne Zha hype going on in China these days, I was a little surprised to learn there was already a Shaw Brow adaptation of the story (or at least, a story featuring the Ne Zha character. It's a bit weird they didn't get Yuen Chor for the job, I guess Cheh Chang just wanted to try a little fantasy martial arts for a change.

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Ne Zha is a brat with his heart in the right place. Though he teases his teachers and angers his parents, he cannot stand injustice. It's a trait that will land him in a lot of trouble. When he kills one of the dragon people (who was harassing an innocent passerby), he is forced to take responsibility and end his own life.

Ne Zha is fantasy-based martial arts, clearly not Chang's strong point. The dragons look iffy, the effects in general aren't all that great and the cinematography can't quite cover it up. The rest of the film is pretty fun though. Decently paced, some nice fights and a handful of memorable scenes, the early Eric Tsang cameo is just the icing on the cake. Amusing Shaw Bros production, but far from Chang's best work.

The Delinquent

Fen Nu Qing Nian
1973 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Delinquent poster

Pretty fierce film. The drama doesn't work at all and the direction is so over-the-top that it almost feels like a parody of itself. But the action scenes do stand out and there's so much energy and drive that the film did win me over in the end. Not one of Chang's best, but one of his better films in a contemporary setting.

The Iron Bodyguard

Da Dao Wang Wu
1973 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
The Iron Bodyguard poster

A middle of the road Cheh Chang film. The man has made so many films in such a short span of time, all within the same genre, that some of them are inevitably forgettable. The Iron Bodyguard is one of such films. Not that it's particularly bad or disappointing, it just doesn't excel at anything in particular.

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Tan is trying to fight the corruption in the Chinese government, but they are on to him and manage to arrest him before he can do any real damage. Right before his arrest, Tan did get Wang on board, a skilled martial artist who will do his very best to keep Tan from becoming a martyr.

The Iron Bodyguard is a film with a slightly stronger focus on the narrative. There are still the usual Shaw Bros fights, but they are fewer and shorter. The story isn't all that exciting though and performances don't really stand out either. It's decent enough when you're pining for some Shaw Bros action, but only when you've seen all of their more prominent films.

Man of Iron

Chou Lian Huan
1972 / 99m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
Man of Iron poster

Cheh Chang filler, though he got a little help from Hsueh Li Pao this time around. The plot is situated in a slightly more modern setting (at least, compared to most other Shaw Bros martial arts films), which usually doesn't pan out too well. But the film stays clear from too obvious contemporary influences, so it doesn't come off all that outdated.

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Man of Iron is a sequel to The Boxer From Shantung, with Shaw Bros legend Kuan Tai Chen reprising the role of Wan. Wan has amassed a large group of followers, but he isn't the only bad boy in Shanghai. It doesn't take too long before he butts heads with some of the more established gangs. And they're not too happy with this new kid on the block.

The plot isn't too interesting, the film also takes a little too long to get going. The martial arts is decent, but not the best Chang has put on screen. But he compensates with plenty of martial arts scenes in the second half of the film. It gets a lot better from there on out, though I still wouldn't recommend this film unless you're dedicated to completing Chang's entire oeuvre.

The Water Margin

Shui Hu Zhuan
1972 / 125m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Water Margin poster

A pretty run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production, based off of one of the more epic novels in Chinese history. Cheh Chang's The Water Margin handles only a small part of the story, but as someone unfamiliar with its plot, characters and cultural importance, this could've just been any random Shaw Bros flick.

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The Water Margin tells the epic story of 108 unique fighters banding together to battle the corrupt government, this film zooms in on the plan to kill the Liang Shan clan by hiring Golden Spear. When they hear of the plan, they go look for Jade Dragon, an equally skilled warrior, and the only one with a fighting chance to stop Golden Spear.

It's not a bad film, but these Shaw Bros productions are rarely good enough to support a 2-hour runtime. It's nice that Chang moved his camera out of the studio and there are some pretty solid fight scenes, but there's also too much filler and dead moments. Core Shaw Bros fans won't be too disappointed, but I'd hoped for something a bit more exciting.

King Eagle

Ying Wang
1971 / 80m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
King Eagle poster

More Cheh Chang filler. I'm pretty glad I kept track of everything I've seen throughout the years, as some of these Chang films are so much alike that I'd be hard-pressed to remember if I'd already seen certain titles. King Eagle is one of those films. I've watched it, but my notes don't tell me much beyond the fact that it is a very generic Shaw Bros film.

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When Tong starts to lose control over his men, his second in command sees an opportunity to seize control. He traps Tong and tries to kill him, but Tong manages to escape, though heavily wounded. He does disclose the identity of the traitor to one of his loyal disciples, who makes it his mission to plan Tong's revenge.

If you've seen Chang's more famous production, you'll know exactly what to expect from this one. Some decent martial arts scenes, somewhat limited decors and performances and a plot that revolves around betrayal and revenge. It's filler in the most literal sense of the word, but Shaw Bros fans probably won't mind too much.

The Deadly Duo

Shuang Xia
1971 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
2.5*/5.0*
The Deadly Duo poster

Run-of-the-mill Cheh Chang. One of his earlier works that mixes memorable scenes with unremarkable filler. No doubt the biggest Shaw Brow/Cheh Chang fans will find exactly what they're looking for in this film, but after seeing so many Shaw Bros films already it was tough to get really excited by it.

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After some back and forth at the start of the film, a group of heroes tries to infiltrate an impregnable fortress. They have a map that shows them a secret route at the backside of the fortress, but to get there there they have to cross a dangerous bridge first. Not the most elaborate plot ever, but it does the job.

It's nice that Chang shot on location, the bridge scenes in particular stand out. Performances are mediocre though and the battles aren't all that exciting. The film is quite short, still the pacing feels a little sluggish at times. There simply isn't much plot and with the action being slightly subpar, the film fails to set itself apart.

The New One-Armed Swordsman

Xin Du Bi Dao
1971 / 98m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The New One-Armed Swordsman poster

Classic Cheh Chang martial arts romp, featuring one of the studios more famed martial arts heroes. The introduction is a bit long and uneventful, but in true Shaw Bros fashion the finale makes up for that. Not really a stand-out feature in Chang's oeuvre, but martial arts fans won't be disappointed by this one.

The Flying Dagger

Fei Dao Shou
1969 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Flying Dagger poster

Very run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production. Good versus evil, a basic plot that revolves around revenge and some martial arts action to resolve everything. Shaw Bros fans should know what to expect from Cheh Chang's films, others do well to seek out more prestigious Shaw Brow directors first.

The Assassin

Da Ci Ke
1967 / 121m - Hong Kong
Action
2.5*/5.0*
The Assassin poster

One of Cheh Chang's earliest films. They're usually a bit slower and more elaborate than his later work. That tends to translate in nicer cinematography, often featuring scenes shot in the actual outdoors. On the other hand, the stories are rarely engaging enough to support the longer runtimes, so it becomes a double-edged sword.

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Nie Zheng comes from a poor family, but he performs well in school, and he's an excellent sword fighter. He wants to live a simple life with his girlfriend Xia Ying, but fate decides otherwise. His school becomes the setting for a big bloodbath, only Zheng and his best friend manage to escape. They decide to move far away, but not before bringing the one who caused the bloodbath to justice.

The cinematography is pretty stylish, performances are also well above the Shaw Bros norm. The action isn't quite as vibrant though and for a simple story like this, the 110-minute plus runtime is a bit excessive. These early Chang films are well worth exploring, even when they can be a bit long-winded.

Dubious filler

The Dancing Warrior

Pi Li Qing
1985 / 90m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
The Dancing Warrior poster

Cheh Chang tries to bring together dance and martial arts. And as I've said a couple of times before already, whenever Chang moves away from what he's known for, it tends to end badly. There are some good fight scenes here, but the combination with the dancing is done poorly and takes away from the action.

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Performances aren't great, which is a problem when the action only makes up a small part of the film. The comedy isn't all that great either and the soundtrack is just plain terrible. Lame and cheesy songs that make the film a little too ridiculous (beyond what was intended to be funny).

I think a different director could've made something better of this film, as other films have shown that there is potential in mixing martial arts and dance. But Chang simply isn't the man for the job, especially not since he was nearing the end of his career when he made this film. There is some fun to be had, but overall it's not all that great.

Shanghai 13

Shang Hai Tan: Shi San Tai Bao
1984 / 90m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Shanghai 13 poster

A film in two parts. The first part is a little slow and dull, a sluggish spy story set in a modern day martial arts setting. The 30-minute finale on the other hand is one big fight sequence that shows what Chang is best at: martial arts action. I still feel it works better in a more historic setting, but the killer here is the slow first hour.

The Demons

Jiu Zi Tian Mo
1984 / 95m - Hong Kong
Action, Horror
2.0*/5.0*
The Demons poster

It's remarkable to see that Chang's later films tend to be of lesser quality. The biggest problem with The Demons is that it looks like a typical 70s Shaw Bros film, even though it was released in the mid-80s. If you compare it to other Hong Kong action films of that time, the result is simply iffy. It's no surprise then that the studio would wither away during this decade.

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Chen, a simple man, finds himself in the way of a female demon. A Taoist priest intervenes and manages to save Chen, but this just angers the demons even more, after which they launch a full-scale attack. They target Chen's son and manage to possess him, luckily the priest has a couple of tricks left up his sleeve.

I usually welcome more fantasy elements in Shaw Bros productions, but it's not really Chang's strong suit. The effects are ridiculous, and the film is rather loud and screamy, making the first hour quite tough to sit through. The final 30 minutes offer more straightforward martial arts action and are notably better, just not enough to make this is a good or safe recommend.

Chinese Super Ninjas

Ren Zhe Wu Di
1982 / 107m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Chinese Super Ninjas poster

Ninjas are some of the coolest and most cinematic fighters around, but doing them in live action has proven tricky time and time again. Somehow their crafty tricks are difficult to translate to something that impresses, a pitfall even Cheh Chang couldn't avoid. It's interesting to see him try, but the result is rather unimpressive.

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A group of five ninjas murder Shao Tien-hao's brother and master, leaving him behind to fend for himself. Shao goes on a quest to find a new master, someone who can teach him some special tricks to carry out his revenge. As you can see, they didn't spend too much time on the plot, this is just regular Shaw Bros fare, only with ninjas.

The structure of the film is quite repetitive (first you see each ninja kick some martial artist ass, then Shao returns the favor and kicks each of their asses). The ninja weapons look cheap, the blood is fake, and the fights are rather dull. Not really what you want from an action film with the most enigmatic brand of fighter known to man.

The Brave Archer 4

Shen Diao Xia Lu
1982 / 100m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
2.0*/5.0*
The Brave Archer 4 poster

Throughout the years, Cheh Chang tried various ways to elevate his work. Few, if any, really worked out. Chang is good at making simple and solid martial arts flicks, whatever extras are added usually do little more than detract from the core fun of his films. Point in case, this fourth entry in the Brave Archer series, which turned out to be quite mediocre indeed.

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A violent gang attacks Kuo's martial arts school, killing his respected master in the process. He vows to track down whoever brought disrespect to his school, but he suddenly finds himself in a world of deceit and corruption. It's a good thing Kuo is a rather venerable martial artist himself, as he'll need all his power and skills to bring the culprits to justice.

There's quite a bit more time spent on fleshing out the plot, but that's not why I care to watch these films. There's no lack of action scenes, even so the quality is rather mediocre and though there's a wealth of familiar faces, the performances are lackluster. It's not Chang's worst film, but it does feel incredibly generic and somewhat outdated for an 80s film.

The Brave Archer 3

She Diao Ying Xiong Chuan San Ji
1981 / 92m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
The Brave Archer 3 poster

This third instalment is shorter (which is good), but not necessarily better. I know the Brave Archer is a respected series, but I never quite understood the appeal. It's quite slow, overly sentimental, and it can get very wordy. Not what the Shaw Bros studios is best known for, and with reason.

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Kuo Tsing continues his journey. After beating the leader of the Iron Palm clan, he leaves the Beggars Clan behind to travel with his loved one. One of their paintings reveals a secret when it gets caught in the rain, showing the way to a hidden treasure. Kuo Tsing decides to investigate, even when it leads him into a sacred cave of the Iron Palm clan.

The fight scenes aren't that special, the plot is a little overbearing and the film feels more than a little drawn out. It's shorter than its companions, which makes it a little easier to sit through, but with so many better Shaw Bros films out there, I find these films a little hard to recommend.

Kid with the Golden Arm

Jin Bei Tong
1979 / 75m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Kid with the Golden Arm poster

More filler from Chang. The biggest problem is the rather uninviting lead and his bland martial arts skill. Making a good martial arts film can be as simple as finding a great and unique skill to build your film around, the opposite is also true. When the skills of the secondary characters are nicer to look at but lack exposure, you end up with mediocre filler.

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No revenge this time, but a simple plot about a gold heist. A group of ragtag fighters comes together to target a gold transport, Yang's mission is to make sure it arrives at its destination. With the help of a sword fighter, a woman with an axe and a drunken master he has to defend the transport, which is easier said than done.

Familiar faces, a familiar plot, lots of studio scenes and a long-winded action finale that should've been the cherry on the cake. But as the lead fighter is somewhat of a bust, it simply doesn't impress all that much. What remains is pretty basic but somewhat amusing Shaw Bros filler, for those who can't get enough of the studio's output.

7 Man Army

Ba Dao Lou Zi
1976 / 119m - Hong Kong
Action, War
2.0*/5.0*
7 Man Army poster

Chinese war propaganda from the hands of one of Shaw Bros most respected and prolific directors. It's interesting comparing this film with the current wave of Chinese war epics. Apart from the obvious budgetary differences, they're surprisingly similar, highlighting the dedication and pride of soldiers sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

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The title is pretty self-explanatory. A Chinese regiment is nearly annihilated. Only seven men remain, facing a Japanese army of over 20000 soldiers (and a fair few tanks). The seven men are tasked with defending a strategic stronghold, hoping to slow down the Japanese invasion. To do so, they'll have to be pretty crafty and resort to guerilla techniques.

You can't take the Shaw Bros out of Shaw Bros films, meaning this never truly feels like an actual war flick. The fight is never even remotely realistic and the 7 vs 20000 premise feels more like cinematic claptrap, but the action scenes are pretty amusing and the pacing isn't too bad for a 2-hour film. Far from Chang's best, yet passable, if you can stomach the patriotism that is.

Disciples of Shaolin

Hong Quan Xiao Zi
1975 / 106m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Disciples of Shaolin poster

A lesser Cheh Chang film. Maybe it's because he was getting a bit tired of making the same kind of film over and over again, or maybe it's just a small shift in balance that makes this a poorer film. A lot of these Shaw Bros films look alike and Disciples of Shaolin is no exception. The stronger focus on plot just makes it a bit harder to stomach.

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Though quite a bit of time is spent on the story, it isn't all that complex. A young martial artist starts a job at a textile factory. One of his colleagues is a Shaolin disciple and warns him about a rival Manchu clan, who operates a nearby mill. It should come as no surprise that tensions rise quickly between the rivals.

Whatever time is spent on the plot and characters isn't spent on action, and that's rarely a good thing in a Chang film. The somewhat more modern soundtrack isn't too helpful either, and even the action scenes feel a bit drab. There are some decent scenes, but they are few and far between. A film for hardcore Chang fans only.

The Fantastic Magic Baby

Hong Hai Er
1975 / 62m - Taiwan
Fantasy, Adventure
2.0*/5.0*
The Fantastic Magic Baby poster

Cheh Chang's Shaw Bros adaptation of Journey to the West is an odd little beast. Rather than turn it into a conventional film, it feels a lot more like a recorded stage play. Now, the Shaw Bros films have mostly been shot in studio settings, but it seems they didn't even bother to try and camouflage it here.

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I've seen so many adaptations of this book already, but I keep running into parts of the stories I'm unfamiliar with (I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and read it myself one day). In this film, the Monkey King and the Goddess of Mercy band together to fight the child god Hung Hai-erh, a nasty little bugger.

The effects, settings and costumes are all rather low-key, which is a shame for a fantasy/adventure film. I think Yuen Chor would've been a better match for this material, but Chang tries to make the best of it. Sadly, not even the martial arts scenes look very convincing. It's a short film and the pacing is decent, it's also rather amusing to watch, but it's far from Chang's best.

Shaolin Martial Arts

Hong Quan Yu Yong Chun
1974 / 106m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Shaolin Martial Arts poster

Another classic Cheh Chang/Shaw Bros collaboration. If you watch too many of his/their films closely together, they all start to blend. Even the title here sounds extremely generic, and that's exactly what you should expect. The good guys get their asses kicked, retreat, regroup and start their training, so they can repay the bad guys at the end of the film.

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Every year there's a festival that unites the different martial arts schools. They come together, and their best fighters show off their most impressive skills. This is the first year the Manchu are allowed to join, so everyone is one edge. Especially when the Manchu leader starts getting involved in the proceedings of the gathering.

The action choreography is a little basic, the training are fun enough but nothing you haven't seen before, and the studio scenes look a little underwhelming. It's perfectly fine Shaw Bros martial arts filler, certainly if you have a strong craving for this type of film. Looking at the rest of Chang's oeuvre, there are many other films to plow through first.

The Pirate

Da Hai Dao
1973 / 92m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
The Pirate poster

Cheh Chang and pirates. Apart from a short introduction and some scenes on the beach, it's not that different from other Shaw Bros productions, and the whole pirate angle adds very little. I'd expected a slightly more unique film, but it's clear that deviating from the norm wasn't as easy as it seemed. This is just basic Shaw Bros fluff.

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We're following a capable but fair pirate here. Though he steals at sea, he also protects people who are in need. When his crew has to go on land to repair the ship, they find a little fishing community that's being oppressed by a local gang. Our hero sides with the fishermen and stands up to the gang on their behalf.

There are some decent martial arts scenes, the scenes on locations are pretty cool (no studio-fake sea) and the ending has somewhat of a twist, but it's not enough to give the film a real swashbuckler feel. The whole pirate setup feels a little forced and poorly executed, which is a shame as there was some potential there.

Boxer from Shantung

Ma Yong Zhen
1972 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Boxer from Shantung poster

A Shaw Bros martial art film in a slightly more modern setting. It may sound like a minor detail, but since so many of their projects are historic action films, it does come off quite different. It's no revenge flick either, but a zero-to-hero story about two competing fighters. Sadly, the changes here aren't necessarily for the better.

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Two young fighters make a name for themselves fighting against and beating some of Shanghai's most renowned fighters. The two seem to be doing well for themselves, but one of the biggest gangs in town is only interested in recruiting Cheng. This starts a rivalry between the two, making their rise to the top quite a bit more challenging.

At 120 minutes long, there is simply too much cruft here. The great martial arts choreographies are saved until the very end (which takes longer than usual) and the more contemporary setting feels a bit awkward with Chang in the director chair. Not a very remarkable film, even though it did garner quite a reputation. The finale is pretty cool, other than that I was left somewhat disappointed.

Four Riders

Si Qi Shi
1972 / 104m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
Four Riders poster

It's not the first time I complain about a Cheh Chang film in a contemporary setting, I'm sure it won't be the last either. Though I will say, Four Riders feels a lot like heroic bloodshed avant-la-lettre, so Chang probably does deserve some credits there. Sadly the execution is pretty flat and not at all heroic.

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It's almost too clean and neat, which isn't ideal for an action film. It's nice that Chang tries to incorporate some social critique for example, but it feels out of place and ends up slowing things down unnecessarily. The action scenes are decent, but nothing too spectacular and too far apart to keep the film interesting.

The bottom line is that Chang doesn't do serious very well. He's at his best when martial arts heroes are flying around while taking revenge on some illustrious bad guy. Four Riders is a film that tries to tackle a little extra, but ends up poorer for it. I wouldn't be surprised though if John Woo considers this one of his favorites.

The Heroic Ones

Shi San Tai Bao
1970 / 117m - Hong Kong
Action, War
2.0*/5.0*
The Heroic Ones poster

I sometimes wonder what it would've been like to be a scriptwriter for the Shaw Bros studios. I can't imagine these people having a very challenging job. The Heroic Ones offers the same old intrigue, though with a bit more padding than usually the case. The result is a 2-hour film that somewhat overstays its welcome.

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A mighty king has 13 loyal generals. He is tired off all the scuffles and wants to get rid of all his enemies in one big swoop. He deploys 9 of his 13 generals to complete the mission, but his selectiveness breeds discontent among his loyal servants, and the mission doesn't quite go as planned. Or what else did you expect?

This is a slightly older Chang film, so the fights aren't quite as elaborate and impressive yet. That's more decisive for the quality than the body count, which is quite high, just not that interesting. All the other usual Shaw Bros caveats apply to this film, but it's the excessive runtime that ends up making this one of Chang's lesser films.

The One-Armed Swordsman

Du Bei Dao
1967 / 111m - Hong Kong
Action
2.0*/5.0*
The One-Armed Swordsman poster

One of the first Cheh Chang films to really make an impact. It's not too surprising, the setup is quite distinctive, and a one-armed hero is something that can easily be turned into a franchise (a bit like a blind Samurai). It's no surprise then that Chang was able to make a couple of sequels. Sadly, the film itself isn't all that great.

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Fang's father defended the honor of his master and school with his own life. His final request is that his son is allowed to enter the school. Fang joins the school, but the other kids don't treat him as their equal. A prank gone wrong results in Fang losing his arm. He leaves, but the gang who originally plagued the school is planning a new attack.

The film feels more solid than many of Chang's later films. The camera work is a tad more polished, performances are a bit more involved and the plot slightly more structured. These aren't reasons why I put on a Shaw Bros film though. The action feels a bit meager still, so I was a bit disappointed this film couldn't honor its reputation of martial arts classic.

Plain forgettable

Journey to the West

Xi Xing Ping Yao
1991 / 86m - China
Action, Adventure
1.5*/5.0*
Journey to the West poster

Watching this, I felt pretty bad for Cheh Chang. After making so many films, many of them pretty good, it's almost unimaginable that he had to close his career (it's his second to last film, but still) with a paltry production like this. This looked more like a film you'd expect to see at the start of someone's career.

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No matter how many Journey to the West adaptations I see, the plots always seem to be different, the only constant being the main characters. This film is no exception. The Monkey King is there, other than that the plot didn't feel familiar at all. Maybe Chang picked some less popular side stories though.

The costumes are cheap, the cinematography is amateurish, even the fights don't translate all that well. And that's from a man who made more than 50 martial arts flicks in the preceding three decades. Comparing this to other high quality martial arts productions of the early 90s makes it even worse. For true completionists only.

Chinatown Kid

Tang Ren Jie Xiao Zi
1977 / 115m - Hong Kong
Action
1.5*/5.0*
Chinatown Kid poster

Cheh Chang doing something different. In contrast with the typical Shaw Bros production, Chinatown Kid moves its actors to a more contemporary (read 70s) setting. It's clear that Chang didn't feel entirely comfortable directing this film though, as the plot is poor and the action scenes aren't good enough to compensate. One of his lesser efforts.

Naval Commandos

Hai Jun Tu Ji Dui
1977 / 112m - Hong Kong
Action, War
1.5*/5.0*
Naval Commandos poster

Not Cheh Chang's finest moment, but that was already obvious from the start of the film. When Chang strays from martial art cinema, it rarely goes well. To make things a little worse he entered a collaboration with two other Shaw Bros directors to direct a patriotic Chinese war flick, not unlike the ones we've been seeing these past couple of years.

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At the start of the Sino-Japanese war, a crew is sent out to stop a big Japanese warship from making inroads. Their mission is doomed to fail, but the crew is extremely determined to pull it off. Even when their ship is destroyed, they keep advancing by land, avoiding all enemy troops to get the job done.

There are some familiar faces here, but when there are no fists flying, most of the famous Shaw Bros actors can't really deliver. There's way too much drama, the cinematography is basic and it takes too long for the action to kick off. It's something different from Chang, but that's about all it is.

1.5*/5.0*
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires poster

Hammer meet Shaw Bros. Two legendary production companies working on a single films sounds appealing, but the result is lackluster and troubled. Mediocre martial arts scenes, terrible practical effects and a dull mix of Western and Eastern mythology make this is project a failure. I'm not surprised their cooperation was short-lived.

Police Force

Jing Cha
1973 / 107m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Police Force poster

A poor crime/thriller by Cheh Chang. The action scenes are decent but not all that noteworthy, and they are few and far between. The thriller and crime elements are poor though and tend to drag. The film is too long, has pacing issues and a cast that can't make an impression. Definitely not Chang's best work.

The Angry Guest

E Ke
1972 / 89m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Angry Guest poster

I sometimes complain that many of the Shaw Bros films are too much alike, the problem is that when they try to do something else, it often ends up worse than their core offerings. This contemporary brawler is pretty dull and lifeless. Without all the typical martial arts drama and the historic settings, Chang's films just aren't that good.

Duel of Fists

Quan Ji
1971 / 102m - Hong Kong
Action
1.5*/5.0*
Duel of Fists poster

The one where Cheh Chang tries out kickboxing. Not really his strong point I'm afraid. It seems that he was desperately trying to branch out during the early 70s, luckily he changed his mind soon after. The plot is pretty dull, the acting quite poor and the action doesn't help to cover up any of that.

The Anonymous Heroes

Wu Ming Ying Xiong
1971 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action
1.5*/5.0*
The Anonymous Heroes poster

Cheh Chang trying out a different kind of action cinema. And somewhat predictably, it doesn't end well. The focus on plot kills the first part of the film, the overreliance on gunfights weakens the second part. Chang is a very solid martial arts director, but he should stick to what he knows best. This was a pretty disappointing film.

The Singing Killer

Xiao Sha Xing
1970 / 90m - Hong Kong
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
The Singing Killer poster

Chang trying to make it in the crime/thriller genre. There are almost no fights here, instead we get a singer who becomes a murder suspect and has to prove his innocence. Chang isn't really cut out for this material though and the film feels a little sluggish and expected. It's best to stick with his martial arts films.

Dead End

Si Jiao
1969 / 105m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
1.5*/5.0*
Dead End poster

Cheh Chang directed a good 6 films back in 1969, so it's not too surprising he found some room for experimentation. I say experimentation, but what I really mean is "non-martial arts films", as Dead End is a pretty bog-standard movie, apart from being directed by a martial arts legend.

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The plot is a simple romance with minor action elements thrown in. It follows Zhang Chun, a youngster enjoying his life, who bumps into Wen Rou, a wealthy girl who enjoyed a proper upbringing. The two fall in love and start dating, but they're from different worlds and not everyone appreciates their romance.

My expectations going in were low, sadly, there were also met. Chang isn't very good at anything but martial arts, and Dead End is no exception. The romance doesn't really work, the pacing is too slow, and the action feels out of place. There are some good moments, but they're too few and far between.

The Singing Thief

Da Dao Ge Wang
1969 / 87m - Hong Kong
Adventure, Musical
1.5*/5.0*
The Singing Thief poster

An oddity directed by Cheh Chang. If you've traveled beyond Chang's wide array of martial arts films, you shouldn't be too surprised that he also directed a few musicals early on in his career. They were quite the rage in Hong Kong during the 50s/60s, so the Shaw Bros simply couldn't ignore the genre.

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A crafty thief decides it's time for a career change, and becomes a suave singer. An ideal setup for combining cheesy songs with a more crime-inspired story, though the two never really mesh together. In the end the thief's past catches up with him and changing jobs will prove a lot harder than expected.

Having seen a couple of these early Hong Kong musicals, it's quite clear I'm not a fan. Luckily the songs are mostly contained to the first half of the film, which makes the second part a little easier to stomach. Cheh never reaches the heights of his martial arts films though. He took a rather bold risk with The Singing Thief, but it just didn't pay off.

The Butterfly Chalice

Hu Die Bei
1965 / 88m - Hong Kong
Romance, Musical
1.5*/5.0*
The Butterfly Chalice poster

This is where it all started for the infamous Cheh Chang/Shaw Bros collaboration. Don't expect a typical Chang film though, The Butterfly Chalice is a mix of musical elements (which is why they also brought in Chiu Feng Yuan) and revenge/action scenes, which don't make a lot of sense when put together.

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As Yu Quan notices an old fisherman being attacked by a rude official, he jumps in and inadvertently kills the fisherman's assailant. The district officials chase Yu Quan, but with the help of the fisherman's daughter he manages to escape. To commemorate her good deed and their eternal friendship, Yu Quan gifts her a butterfly chalice.

What's nice about these older Shaw Bros film is that they're not all studio work, which generally makes for better-looking films. Chang's potential for action already shines through, but that's only a small part of the film. I'm not a big fan of Chinese opera and that really stands in the way of enjoying The Butterfly Chalice. Still, it's interesting to see how Chang got started.

Big nopes

The Generation Gap

Pan Ni
1973 / 112m - Hong Kong
Romance
1.0*/5.0*
The Generation Gap poster

Chang's worst film so far, which is quite a thing to say after having seen nearly 50 of his films. Chang is best known for his martial arts work, but from time to time he tried something different. Understandable, but it never really amounted to anything. Chang goes full-on drama/romance here, with disastrous results.

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Casting a martial arts icon in a dramatic role is always a risk, but it's David Chiang's love interest who really messes things up. Not only is Agnes Chan a pretty bad actress, she's also a terrible singer. And this films features quite a few English pop songs covered by Chan. To call it grating is actually an understatement.

The plot about a forbidden (or at least frowned upon) love isn't very interesting either, especially not without any good performances to support it. The titular generation gap is never properly explored and the few action scenes that are here only underline the complete incompetence of this film. For completists only.

Young People

Nian Qing Ren
1972 / 118m - Hong Kong
Sport
1.0*/5.0*
Young People poster

I'm actually quite surprised by the amount of non-martial arts films Cheh Chang directed. He's really only known for this martial arts cinema here, but once you dig deeper into his oeuvre all kinds of weird genre experiments pop up. Young People is a light-hearted sports flick. Like most "other" Chang films though, it isn't very good.

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Several school clubs are caught up in minor feuds. Things get a bit more heated when several of the boys are interested in Princess, Ho Tai's girlfriend. The athletes, martial artists and performance club start to butt heads. After some back and forth, the rivalry comes to a conclusion during the school's cart racing competition.

Chang spends way too much time on uninteresting (and unrealistic-looking) games. Performances are pretty poor, at two hours the film is way too long and the comedy doesn't really work either. On the one hand it's a shame Chang wasted his time on films like this, on the other hand it's not like we're really lacking Shaw Bros martial arts features. This film is only for the real completists.