Shaw Brothers Film Library

Liu Chia-liang is a true martial artist; he lives and breathes martial arts, and can trace his martial arts lineage in a direct line to real life legendary Chinese hero Wong Fei-hung. Liu has contributed so much to the world of martial arts cinema serving as both cinematic and martial arts mentor to such stars of the industry as the late great Alexander Fu Sheng, Gordon Liu Chia-hui, Hui Yin-hung, Hsiao Hou, and so many others. During the 1970’s he was the dominant martial arts director and probably one of the most innovative and influential directors in Hong Kong cinema.

Liu was literally born into the world of martial arts and martial arts movie-making, his father Liu Zhan was a well-respected actor and martial artist who studied the Hung Gar style of martial arts from Lin Shi-rong, a student of Wong Fei-hung. Liu Chia-liang began his martial arts studies at the age of seven when he entered his father’s school and began his exploration into the world of martial arts, and by his teenage years he had joined the film industry. Liu served his dues as a martial arts stuntman and moved onto being the action director on various Cantonese and Mandarin martial arts movies of the 50’s and sixties, often appearing alongside and fighting onscreen with his father.

In the early 1960’s, Liu found himself teamed up with another action director Tang Chia on a number of very successful martial arts and swordplay dramas including, The Jade Bow before they were invited to join Shaw Brothers and work for director Chang Cheh. The pair provided the choreography for most of Chang’s ground breaking movies such as One-Armed Swordsman (1967), The Boxer From Shantung (1972), Man of Iron (1972), Shaolin Martial Arts (1972), Five Shaolin Masters (1974) and Disciples of Shaolin (1975).

In the early 1970’s, Liu and director Chang Cheh began to make films centered around the legendary heroes of the Shaolin Temple, a direction that was far removed from the revenge seeking formula used by Bruce Lee & Wang Yu, with films such as Men From The Monastery , and Five Shaolin Masters. These films also gave a young actor by the name of Alexander Fu Sheng a chance to flourish, as he paved the way for a certain Jackie Chan by proving himself as the first “kung fu comedian” differentiated unlike the straight-faced heroes that dominated the genre. Unfortunately as with so many partnerships, “creative differences” caused a rift between Liu and Chang. In 1975, Liu sat the director’s seat for the first time with the film, The Spiritual Boxer . Liu immediately proved himself to be far more than a mere shadow of his former mentor Chang, Liu’s films often used comedy (The Spiritual Boxer was the first real kung fu comedy, predating Jackie Chan’s Snake In The Eagles Shadow, and, Drunken Master ) and featured women in strong roles such as Liu’s protégé Hui Yin-hung, and focused on the feelings of friendship and community, and that violent and bloody death wasn’t necessarily the only way to end a film. Although Liu’s films still featured his trademark incredibly choreographed action scenes, but frequently Liu’s heroes stopped short of ripping their opponents to bits.

Liu explored a number of themes in his movies, exploring and extolling the virtues of Chinese martial arts but without denouncing other martial arts or culture and the changing world we live in, as demonstrated in films, The 36 th Chamber Of Shaolin, Heroes Of The East, My Young Auntie, and Legendary Weapons Of China . Liu also stepped in front of the camera on a number of occasions including the classic, Mad Monkey Kung Fu , which highlighted yet another of his protégés, Hsiao Hou. Liu also served as the off screen mentor and teacher to many of his stars including Gordon Liu Chia-hui, Alexander Fu Sheng, Hui Yin-hung and Hsiao Hou. One of Liu’s last films for Shaw Brothers was the dark epic, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, a movie affected by the tragic death of its star and one of Liu’s closest students Alexander Fu Sheng during the production.

Liu would also work with Jet Li on the martial arts masterpiece, Martial Arts Of Shaolin, before Shaw closed it’s doors to film production and Liu moved on. He continued to work as a director, choreographer and actor on a diverse number of projects for film and television including, Tiger On The Beat staring Chow Yun-fat, and the star-studded fifth entry in the long running, Aces Go Places series. Liu also delivered a superb performance when he battled Sammo Hung in Hung’s action comedy, Pedicab Driver, which saw the former cinematic rivals do battle in an incredible weapons fight.

Liu has been out of the spotlight in recent years, but was back in the directors chair for the first new Shaw Brothers production in many years, Drunken Monkey released in late 2002.

(Film available in Celestial’s Shaw Brothers Film Library with year of production/theatrical release)

The Spiritual Boxer (1975)
Challenge Of The Masters (1976)
Executioners From Shaolin (1976)
The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1977)
Shaolin Mantis (1978)
Heroes Of The East (1978)
Dirty Ho (1979)
Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)
The Shadow Boxing (1979)
Return To The 36th Chamber (1980)
My Young Auntie (1980)
Martial Club (1981)
Legendary Weapons Of China (1982)
Cat VS Rat (1982)
The Lady Is The Boss (1983)
The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1983)
Disciples Of The 36th Chamber (1985)
Martial Arts Of Shaolin (1985)

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