films seen
average score
China - 87 years old
R.I.P. (1934 - 2022)
more info

Legendary Shaw Bros director who set himself apart by introducing more fantasy elements into his work, next to the mandatory martial arts exploits of course. His rich and expansive oeuvre is sure to keep you occupied for years to come.


Descendant of the Sun

Ri Jie
1983 / 84m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
Descendant of the Sun poster

As the Shaw Bros' prime representative of action/fantasy cinema, Yuen Chor had a reputation to uphold when he directed Descendant of the Sun, especially with newcomers like Hark Tsui releasing films like Zu Mountains. That may explain why all subtlety went out of the window for this one, and kitsch could finally reign supreme.

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The titular descendant is some kind of superman that borrows from Eastern and Western folklore/pop culture. It's as if Superman, Christianity, Batman and Star Wars got a Shaw Bros makeover. The plot is negligible, a story of ultimate good fighting evil while trying to protect a princess. Safe to say, there are better reasons to watch this film.

Don't go in expecting great production value, this is a film that embraces cheese to the fullest and won't let its limited budget get in the way of creating something zany and over the top. The pacing is stark, the action scenes are bold, and the tone is pleasantly goofy. Great, transcendent cinema this is not, but it is extremely fun and entertaining.

Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman

Chu Liu Xiang Zhi You Ling Shan Zhuang
1982 / 87m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Adventure
Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman poster

One of Chor's best. The film is quite short and to the point, contains some nifty action sequences, some stand-out fantasy elements and it benefits tremendously from Chor's trademark colorful and atmospheric cinematography. It's everything a great Shaw Bros film should be, and it delivers in spades.

Heroes Shed No Tears

Ying Xiong Wu Lei
1980 / 111m - Hong Kong
Heroes Shed No Tears poster

A very fine epic by Yuen Chor. There are some moments of genuine beauty here, making this one of Chor's best films. At the same time the film isn't entirely without fault, which keeps it from becoming and all-time Shaw Bros best. But Shaw Bros fans owe it to themselves to seek this one out.

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Like many of Chor's best films, Heroes Shed No Tears has strong fantasy elements. Not so much in the plot or characters, it's the setting that feels very fantastical. Moody lighting, beautiful sets and plenty of smoke make for an extremely atmospheric film. The fitting score also adds to the film.

The action is solid, but nothing you haven't seen before. My main critique is that the film's a bit too long. Some scenes are extremely talkative and the plot/characters aren't that interesting to warrant so much dialogue. Some tighter editing would've helped, but in the end Chor's amazing direction prevails.

Iron Chain Fighter

Cha Chi Nan Fei
1980 / 96m - Hong Kong
Iron Chain Fighter poster

Yuen Chor doing what he does best. While Chor didn't mind jumping between different genres, few will contest that he made his best work when he stuck to doing martial arts cinema. Though there aren't any fantastical elements here, the atmospheric lighting immediately betrays Chor's hand.

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The plot offers a rather basic revenge story. Teng Piao spends 15 years in jail after being framed for drugs trafficking. When he's finally out, he cares about only one thing: getting back at the guy who framed him. Piao knows he goes by the name Black Leopard, but he doesn't know what the guy looks like.

Iron Chain Fighter is a pretty typical Shaw Bros production, except that Chor adds tons of visual flair. The action scenes are cool, the sets look stylish, the plot is simple but fun. If you don't like Shaw Bros films this one won't change your mind, but fans of the studio will find a very accomplished film here.

Duel for Gold

Huo Bing
1971 / 100m - Hong Kong
Duel for Gold poster

One of Yuen Chor's finer martial arts films. A film that feels at least 10 years ahead of its time, as it would've worked quite well as a bridge between the typical Shaw Bros productions and the early martial arts work of Jackie Chan. That's quite something for a project made during the early years of the Shaw Bros boom.

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The plot is basic, but what did you expect with a title like Duel for Gold. A safe house houses a big stash of gold, which attracts a few interested parties. They all want to get their hands on the gold, but the house is guarded by a pretty capable martial artist. They'll have to work together to get by him, but splitting up the loot afterwards may prove to be just as treacherous.

The fight choreography is pretty imaginative for its time, performances are solid, there's a lot of backstabbing and changing dynamics that keeps the plot interesting, and he sets have that typical Shaw Bros charm. Solid genre fun with some standout moments that make this a worthy Shaw Bros classic. Oh, and one of the best Shaw Bros endings ever.

Lust for Love of a Chinese Courtesan

Ai Nu Xin Zhuan
1984 / 88m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
Lust for Love of a Chinese Courtesan poster

Not long ago I completely dismissed Yuen Chor's ability to do romance, now I have to retrace my steps. In a typical history/Shaw Bros setting, it appears Chor can work his magic. De mix of romance and action is solid, the film looks nice enough and the drama actually hits. An interesting experiment that is a lot classier than I expected it to be.

The Roving Swordsman

Shen Sheng Yi
1983 / 84m - Hong Kong
Action, Mystery
The Roving Swordsman poster

Moody and atmospheric martial arts film. One of Yuen Chor's later films, and it shows this came from a seasoned director who felt at ease making the kind of films he likes. Not the most original or surprising film in other words, but well executed and decent filler for people who can't get enough of the Shaw Bros library.

The Spirit of the Sword

Huan Hua Xi Jian
1982 / 92m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
The Spirit of the Sword poster

Another solid Yuen Chor film. Plotwise it doesn't differ too much from all the other Shaw Bros films, but Chor's trademark touch of fantasy is what makes his films stand out. Set design and some rudimentary but effective special effects create a fantastical atmosphere that is well ahead of its time. Good, but only for fans of the Shaw Bros films.

Duel of the Century

Liu Xiao Feng Zhi Jue Zhan Qian Hou
1981 / 94m - Hong Kong
Action, Mystery
Duel of the Century poster

A fine Yuen Chor martial arts film. The sets look pretty cool, the camera work is on point and there's plenty of action. The plot is not quite as interesting, but because the production design is well above average Shaw Bros quality, that's not really an issue. This is the kind of film Chor built his reputation on.

Return of the Sentimental Swordsman

Mo Jian Xia Qing
1981 / 101m - Hong Kong
Return of the Sentimental Swordsman poster

Chor's Sentimental Swordsman series is pretty damn solid. I failed to watch them in order, but as with most Shaw Bros productions, it's not very difficult to keep track of the plot. And the parts you might end up missing are rarely crucial to appreciating the film. It certainly wasn't too hard to get back into this series.

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After wandering around for three years, Li Xunhuan returns to his home and plans on settling down. Of course, some villains won't let him. They'll need to defeat Xunhuan if they want to be ranked as top martial artists. Xunhuan seeks out A Fei, while he is confronted by yet another threat: the Money Clan.

It's not the greatest action film produced by the Shaw Bros, but the decors and the soundtrack make this one of their more atmospheric films. I prefer the third entry in the series, but it is a small step up from the first Sentimental Swordsman and the trilogy is a pretty good start for people who haven't seen any of Chor's films yet, as they do a good job of highlighting his particular skills.

The Black Lizard

Hei Xi Yi
1981 / 82m - Hong Kong
The Black Lizard poster

A fine Yuen Chor film, in line with his signature films. The martial arts scenes may not be as good as Cheh Chang's oeuvre, but they make up for it with imaginative decors and interesting characters. The Black Lizard is another fine example of Chor's more fantasy-fueled approach, and as such serves as a good entry-level film.

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A young swordsman is running into some strange omens. They seem to be warning him that his fiancee may be looking at a shortened lifespan. He wants to save his fiancee from harm and seeks help from Tieh Hu, a venerable constable. Together they uncover a miraculous story.

In many ways this is a quintessential Shaw Bros production, but the shorter runtime is nice, the complete lack of an outro is commendable and Chor manages to conjure up a pleasant atmosphere. It's not a standout film, but it is proper and easy filler that should appeal to all Shaw Bros fans out there.

The Emperor and His Brother

Shu Jian En Chou Lu
1981 / 101m - Hong Kong
The Emperor and His Brother poster

Yuen Chor trying to marry his moodier sets and fantastical elements with some proper martial arts. The result is a very solid film, but one that lacks the pure strength of what makes Chor's films stand out. This is a good entry-level film for people who want to know what Shaw Bros cinema is about though.

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The emperor's successor finds out he's not the legitimate one to inherit the throne. He is approached by members of the Red Flower Society, who want his help to get rid of the Manchus. The emperor is on to their plan and hires some men to kill him. It's the start of a tricky cat-and-mouse game.

The fight scenes are a step up from most of Chor's other films, but the fantasy elements are toned down. As a result, this is not one of Chor's best films, but it does offer a nice mix of Shaw Bros signature elements, properly executed too. A good, solid film, I'm a bit surprised I only found out about it now.

The Proud Twins

Jue Dai Shuang Jiao
1979 / 112m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
The Proud Twins poster

Yuen Chor going the Jackie Chan route, but within the comfort of the all too familiar Shaw Bros context. Compared to his other films the comedy elements jump out immediately, the rest of the film is very much in line with the Chor's typical style. A fun diversion for fans of the Shaw Bros studio, but not as good as Chan's stand-out films from that era.

Swordsman and Enchantress

Xiao Shi Yi Lang
1978 / 89m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
Swordsman and Enchantress poster

Shaw Bros, Yuen Chor style. That means classic martial arts action, but with pointed fantasy touches. Chor is definitely one of the better SB directors, not in the least because he also pays attention to more than just the action. His films look better than the average SB film, without taking anything away from the fighting. Good stuff.

Clans of Intrigue

Chu Liu Xiang
1977 / 102m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
Clans of Intrigue poster

Vintage Yuen Chor. Though maybe one of the Shaw Bros directors who tried out working in the most different genres, he is best known for his particular blend of martial arts and fantasy, focusing more on mood and mystique than action and acrobatics. Clans of Intrigue is a perfect example, making this a prime entry film for people wanting to explore Chor's oeuvre.

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Hsiang is known in the world of martial artists as a master thief. When three prominent men are found dead, poisoned, people suspect Hsiang is the killer. He claims he is being set up, but the only way to prove his Innocence is by unmasking the real killers. He sets off on a perilous journey, guided only by a handful of clues.

After seeing oodles of Shaw Bros films, something like Clans of Intrigue does have trouble standing out. The characters, the plot, the trademark sets, it's everything you'd expect from a 70s Shaw Bros production. But Chor's set designs and eye for visual detail do stand out. Not as much as with some of his best films, but it makes that Clan of Intrigue is a worthwhile genre flick.

Death Duel

San Shao Ye De Jian
1977 / 90m - Hong Kong
Death Duel poster

A typical, solid Yuen Chor/Shaw Bros production. Death Duel is an ideal introduction for people who aren't familiar with either or neither. It's a classic 70s Hong Kong martial arts film that showcases Chor's typical strengths and weaknesses, and does so neatly within the 90-minute timeframe.

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Every century, a battle is staged between the best Chinese and Japanese martial artists, to decide which one can claim the ultimate title. The reigning Chinese representative isn't too interested in this showy spectacle and decides to stage his own death, hoping to avoid all the hassle.

Chor's martial arts scenes are no match for those of Cheh Chang or Chia-Liang Liu, but he's easily the most capable of all the Shaw Bros directors. Impressive set designs and smart use of color and lighting give Chor's films some extra shine. The rest is pretty basic Shaw Bros material. Amusing, but quite repetitive.

The Sentimental Swordsman

To Ching Chien Ko Wu Ching Chien
1977 / 96m - Hong Kong
The Sentimental Swordsman poster

Another archetypical Yuen Chor project. A martial arts film that wins points with its atmospheric sets and moody presentation, but can't quite impress with its action scenes. In many ways, Chor is the yin to Cheh Chang's yang, the two of them made a great pair who helped showcase and establish different sides of the Shaw Bros legacy.

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When the wife of a renowned martial artist is targeted by the Plum Blossom Master, he doesn't hesitate and sets out to protect his wife. What he doesn't know is that people are plotting against him, and before he even realizes he is suspected of wanting to kill his wife. He'll need to clear his name, but that won't be easy.

The Shaw Bros sets tend to look pretty fake regardless, which is why I like the fact that Chor used that to his advantage. The attention to detail mixed with the moody use of color and lighting give his film a much-needed boost. The rest is pretty standard Shawn Bros fare, not bad but very much by the numbers. A solid entry in Chor's extensive oeuvre.

The Magic Blade

Tien Ya Ming Yueh Tao
1976 / 86m - Hong Kong
The Magic Blade poster

A fun Yuen Chor spectacle. Don't expect the endless clatter of swords or the elaborate swooping of arms and legs here, Chor's action scenes and characters are a bit more varied than your average Shaw Bros production. I've always welcomed that little touch of fantasy that set this film apart from the rest, other than that this is another vintage Shaw Bros production.

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Lord Yu is a formidable fighter, but he aims to be more than that. He wants to control and dominate the entire martial arts world. To do that he needs the Peacock Dart, one of the mightiest weapons around. The only thing standing in his way are two rival swordfighters, who'll have to put their differences aside If they want to save the world.

The performances aren't the greatest and the sets can look a little cheap, but the fantasy elements are inventive and they do add an extra dimension to that typical Shaw Bros vibe. It's not the ultimate Chor film, he has more polished films, but people who like his work will find a very worthy addition to his oeuvre here.

The Web of Death

Wu Du Tian Luo
1976 / 87m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
The Web of Death poster

If Cheh Chang is the SB grand master of traditional martial arts, Yuen Chor is his equal when it comes to fantasy/martial arts blends. The Web of Death is an amusing, yet cheesy and somewhat inconspicuous film in his oeuvre. There's a lot of fun to be had here, but apart from the fact that it's "something with spiders", it's not too memorable.

Sex, Love and Hate

Wu Yi
1974 / 89m - Hong Kong
Romance, Musical
Sex, Love and Hate poster

Like Cheh Chang, famous Shaw Bros director Yuen Chor also loved to branch out once in a while. Unlike Chang, he had a penchant for romance. That sounds like a recipe for disaster (and sometimes it was), but Sex, Love and Hate is actually a pretty decent film. No doubt a bit sappy at times, but overall I liked it quite a bit more than I expected.

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Three women in contemporary Hong Kong are sharing a house together. They each have a very different idea of what love is supposed to be. Pai Mei wants to marry rich and live a comfortable life, Chu Tai just wants to get married at all cost and Yao Yao is saving herself for the right man. But love isn't that straightforward.

The soundtrack isn't great and the drama is a bit much, but the cinematography elevates the film above the usual Shaw Bros fare and the film is actually quite atmospheric. Performances are decent and even though the characters are a little too stereotypical, Sex, Love and Hate succeeds in what it sets out to do. Not bad, just don't expect a typical Chor martial arts epic.

The Bastard

1973 / 102m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
The Bastard poster

Another trademark Yuen Chor film for the Shaw Bros studios. He's clearly one of their most skilled directors, though his tendency to mix in other genres (like drama and romance) sometimes backfires. The romance certainly isn't the strongest part of The Bastard, the rest of the film offers plenty of compensation.

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The plot is very basic. We follow an orphan who was brought up in a monastery. When he is of age, the monk sends him on a quest to find his father. On his way he befriends a female beggar, who joins him on his quest. When he finally meets up with his father, he isn't the man he hoped he would be.

The cinematography is well above par for a Shaw Bros production, the action scenes are proper, and the finale doesn't disappoint. The romance never quite finds its footing though and the performances are borderline acceptable. Chor's martial arts films rarely disappoint though and they offer a nice diversion from the more standard Shaw Bros productions.

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan

Ai Nu
1972 / 86m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan poster

Chor and Shaw Bros dabbling in erotica territory, it's something different alright. That's also the biggest selling point of this film, the fact that it isn't just another interchangeable Shaw Bros production. It's not a terrible film beyond that, but it's also not a big standout production. Chor was definitely the right man for the job though, I can't imagine what any of the other Shaw Bros regulars would've done with it.

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Ainu is the daughter of a poor teacher. One day she gets noticed by Lady Chun, a madam who runs a local bordello. She kidnaps Ainu and trains her to work in her establishment. Ainu isn't planning on just letting this happen and with a young servant she tries to escape. Her attempt fails, and Ainu gets severely punished. She is fed up with it and wants revenge.

Chor usually has the technical aspects down, this film is no exception. The sets and camerawork are a step up from the usual Shaw Bros productions, the performances are pretty decent too. The fights are a little lacking though and the film isn't all that sexy either, but that was to be expected. A fun diversion for hardened Shaw Bros fans.

The Lizard

Bi Hu
1972 / 99m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
The Lizard poster

Not your average Shaw Bros production. While still clearly a Shaw Bros film, the setting and themes of this film are different enough to make it stand out from their more generic outings. No surprise it's Yuen Chor who is doing the experimenting, he's always been one of the more adventurous directors working under the Shaw Bros banner.

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The Lizard is a vigilante, stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor. The police are on his heels, but he is crafty enough to keep his identity hidden. One corrupt cop is personally invested in catching The Lizard, as he is messing up his side hustles. He gathers a gang to flush out his adversary, and The Lizard will be forced to confront them.

Chinese Robin Hood with a little Batman thrown in and some additional gambling fun, set in the 1930s. It's different enough to set itself apart, while still being very recognizable as a Shaw Bros project. I really liked what Chor did here, even though it's not the most remarkable or distinguished of films. Just different enough to bring a bit of extra life to their catalogue.

Let's Have a Baby

Tai Cheung Lo Dau
1985 / 87m - Hong Kong
Let's Have a Baby poster

The Shaw Bros and Yuen Chor, a golden combination. In the 70s they brought the pinnacle of fantasy martial arts cinema, ten years later their reputation was in free fall. Chor doing a typical 80s Hong Kong comedy is a great example of how desperate they were. While not the worst in the genre, it's hardly a standout film.

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When a neighbor drops off his kids, a young childless couple spends one of the best days of their lives with them. When the kids are gone, they decide to have some of their own, but after a few tries and no success, complications arise. One of them proves to be infertile, so they try artificial insemination.

It's one of those comedies based on unlucky coincidences and misunderstandings. The comedy is very traditional, though it gets a bit more exciting in the second half of the film. There are some decent giggles and laughs throughout, but most of it is very basic and predictable. Decent comedy filler, but hardly one of Chor's better films.

Full Moon Scimitar

Yuan Yue Wan Dao
1979 / 95m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
Full Moon Scimitar poster

A somewhat run-of-the-mill Shaw Bros production. The trademark elements of Yuen Chor are present, but the execution felt a bit lazy. The action scenes are a little dull, the fantasy look isn't entirely on point and the romance can't quite carry the film either. It's not a bad production, rather basic Shaw Bros filler that should only appeal to core fans only.

Killer Clans

Liu Xing Hu Die Jian
1976 / 97m - Hong Kong
Killer Clans poster

Visually quite accomplished and a clear step above the usual Shaw Bros films, but the strong focus on an uninteresting plot keeps this film from becoming a true Shaw Bros classic. The somewhat mediocre fight scenes don't really help out either. Decent Chor production, but he should stick to pure fantasy and action cinema.

Sleazy Dizzy

Xiao Tou A Xing
1990 / 89m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Crime
Sleazy Dizzy poster

When the end is a new beginning. One of Yuen Chor's final films is also one of Stephen Chow's first. Two legends of different eras in Hong Kong cinema cross paths, but the result isn't what you'd hope for. It's a generic and somewhat uneven mix of comedy and crime cinema, a film that only stands out because of its rather odd English title.

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Lung is an undercover cop who infiltrated a local Triad gang. When he is found out he receives a serious beating, so much that he lost his memory when he wakes up afterwards. The problem is that Lung is in possession of 50 million HK dollars, to close a big drug deal. Both the cops and the Triads want to get to money, but Lung has no clue where it is.

Sleazy Dizzy is the type of genre blend that was popular back then, the problem is that the crime and comedy elements don't mix very well. Chow is funny, but he's the only one who seems to be getting the comedy, whereas the rest plays it more straight-faced. The finale commits more to the comedic side, but by then there's little to salvage. Basic filler cinema.

Bat without Wings

Wu Yi Bian Fu
1980 / 88m - Hong Kong
Action, Mystery
Bat without Wings poster

All the elements for a good Chor film were present, but somehow they didn't come together to make a great film. Maybe because everything had gotten a bit too familiar and by the numbers when this film was made. After so many similar productions, I assume even the most hardened genre director may lose a little spark and energy.

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The life of a respected sword fighter is turned upside down when a serial killer takes down his wife. The killer has set up the murder in such a way that it implicates his friend, but the sword fighter can't be tricked that easily, and together with his companion he sets out to unmask the killer and make him pay for his sins.

It's the classic Shaw Bros setup, though with a bit too much focus on the story and not enough love given to the martial arts scenes. The somewhat lifeless sets also bothered me, even though they helped Chor add a little extra visual flair. He's made many better films in this genre, but once you've gone through those this isn't the worst filler I guess.

Lover's Destiny

Xin Ti Xiao Yin Yuan
1975 / 89m - Hong Kong
Lover's Destiny poster

Yuen Chor takes another stab at romance. I'm actually surprised he made so many movies outside the martial arts genre, though I get why these films didn't travel well. The direction here is in fact quite nice, but the plot is pretty dull and the acting is well over-the-top. I'm sure there's an audience for these films, but I'm not part of it.

Hong Kong 73

Heung Gong Chat Sup Sam
1974 / 95m - Hong Kong
Hong Kong 73 poster

Yuen Chor directs a full-blown comedy. Compared to other Shaw Bros directors, Chor seems to be more versatile. Or at least more willing to try out different genres, as his talent for comedy turns out to be very limited. There's no lack of loud, nervous banter here, but actual jokes are few and far between.

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Hong Kong is doing very well in the 70s. The Hang Seng Index is soaring and Hong Kong citizens are eager to play the stock market, even though they have little to no experience. A security guard and his landlord get lucky and hit it big, but their sudden wealth comes with its own set of problems.

The most notable element of this film is the soundtrack, which almost sounds like it was made for a video game, only video games didn't really exist back then. Performances are mediocre, and the comedy is limited, luckily the pacing is solid, and the runtime is pretty short. Chor feels a bit lost with this material, but it's interesting to see him take on all these different genres.

Sorrow of the Gentry

Zhu Men Yuan
1974 / 97m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance
Sorrow of the Gentry poster

A Shaw Bros melodrama. That means we're finding ourselves in Yuen Chor territory once again. Chor is probably the only Shaw Bros director with some talent for the genre, but that doesn't mean a lot for a studio specialized in martial arts cinema. The result is pretty blah, though slightly better than other wayward attempts from the studio.

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When a son returns home, after being sent away to study and learn from the world, old friendships and romances are rekindled. The son seeks out one of the servants he grew up with, but she keeps him at a distance. She claims it is because of their different societal status, but the servant also seems to be more taken by the son's friend.

There's quite a bit of drama to wade through, it's almost a bit grotesque and soap-like during the finale, but somehow that made the film a little better. Performances aren't good enough for a bona fide drama, the Shaw Bros decors are cheesy, and the romance is extremely overdone. Not Chor's best film, but I expected even worse.

The Villains

Tu Fei
1973 / 80m - Hong Kong
Romance, Action
The Villains poster

Not one of Chor's better films. It's a pretty straightforward martial arts flick, with some romantic squabbles in between. The action feels a little muddled and the romance is overdone. Luckily it's a short film and the pacing makes sure it never lags. Not an entire waste of one's time, but hardly a priority for Shaw Bros fans.

Diary of a Big Man

Daai Jeung Foo Yat Gei
1988 / 86m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
Diary of a Big Man poster

The idea of Yuen Chor and Chow Yun-Fat making a comedy may sound appealing, but the fact is that both just aren't made for the genre. It feels more like a cheap Jing Wong comedy, with some lame jokes, atrocious acting and a boring, repetitive plot. Best to just skip this one, unless you really like the people involved.

Fascinating Affairs

Hua Xin Hong Xing
1985 / 94m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
Fascinating Affairs poster

Regardless of all the big names involved, Fascinating Affairs is a pretty rushed and flat hotchpotch of genres that never really finds its footing. Loud, poorly acted, lazily directed and often aimless, it's a film that seemed confident that star power would be enough to attract people. Poor filler, only for true completists.

Haunted Tales

Die Xian
1980 / 61m - Hong Kong
Horror, Thriller
Haunted Tales poster

A horror anthology from the Shaw Bros studios. If you can call it that, as it's really just two middle-length films back to back. Hong Kong has a pretty meager track record when it comes to horror cinema, but with Chor Yuen involved as director of the first film, I was willing to give this one a shot.

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Chor is pretty good with atmosphere, so on paper he should be a great fit for horror. Some of his martial arts work had promising horror elements too, but it seems straight up horror isn't really his thing. Performances are poor, effects look shabby and the ghost story isn't scary at all.

The second film comes from Tun Fei Mou, who fares even worse. The story has supernatural elements, and that's about it really. It isn't until the very last minute that we finally see some blood (read red paint), the rest is just cheep and disappointing. Not a very good Shaw Bros film, it's rare to see them do well outside the martial arts genre.

The Big Holdup

Da Jie An
1975 / 92m - Hong Kong
Thriller, Crime
The Big Holdup poster

Attempts of the Shaw Bros studio to branch out have rarely been successful. Yuen Chor takes his usual martial arts crew and turns them into bank robbers, coming out the other side with a veritable heist film. Safe one or two decent action scenes, the result is a rather slow and overly sentimental misfire.

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Five men with no prior history as criminals band together and plan a heist. The heist itself goes surprisingly well, but as is always the case with this type of film, the problems start afterwards. When they get the police on their tail and the members begin to distrust each other, a fated ending seems unavoidable.

Yuen Chor doesn't do much with this film. The plot isn't anything special, the cinematography is bland, the pacing is too slow as the tension is lacking and the drama is way overblown. It's understandable that the Shaw Bros wanted something to fall back on when martial arts would inevitably go out of style, but there's more to it than just jumping from one genre into the next with the same team of people. Not very good.

The House of 72 Tenants

Chat Sup Yee Ga Fong Hak
1973 / 98m - Hong Kong
The House of 72 Tenants poster

There aren't too many Shaw Bros comedies, this film goes a long way to explain why that might be. Though a true classic (Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle borrowed a lot from it), it's a real onslaught on the ears. The film serves 100 minutes of shrill and continuously yapping characters, and nothing else.

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72 tenants are housed in a slummy housing complex. The landlady is strict and doesn't pay too much attention to the complaints of the tenants. Instead, she tries to make as much money from them as possible. The tenants are tired of her tyrant-like behavior and decide to revolt against their landlady.

This is a film with a large cast that is constantly quarreling and shouting at each other. The comedy isn't that funny and the performances are well overstated. There are some funny moments, but the wall of noise is simply too much to take, and it became grating after the 1-hour mark. Not Chor's finest moment.

The Forbidden Past

Xiao Lou Can Meng
1979 / 81m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance
The Forbidden Past poster

Cheh Chang doing contemporary action is a little awkward, but it has nothing on Yuen Chor doing romance. The film is incredibly cheesy, from the poor performances to the horrendous soundtrack and the tepid drama, nothing works. It's a disaster from start to finish, though somehow it's an oddly compelling disaster if you're familiar with Chor's work.

Farewell to a Warrior

Ci Lang Zhou
1976 / 91m - Hong Kong
Farewell to a Warrior poster

Yuen Chor + Shaw Bros usually equals martial arts cinema with a strong fantasy injection. Those who've dug a little deeper into his oeuvre already know that Chor is more than just martial arts though. Still, I hadn't really expected to see a full-blown Chinese Teochew opera. Not really a very pleasant surprise I'm afraid.

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Chinese opera is an acquired taste, one I haven't been able to get accustomed to. There's an early John Woo film I sat through some time ago that left quite some scars, this Chor film just adds to the trauma. Though it tells the story of the 13th century Sung Dynasty battle against the Mongols, action fans have nothing to look forward to.

It's really just a lot of singing on a decently decorated stage. That's where Chor's hand is mostly clearly visible, but it's hard to enjoy when the music and voices are that pervasive. The thing just drags for 90 minutes, the silence afterwards was a pure blessing. If you're a fan of Chinese opera, do give this film a shot, as Chor's decoration is sure to enhance the experience. If not, it's best to stay clear of this one.