As the storied Shaw Brothers began to transform the Hong Kong film industry in the 1950s, a new golden age was on the horizon. At the vanguard of it was director Chang Cheh. The martial arts action in his movies was awe-inspiring—and so too was his career. “Prolific” barely does justice to a director who averaged a half-dozen movies annually during the 1970s boom. He was first and foremost a writer; filmmaking came his way, including several shots at directing, but he spent far more time toiling as a newspaper columnist and pulp novelist. By the 1960s, the Shaws had put him to work as a screenwriter, and he successfully made the transition to directing, becoming one of the studio’s mainstays, effortlessly moving from the swordplay films of the 1960s to the exploding kung fu genre of the 1970s, often collaborating with action choreographer and future director Lau Kar-Leung (aka Liu Chia-liang), who will soon be receiving his own retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Over 25 glorious years, as one of the pioneers of “Heroic Bloodshed” and the revival of the wuxia genre, he minted stars and influenced generations of cinephiles and filmmakers from John Woo (one of his assistant directors) to Quentin Tarantino, who dedicated Kill Bill Vol 2 to him.
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