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Arizona Colt
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« on: July 26, 2006, 11:26:14 PM »

So as not to interfere with the LEONE LOVERS.....thread I've begun a new one on this subject for anyone with a passing interest on the genre.

Below is a brief overview of the genre itself, its beginnings and various tidbits of information.

The Shaw Brothers began film distribution and production in the early 20s and made the first chinese talkie in 1926. Over the years action films featured magical flying swordsmen that could shoot laser beams from there weapons as well as their hands. These films were popular for years as well as early action films featuring Kwan Tak Hing who portrayed real life chinese hero Wong Fei Hung(also played most recently by Jet Li in the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA films of which he starred in 4 of the six)in over 100 b/w movies and a couple of later color ones.

During the early days of chinese cinema women were the featured actors with even men playing female roles in some of the movies. This would change in 1967 when director Chang Cheh would change HK cinema forever with the release of ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN the first film to break a million dollars at the HK box office. The film also had a more realistic approach to the action scenes that films before didn't have. The films star was Jimmy Wang Yu, a former swimming champion turned movie actor who made a career out of playing one armed heroes. Wang Yu would arguably star and direct the first film to feature actual kung fu instead of weapons laden epics-THE CHINESE BOXER 1969.

Wang ultimately left Shaws to make films for recent upstart Golden Harvest, run by former Shaw executive Raymond Chow who would produce his own series of one armed films with Wang Yu that annoyed his former boss to no end. Shaws would counter attack with NEW ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN in 1973 starring David Chiang and again directed by Chang Cheh.

Before going out on his own, Wang Yu would act in several Chang classics such as RETURN OF THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN 1968, THE ASSASSIN 1967 and TRAIL OF THE BROKEN BLADE 1967. Wang Yu would eventually have very powerful ties with the Triads(chinese mafia)that would eventually save a certain Jackie Chans life a few years down the road(more on that later).

In 1969 Shaws personally financed the beginning of a new genre-the Guo Shui Pian or the "new hero genre". The film was VENGEANCE! starring David Chiang and Ti Lung directed by Chang Cheh. The film won numerous awards at various festivals around the world.

Throughout the 60s and 70s no studio could touch Shaw Brothers in terms of budget and production standards. They owned a 300 acre studio(one of the largest in the world) complete with dormitories, an acting school and full dubbing and post production facilities. They even had a monopoly on nearly all the theaters, something that would never happen in the US. Soon Shaws would miss out on one actor who could have cemented their dominance forever but ultimately proved that they could be beaten at the box office.

Golden Harvest during the early 70s was facing bankruptcy until they found out Bruce Lee, who admired the Shaw style of filmmaking, rejected one of there standard contracts(the Shaws followed the old Hollywood system of keeping all there actors under contract and paying them very little). Chow saw opportunity and hurriedly stopped Lee before he was to board a plane back to America and made him offer more to his liking. Shaws loss was GH gain.

Bruce was the first asian actor to get some kind of exposure in the US with the GREEN HORNET tv show as well as several others so he was already a proven commodity and when he came back to HK to make movies it increased his popularity with the chinese audience.

Around the same time, other actors were making it big like Chen Kuan Tai with the classic BOXER FROM SHANTUNG 1972, MAN OF IRON 1972, BLOOD BROTHERS 1973 and IRON BODYGUARD 1973, and Alexander Fu Sheng with HEROES TWO(the biggest hit of 1974 along with its sequel MEN FROM THE MONASTERY) which also starred Chen Kuan Tai. The Iron Triangle of David Chiang and Ti Lung with Director Chang Cheh continued to produce big hits with HEROIC ONES 1970, THE DUEL 1969, HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL 1969, THE WATER MARGIN 1972, ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS 1973, THE FOUR RIDERS 1972 and THE SAVAGE FIVE 1974 to name a few.

Independent studios were beginning to pop up making there own movies although most would be filmed at or distributed by Shaws as these small companies didn't have the funds to make it on there own with many only lasting for one film.

The Bruceploitation films would soon follow and would strangely, enjoy a brief popularity. Actors popped up sporting names like Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Thai, Dragon Lee, Conan Lee, Bronson Lee, etc.......Most of these were forgettable programmers that contributed to the genres demise(along with an influx of taiwanese made kung fu cheapies) from US theater chains. These films are very popular with fans but feature interest only for die hard fans who only want lots of action with hilarious dubbing.

The Shaws were still conquering the HK box office with high profile releases like 7 MAN ARMY 1976 the first film to feature co-operation by the chinese military and mixes guns, tanks, planes, cannons and kung fu, NAVAL COMMANDOS 1976 third in the Chang trilogy begun with FOUR RIDERS 1972, BOXER REBELLION 1975 featuring Richard Harrison who also starred in Changs MARCO POLO 1975, 5 SHAOLIN MASTERS 1975, SHAOLIN TEMPLE 1976, THE FLYING GUILLOTINE 1975 a film so popular a slew of spin offs followed, DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN 1975 featuring HK heartthrob Fu Shengs best performance, CHINATOWN KID 1977, THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN 1978, HEROES OF THE EAST 1978, FIVE VENOMS 1978, SHAOLIN RESCUERS 1979 and many more.

Meanwhile, director Lo Wei who had laid the dubious claim of discovering Bruce Lee had recently been trying to turn a man named Jackie Chan into a star but was failing miserably. Lo Wei tried to make him the new Bruce Lee with NEW FIST OF FURY and DRAGON FIST both 1976, a Shaw Bros imitation with SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN and SNAKE & CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN 76 and 77, a villain in KILLER METEORS 77 and a few other flops like TO KILL WITH INTRIGUE and SPIRITUAL KUNG FU all movies that no one went to see.

An independent producer named Ng See Yuen saw something in Jackie and wanted him for his new film but was begged by others that Jackie was box office poison as he had no hits whatsoever. Ng took a chance on him and Lo Wei, frustrated lent him out for the film SNAKE IN THE EAGLES SHADOW 1978. The film was a big hit. It's credited as the first KF comedy although Shaws did it first with SPIRITUAL BOXER 1975. SNAKE IN....also was the first to show the teacher/student dynamic more as a father/son relationship, something that hadn't been seen before. After years of mega serious heroic bloodshedders from Shaws this was a breath of fresh air to the HK audience.

A side note on SNAKE IN....Ng wanted Korean super kicker Hwang Jang Lee(who does kicks that other actors would need wires to pull off)who had become popular after appearing in Ngs kickfest THE SECRET RIVALS 1976, to play the villain. Jackie didn't get on well with Hwang and the two bickered throughout the shoot. Chines people are all about saving face and if one feels threatened by another being better than he than sparks will fly. The heat between the two was so severe that during the final fight Hwang actually kicks Jackies front teeth out.

Jackie vowed never to work with Hwang again but Ng would not hear it and used Hwang again in DRUNKEN MASTER 1979 starring Jackie Chan. There relationship didn't get any better. This time Hwang put Jackie in the hospital after kicking him in the head. When Jackie returned to the set he told Hwang he'd never work in HK again. This rang true several years later as Hwangs career faded after a string of cheap taiwanese films where he was the only bright spot that showcased his amazing kicking abilities. He made a career out of playing the bad guy although he did play a hero a couple of times out of around 50 HK films.

Hwang was a self taught Tae Kwon Do expert who proved his worth by beating all the TKD teachers in Korea to gain there respect. He was rewarded with the training of the Korean troops in Vietnam where he, according to several sources, had killed a man with one kick after he was challenged by another man with a knife.

To Be Continued.........


















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Arizona Colt
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« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2006, 10:46:32 PM »

In the early 70s the then head of Warner Bros. went to Shaws curious over the impact there films were having in HK and wanted to bring some of them back to test in the American market. Of the ones shown him he picked KING BOXER to be the first as the film is very easy for americans to follow.

Lo Lieh was the star who also featured a couple of years later in the Carlo Ponti-Shaw produced STRANGER & THE GUNFIGHTER. Lo had much charisma onscreen both as a hero and even more so as a villain besides not being a real martial artist. He enjoyed one of the longest acting careers of any HK actor beginning in the mid 60s and winding down in the late 90s.

Some of his credits include THE MAGNIFICENT TRIO 1966, 12 DEADLY COINS 1969, THE CHINESE BOXER 1970, THE RESCUE 1971, BLACK MAGIC 1 & 2 '75, '76, EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN 1976 where he essayed his most famous role of Pai Mei the White Browed Priest, a real life character who betrayed the chinese to the invading manchu hordes in the mid 1660s.

Lo also directed the sequel CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS 1979 which featured some of the best fighting sequences ever to grace the screen. Lo did many popular horror pictures including the classic HUMAN SKIN LANTERNS 1982 where he played a lantern maker who used curious materials for his trade. Lo gives one of his best performances here playing a once chivalrous man driven to insanity by a woman. Some great action scenes are also on display.

Lo Lieh, like many of Shaws contract players did lots of independent productions as the Shaws tight fisted ways kept them from making monetary demands and paid them very little. If any of there stars did movies elsewhere they were promptly sued to get said actor back in line. Normally when this happened, the Shaws acquired the indy, distributing it, and making a small profit off of it.

 Some of Lo's non Shaw work are FATAL NEEDLES, FATAL FISTS 1977, FISTS & GUTS 1979 and BORN INVINCIBLE 1977 from famous Taiwanese director Joseph Kuo which starred Carter Wong from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA(he played the character Thunder)and Lo as the main villains.

Lo passed away in 2002 of lung cancer.

When KING BOXER, the first film of its kind to be seen in the West, was ready for release, Warners decided the name wasn't attention grabbing enough and re-christened it as the exploitatively titled 5 FINGERS OF DEATH. The film wowed audiences upon its initial release with scenes of violence the likes of which hadn't been seen before. Disembowlment, decapitation and two scenes of eyes gouged out and th famous scene where Lo has his hands brutally smashed repeatedly to keep him from competing in a martial arts tournament between two rival schools. The film was a big hit in the smaller chains so Warners released it in the bigger theaters as well. 5 FINGERS OF DEATH is still one of the most successful international films ever.

These movies were all the rage during the 70s and early 80s even garnering a #1 hit on the radio with Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting". There popularity dwindled as US productions, along with effects budgets, got bigger so the kung fu film was relegated to the drive-ins and ultimately Saturday afternoon and week night television programming.

One of the most eyecatching aspects about the films were the US release titles that were used-
KING BOXER 1972- 5 FINGERS OF DEATH(US)
NEW ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN 1971- TRIPLE IRONS(US)
MARCO POLO 1975- THE 4 ASSASSINS(US)
BOXER REBELLION 1975- THE BLOODY AVENGERS(US)
THE WATER MARGIN 1971- 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON(US)
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS 1972- 7 SOLDIERS OF KUNG FU(US)
BOXER FROM SHANTUNG 1972- KILLER FROM SHANTUNG(US)
MAN OF IRON 1972- WARRIOR OF STEEL(US)
MEN FROM THE MONASTERY 1974- DISCIPLES OF DEATH(US)
SHAOLIN AVENGERS 1976- INVINCIBLE KUNG FU BROTHERS(US)
SHAOLIN RESCUERS 1979- AVENGING WARRIORS OF SHAOLIN(US)
CRIPPLED AVENGERS 1978- MORTAL COMBAT(US)
BLACK MAGIC 2 1976- REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES(US)
THE MARTIAL CLUB 1980- INSTRUCTORS OF DEATH(US)
SHAOLIN MANTIS 1978- THE DEADLY MANTIS(US)
THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN 1978- MASTER KILLER(US)
REBEL INTRUDERS 1979- KILLER ARMY(US)
INVINCIBLE SHAOLIN 1978- UNBEATABLE DRAGON(US)
HEROES TWO 1973- KUNG FU INVADERS(US)
THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER 1984- THE INVINCIBLE POLE FIGHTERS(US)
FLAG OF IRON 1981- SPEARMEN OF DEATH(US)
5 VENOMS 1978- 5 DEADLY VENOMS(US)
2 CHAMPIONS OF SHAOLIN 1979- 2 CHAMPIONS OF DEATH(US)
MONKEY KUNG FU 1980- STROKE OF DEATH(US)
SHAOLIN TEMPLE 1976- DEATH CHAMBER(US)
5 SHAOLIN MASTERS 1975- 5 MASTERS OF DEATH(US)
SHAOLIN PRINCE 1982- IRON FINGERS OF DEATH(US)
5 ELEMENT NINJAS 1982- SUPER NINJAS(US)
HEROES OF THE EAST 1978- CHALLENGE OF THE NINJA(US)
CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS 1979- FISTS OF THE WHITE LOTUS(US)
THE DUEL 1969- DUEL OF THE IRON FISTS(US)
VENGEANCE! 1969- KUNG FU VENGEANCE(US)

You'll notice that the US distributors commonly used the words 'death' or 'deadly', 'fist(s)' and 'kung fu'. Sometimes the original title would vague or have symbolic meaning that would probably have confused the US audience. Who would pay to see a movie called THE WATER MARGIN? This particular film was altered from 127 minutes in its original HK version to 79 minutes(!) for its american debut and the title changed to the more accessible 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON.

To Be Continued................

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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2006, 11:17:30 PM »

well you have out done yourself once again AC! Great stuff! very informitive! I only read the first post (I'll be getting to the second one later)...


Have you seen any of the Shaw Bros. early films? The ones you mention that have heroes shooting laser beams from their swords? sounds like fun! Cheesy . I would like to know what you think of them.

and can you name a few titles?

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« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2006, 10:22:41 PM »

The earlier films as in pre 66 no. Many of there early films as in B/W movies either do not exist anymore or they will not be released period as most chinese do not like old movies. They only like new movies or within the past 3 years. That's why VCDs sell better than DVDs there because most chinese watch a movie once and that's it. Why pay $10 or $15 for a dvd when they can pay $3 or $5 for a VCD?

Believe it or not, in Asia the Shaw movies are not selling well. Again, for the most part, asians don't like old films. Out of the 3 or 4 dozen asian friends I have maybe only 3 will watch the old ones or even know who many of those actors are. The response is usually "Oh he is so old now" or "This movie, it's too old for me". Although celestials Shaw cable channel which shows Shaw movies 24 hours is doing well and is available in many countries now.

Only certain titles are moving numbers but as celestial are releasing everything available(760 titles), some are bound to not sell at all. The horror films for example have been relegated to VCD only status while the remaining musicals and some dramas may not be released at all. The martial arts and action adventure titles are the main sellers. The horror titles however are coming out here from Image starting next month.

As far as the early swordplay films go with the mystical elements I've seen clips of them on the three Shaw Brothers documentaries that have been playing recently on cable. Like I said many of these do not exist as chinese people then didn't take precautions for film preservations. The titles escape me at the moment but they all have very long names. The special effects in them are very reminescent of George Meiles work in the silent FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.

Only within the past few years has the HK Film Archives been in existence to keep there early cinema alive.

It was recently stated that now the Golden Harvest library is to be released but will not be as extensively remastered as the Shaw library and everything will not be released.

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« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2006, 10:28:49 PM »

The earlier films as in pre 66 no. Many of there early films as in B/W movies either do not exist anymore or they will not be released period as most chinese do not like old movies. They only like new movies or within the past 3 years. That's why VCDs sell better than DVDs there because most chinese watch a movie once and that's it. Why pay $10 or $15 for a dvd when they can pay $3 or $5 for a VCD?

Believe it or not, in Asia the Shaw movies are not selling well. Again, for the most part, asians don't like old films. Out of the 3 or 4 dozen asian friends I have maybe only 3 will watch the old ones or even know who many of those actors are. The response is usually "Oh he is so old now" or "This movie, it's too old for me". Although celestials Shaw cable channel which shows Shaw movies 24 hours is doing well and is available in many countries now.

Only certain titles are moving numbers but as celestial are releasing everything available(760 titles), some are bound to not sell at all. The horror films for example have been relegated to VCD only status while the remaining musicals and some dramas may not be released at all. The martial arts and action adventure titles are the main sellers. The horror titles however are coming out here from Image starting next month.

As far as the early swordplay films go with the mystical elements I've seen clips of them on the three Shaw Brothers documentaries that have been playing recently on cable. Like I said many of these do not exist as chinese people then didn't take precautions for film preservations. The titles escape me at the moment but they all have very long names. The special effects in them are very reminescent of George Meiles work in the silent FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.

Only within the past few years has the HK Film Archives been in existence to keep there early cinema alive.

It was recently stated that now the Golden Harvest library is to be released but will not be as extensively remastered as the Shaw library and everything will not be released.


a shame.
so no Chinese will ever see a spaghetti western?

thats not the same mentality as a chinese american is it?

« Last Edit: August 06, 2006, 10:37:12 PM by The Firecracker » Logged



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« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2006, 10:31:03 PM »


a shame.
so no Chinese will ever see a spaghetti western?

They don't know what they're missing.

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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2006, 10:39:56 PM »

You're mistaken, spags often played at chinese theaters during the 60s and 70s. Since the Shaws had a monopoly on theater chains they played whatever was popular. James Bond, Spaghettis and Hammer films were some of the more popular films other than there own.

In fact, many musical cues can be heard in kung fu films as I stated earlier that there were so many movies being made it wasn't economically sound to create a soundtrack for every single movie. For example the DAY OF ANGER music can be heard on many indy kung fu flicks like THE INVINCIBLE ARMOUR 1977.


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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2006, 10:42:38 PM »

You're mistaken, spags often played at chinese theaters during the 60s and 70s. Since the Shaws had a monopoly on theater chains they played whatever was popular. James Bond, Spaghettis and Hammer films were some of the more popular films other than there own.

In fact, many musical cues can be heard in kung fu films as I stated earlier that there were so many movies being made it wasn't economically sound to create a soundtrack for every single movie. For example the DAY OF ANGER music can be heard on many indy kung fu flicks like THE INVINCIBLE ARMOUR 1977.



Oh, sounds good. I'm surprised that during the 60's Chinese theaters showed western ( i mean western hemisphere ) films. I thought there was an anti-western policy in China.

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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2006, 10:44:01 PM »

You're mistaken, spags often played at chinese theaters during the 60s and 70s. Since the Shaws had a monopoly on theater chains they played whatever was popular. James Bond, Spaghettis and Hammer films were some of the more popular films other than there own.

In fact, many musical cues can be heard in kung fu films as I stated earlier that there were so many movies being made it wasn't economically sound to create a soundtrack for every single movie. For example the DAY OF ANGER music can be heard on many indy kung fu flicks like THE INVINCIBLE ARMOUR 1977.



no no. I'm very sure they were popular at the time but I mean now? They dont watch them anymore?

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« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2006, 10:45:30 PM »

No, HK was a colony of Britain during this time. That policy is now or it least it was recently. Britain had HK for 99 years although because of a loop hole they could've had it for good.

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« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2006, 10:48:03 PM »

No, HK was a colony of Britain during this time. That policy is now or it least it was recently. Britain had HK for 99 years although because of a loop hole they could've had it for good.

Oh we're talking about Hong Kong? I thought we were talking about China.   Grin

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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2006, 10:49:31 PM »

no no. I'm very sure they were popular at the time but I mean now? They dont watch them anymore?
No. Asians actually prefer american films now as they often do better than than there own movies in HK. HK films today are only a shell of there former glory. Very little is in the camera as they employ lots of CGI now to compete with the US although Korea has become the new HK of late. Many of HKs greats are in the US anyways. They came here after the handover fearing government intervention in the film industry. At least teh Triad problem has died down a lot since the government took HK back.

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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2006, 10:54:13 PM »

well anyway...dont wanna hijack the thread by talking about how well recieved sw is in other countries. so on with more Shaw info.

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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2006, 10:57:38 PM »

I own two shaw movies:

36th chamber and 5 venoms. they're pretty ok films.

I would really like to see a remake of 5 venoms.

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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2006, 11:13:53 PM »

The WATER MARGIN was a classic chinese historical drama about the heroic 108 Outlaws of the Marsh who were basically 108 Robin Hoods that fought against tyranny and protected the oppressed. There are over 100 volumes on the exploits of the 108 which are still read in China today.

The central theme of the story, 'Jiang Hu', or literally translated means 'Rivers and Lakes', which means the margin between the tyrannical rule of the government against the common people and renegades of society who choose to speak out or act according to their own code of honor which is what Jiang Hu is in essence, an outlaw code of brotherhood among men.

In the film, the 108 are betrayed by there allies when there leader is killed in an ambush. They are framed and branded enemies of the state. They retreat into the hills and seek out the help of two martial arts masters Jade Dragon and his disciple Young Dragon. Unbeknownst to Jade Dragon, his wife is secretly having an affair with one of his aides, as he would rather hone his skills than satisfy his wife.

Several of the 108 disguised as merchants meet with him and he reluctantly agrees to help clear there names. However his wife and her lover now frame JD as a traitor. He is arrested and tortured and it is up to the seven best warriors to rescue him as well as get revenge for the unjust murder of there leader.

The themes of brotherhood and honor among men runs through virtually all of Chang Chehs moviesfrom the late 60s to the late 70s. Movies like GOLDEN SWALLOW 1968, THE WANDERING SWORDSMAN 1969, the spaghetti influenced INVINCIBLE FIST 1969, THE DEADLY DUO 1970, HEROIC ONES 1970, KING EAGLE 1970, THE WATER MARGIN 1972, its sequel ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS 1973, IRON BODYGUARD 1973 and the classic chinese historical drama BLOOD BROTHERS 1973 are only a few of Changs output to feature this theme.

Chang directed over 70 films in his heyday and once said he'd stop at 100. He almost made it as he continued directing until the mid nineties.

In keeping with the Shaws standing to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the HK audience, Chang, (whose massive body of work satisfied that need) had varied quality from film to film. Some would showcase brilliance while others would seem sloppy at times. With such a work horse ethic that was to be expected. Nearly all his films were made between 1967 thru 1983. He was finally awarded a HK Lifetime Achievement Award at teh Golden Horse ceremony (the equivalent of the Oscars) in 2000. He passed away 2 years later from cancer.

Many of his films have won various awards over the yearsand he was noted for having launched more actors and filmmakers careers than anyone else other than maybe Roger Corman.......


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