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Chang Cheh (pinyin: Zhāng Chè; 10 February 1923 – 22 June 2002) was a Chinese filmmaker, screenwriter, lyricist and producer active in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Chang Cheh directed more than 90 films in Greater China, the majority of them with the Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong. Most of his films are action films, especially wuxia and kung fu films filled with violence.
10 February 1923
|Died||22 June 2002 (aged 79)|
|Awards||Asia Pacific Film Festival|
1970 Best Director (Vengeance!)
In the early 1970s he frequently cast actors David Chiang and Ti Lung in his films. In the late 1970s he mainly worked with a group of actors known as the Venom Mob. Chang Cheh is also known for his long-time collaboration with writer Ni Kuang.
Referred to as "The Godfather of Hong Kong cinema", Chang Cheh directed nearly 100 films in his illustrious career at Shaw Brothers, which ran the gamut from swordplay films (One-Armed Swordsman, The Assassin, Golden Swallow) to kung fu films (Five Shaolin Masters, Five Venoms, Kid with the Golden Arm) to more modern period dramas (Chinatown Kid, Boxer From Shantung, The Generation Gap) to lavish costume epics (The Water Margin, The Heroic Ones, Boxer Rebellion).
After graduating from National Central University (Nanjing University) in Chungking (Chongqing), where he studied politics, Chang moved to Hong Kong, where he became a film critic. Chang got his start in the film industry as a screenwriter; his first script was Girl's Mask, a movie from Shanghai which was released in 1947. He wrote several more scripts before making his directorial debut in 1949 with Happennings in Ali Shan. His first big hit came with 1967's One-Armed Swordsman, the first film in Hong Kong history to gross HK$1 million. The film catapulted actor Jimmy Wang Yu to stardom and cemented Chang's status as one of Hong Kong's top directors. In the same year, he released The Assassin, another early Chang classic, and in 1968 he followed up with Golden Swallow, a sequel to King Hu's classic wuxia picture Come Drink With Me.
He often co-wrote scripts with fellow screenwriter Ni Kuang, and occasionally co-directed films with directors such as Baau Hok-li, Wu Ma and Gwai Chi-hung. He even occasionally wrote and co-wrote music for his films. In addition to his film related work, he also wrote novels, poetry and non-film related articles under numerous pseudonyms.
He was heavily influenced by directors Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Gosha, Sergio Leone, and Sam Peckinpah, Cheh brought elements from these movies into his own work, revolutionizing Hong Kong filmmaking. His swordplay films of the 1960s (including One Armed Swordsman), filled with bloody scenes of the hero cutting his way through a roomful of opponents, were considered at the time by Westerners to be violent trash but are now looked back on as masterpieces of the genre.
In the early 1970s Cheh began making kung fu films (including Five Shaolin Masters and Five Venoms) sometimes filming four or five movies in a single year. His earlier kung fu movies were often done in collaboration with choreographer (and future director) Lau Kar Leung, who Chang had worked with, along with choreographer Tong Gaai, on earlier films. After falling out with Lau on the set of Disciples of Shaolin, Chang started featuring a troupe of actors made up of Sun Chien, Chiang Sheng, Philip Kwok, Lo Meng, Lu Feng, Wei Pai (and Yu Tai Ping), who would come to be known as "The Venoms", as actors and choreographers in his films. His films from this period, including Five Deadly Venoms, Kid with the Golden Arm, and Crippled Avengers, feature a heavy influence from the wuxia movie genre, and are considered his most popular films in the west – not counting 1982's Five Element Ninjas, aka Chinese Superninjas.
Chang was a pioneer of what is known by some as "heroic bloodshed"; films that emphasize brotherhood, loyalty and honor, and several of his films, including Vengeance, Boxer From Shantung and Chinatown Kid, can be seen as clear influences on the later work of directors such as John Woo and Ringo Lam. His influence on future filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino (who listed Chang as a dedicatee in the end credits of Kill Bill: Volume 2), Robert Rodriguez and Zhang Yimou is unquestionable. John Woo, who lists Cheh as his chief filmmaking inspiration, worked as assistant director on many of the master's films, including Boxer From Shantung, The Water Margin and The Blood Brothers.
|Year||English title||Original title||Director||Writer||Notes|
|1947||Girl's Mask||假面女郎||Fang Peilin||Yes|
|1949||Happennings in Ali Shan||阿里山風雲||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Cheung Ying|
|1951||Never Separated||永不分離||Chu Hsin Fu||Yes|
|1957||Wild Fire||野火||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Helen Li Mei|
|1960||Tragic Melody||桃花淚||Lo Wei||Yes|
|The Tender Trap of Espionage||脂粉間諜網||Lo Wei||Yes|
|Black Butterfly||黑蝴蝶||Lo Wei||Yes|
|1961||Song Without Words||無語問蒼天||Lo Wei||Yes|
|The Girl with the Golden Arm||賊美人||Tang Huang||Yes|
|You Were Meant for Me||遊戲人間||Wong Tin-lam||Yes|
|1962||It's Always Spring||桃李爭春||Evan Yang||Yes|
|Come Rain, Come Shine||野花戀||Tang Huang||Yes|
|Her Pearly Tears||珍珠淚||Wong Tin-lam||Yes|
|1964||The Amorous Lotus Pan||潘金蓮||Chow Sze-loke||Yes|
|The Female Prince||雙鳳奇緣||Chow Sze-loke||Yes|
|The Warlord and the Actress||血濺牡丹紅||Ho Meng Hua||Yes|
|1965||The Mermaid||魚美人||Kao Li||Yes|
|The Butterfly Chalice||蝴蝶盃||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Yuen Chow-fung|
|Crocodile River||鱷魚河||Lo Wei||Yes|
|Inside the Forbidden City||宋宮秘史||Kao Li||Yes|
|Call of the Sea||怒海情仇||Lo Wei||Yes|
|The Knight of Knights||文素臣||Hsih Chun||Yes|
|The Magnificent Trio||邊城三俠||Yes||Yes|
|The Perfumed Arrow||女秀才||Kao Li||Yes|
|1967||The Trail of the Broken Blade||斷腸劍||Yes||Yes|
|1969||The Singing Thief||大盜歌王||Yes|
|Return of the One-Armed Swordsman||獨臂刀王||Yes||Yes|
|The Flying Dagger||飛刀手||Yes|
|The Invincible Fist||鐵手無情||Yes|
|Have Sword, Will Travel||保鏢||Yes|
|1970||The Wandering Swordsman||遊俠兒||Yes|
|The Heroic Ones||十三太保||Yes||Yes|
|The Singing Killer||小煞星||Yes|
|The New One-Armed Swordsman||新獨臂刀||Yes|
|The Anonymous Heroes||無名英雄||Yes|
|Duel of Fists||拳擊||Yes|
|The Deadly Duo||雙俠||Yes|
|1972||The Boxer From Shantung||馬永貞||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Pao Hsueh Li|
|The Water Margin||水滸傳||Yes||Yes|
|Trilogy of Swordsmanship||群英會||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Cheng Kang|
|Delightful Forest||快活林||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Pao Hsueh Li|
|Man of Iron||仇連環||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Pao Hsueh Li|
|1973||The Delinquent||憤怒青年||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Kuei Chih-Hung|
|The Blood Brothers||刺馬||Yes||Yes|
|The Generation Gap||叛逆||Yes||Yes|
|Police Force||警察||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Tsai Yang-ming|
|The Iron Bodyguard||大刀王五||Yes||co-directed with Pao Hsueh Li|
|The Savage Five||五虎將||Yes||Yes|
|Men from the Monastery||少林子弟||Yes||Yes|
|The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires||Yes||English-language film, co-director|
|Shaolin Martial Arts||洪拳與詠春||Yes||Yes|
|Na Cha the Great||哪吒||Yes||Yes|
|Five Shaolin Masters||少林五祖||Yes|
|1975||All Men Are Brothers||蕩寇誌||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Wu Ma|
|Disciples of Shaolin||洪拳小子||Yes||Yes|
|The Fantastic Magic Baby||紅孩兒||Yes||Yes|
|The Shaolin Avengers||方世玉與胡惠乾||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Wu Ma|
|The New Shaolin Boxers||蔡李佛小子||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Wu Ma|
|Shaolin Temple||少林寺||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Wu Ma|
|1977||The Naval Commandos||海軍突擊隊||Yes||co-director|
|Magnificent Wanderers||江湖漢子||Yes||Yes||co-directed with Wu Ma|
|The Brave Archer||射鵰英雄傳||Yes|
|1978||The Brave Archer 2||射鵰英雄傳續集||Yes|
|The Magnificent Ruffians||賣命小子||Yes||Yes|
|Kid with the Golden Arm||金臂童||Yes||Yes|
|Ten Tigers from Kwangtung||廣東十虎與後五虎||Yes||Yes|
|1980||Heaven and Hell||第三類打鬥||Yes||Yes|
|2 Champions of Shaolin||少林與武當||Yes||Yes|
|Flag of Iron||鐵旗門||Yes||Yes|
|The Rebel Intruders||大殺四方||Yes||Yes|
|Legend of the Fox||飛狐外傳||Yes||Yes|
|1981||Sword Stained With Royal Blood||碧血劍||Yes||Yes|
|The Brave Archer 3||射鵰英雄傳第三集||Yes||Yes|
|1982||House of Traps||冲霄樓||Yes||Yes|
|The Brave Archer and His Mate||神鵰俠侶||Yes||Yes|
|Five Element Ninjas||五遁忍術||Yes||Yes|
|Ode to Gallantry||俠客行||Yes||Yes|
|1983||The Weird Man||神通術與小霸王||Yes||Yes|
|Attack of the Joyful Goddess||撞鬼||Yes|
|1985||The Dancing Warrior||霹靂情||Yes|
|1986||Great Shanghai 1937||大上海1937||Yes||Yes|
|1987||Slaughter in Xian||西安殺戮||Yes||Yes|
|Cross the River||過江||Yes||Yes|
|1991||Go West to Subdue Demons||西行平妖||Yes||Yes|
|1993||Ninja In Ancient China||神通||Yes||Yes|
In 1992, Chang Cheh produced Taiwan Television's Ma's Assassination (刺馬), which tells the same story as his 1973 film The Blood Brothers. The series is directed by Lu Feng and stars, among other actors, David Chiang.
Chang Cheh wrote the lyrics of more than 70 Chinese songs that have appeared in his films. The theme song of his directorial debut Happenings in Ali Shan, "Ali Shan de Guniang" (阿里山的姑娘; "Alishan Range's Girls"), also known as "Gao Shan Qing" (高山青; "The Green High Mountain") is a particularly famous song in the Sinophone world.
- "Chang Cheh". The New York Times.
- National Central University later renamed Nanjing University in Nanjing and reinstated in Taiwan.
- "Golden Swallow". The New York Times.
- "香港電影資料館 - 張徹──回憶錄‧影評集 - 張徹電影的陽剛武力革命──代序二". www.lcsd.gov.hk. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
- "Honouring Master Cheh - Film - www.theage.com.au". www.theage.com.au. Retrieved 2016-07-04.