The transcript below is from the video “The Complete History of Martial Arts in Movies” by WatchMojo.com.

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“They came. They saw. They kicked ass. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be discussing the complete history of martial arts in movies. To be fair, it would be nearly impossible to properly go into everything that’s gone into growing the martial arts film genre from curiosity to acceptance and eventual obsession.”

The Matrix (1999) Movie Scene:

“I know Kung Fu.”

“Show me.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“But our goal here is multi-faceted. We’re going to examine the history of how martial arts cinema was born and progressed throughout the years and discuss some of the key peaks and valleys within this unique and complex world. Think of it sort of as both a primer for those seeking to jump into this universe, as well as a tribute to some of the movies and actors we love.”

Kung Fu (1972-1975) Series Scene:

“For money. A Shaolin Monk does not sell himself for a hand full of rice.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“Let’s start with the elephant in the room: what was the FIRST movie to showcase a martial art discipline on screen? The answer isn’t easy and differs depending on who you ask. You could go all the way back to the silent film era of the 1920s and pick out the Japanese samurai drama “Orochi” as one example. Then there are the multitude of films documenting China’s famous folk hero and martial artist Wong Fei-hung, which have endured from the late 40s all the way to the modern day. Or, you could point to the 1955 western noir “Bad Day at Black Rock” and its use of judo throws as the first Hollywood film to expose martial arts to a wide North American audience.

It all depends on how you look at it, but there’s no denying that the world of early martial arts cinema was shaped by film studios outside of the U.S., specifically Shaw Brothers Studio and Golden Harvest.

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

The umbrella term ‘martial arts movie’ is extremely broad, and it’s important to note that many countries have exported their own cultural take on this sort of cinema to the rest of the world. However, two undeniable titans of the industry are Hong Kong studios Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest, which developed countless formative and essential examples of martial arts cinema for decades. Shaw Brothers dominated the market early on with many films in the wuxia genre, that often adapted existing Chinese dramas or plays with heroic themes. These films were defined by their extravagant, period-accurate costuming and set design, together with action that often-utilized trampolines and wires to give it an otherworldly feel. Many of these films were master classes in technique and stunt work, influencing countless filmmakers in their wake. Shaw Brothers’ wuxia efforts also pushed the boundaries of the genre, such as with the 1966 classic ‘Come Drink with Me.’”

Come Drink with Me (1966) Movie Scene:

“Did you write this letter?”

“Ha, you can be sure it was written by me. But the details…should be…reported to you in person.”

“I’d like to hear the details.”

“We have Zhang Buqing’s information.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“The film was notable not only for its violence, but also for the work of its lead, Cheng Pei-pei as a charismatic, capable and inspirational female lead. The violence is supremely stylized, like a dance recital, and was heavily inspired by the Peking Opera. Such films earned the studio a reputation as a purveyor of battle cinema as high art. Cheng Pei-pei’s status as an early leading lady for martial arts cinema is indicative of the path many other films would take in its wake.

The genre was one where female roles had the potential to be more than just that of a sex object or distressed damsel. Etsuko ‘Sue’ Shihomi, Angela Mao, Michelle Yeoh, and Cynthia Rothrock were just a few of the powerful women who soared to the heights of celluloid glory during their time as bona fide martial arts ass kickers. If there was a kink in the Shaw system, however, it was their resistance to change and their occasional unwillingness to take a chance. Their business model was very much in the Hollywood mode of binding, long term contracts, and they infamously passed on performers who would become future household names, thanks to their practice of low-balling new talent.”

Way of the Dragon (1972) Movie Scene:

“Rule number four. Dragon seeks path. Dragon whips his tail.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“One of these names was Bruce Lee, who became a star working for Shaw’s main competition, the aforementioned Golden Harvest. Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho had previously worked for Shaw yet did things a bit differently when they formed Golden Harvest in 1970, taking risks and bringing more variety into the marketplace.”

Black Magic (1975) Movie Scene:

“I need a love curse, making someone love me.”

“I fell in love with a man and I must have him.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“Although it should be said that Shaw eventually got on board with this idea, producing many cool horror and exploitation hybrids throughout the 70s and 80s, it was Golden Harvest that embraced early experimentation. The studio produced gritty and grounded kung fu flicks that rivalled Shaw’s dominance, including one co-production with Hollywood that would become a giant of the genre, 1973’s ‘Enter the Dragon.’”

Enter the Dragon (1973) Movie Scene:

“You have offended my family and you have offended the Shaolin Temple.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“It’s difficult to overstate how just much ‘Enter the Dragon’ opened things up for the deluge of martial arts movies that flooded the market in the wake of Bruce Lee’s iconic lead performance. The film was lightning in a bottle, striking at just the right time, with the proper execution and perfect star, to make martial arts movies cool for just about everyone. It helped spearhead a new kung fu renaissance, enabling countless knockoffs and imports to hit television screens and cinemas around the world. Martial arts cinema was an equal opportunity employer, making stars of everyone from Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung to African-American stars Jim Kelly and Ron Van Clief.”

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) Movie Scene:

“You don’t need a rock. You tricky swine. You nearly had me fooled, saying you know Teacher. But I know the truth now.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“Further success in the US would be enjoyed by stars like ‘Billy Jack’ star Tom Laughlin, Chuck Norris, and David Carradine of ‘Kung Fu’ fame, who would famously study martial arts after portraying the iconic ‘Grasshopper’ Kwai Chang Caine. It should be mentioned, however, that ‘Kung Fu’ also showed that Hollywood was still resistant towards casting an Asian actor in a lead role. There’s controversy as to whether ‘Kung Fu’ was an idea stolen from a treatment Bruce Lee had for a similar show titled ‘The Warrior,’ or whether Lee simply auditioned for the role of Caine and was turned down. This wasn’t the only instance of certain stereotypes perpetuated throughout kung Fu’s dominance in movie theaters throughout the 1970s and 80s.”

10 Brothers of Shaolin (1977) Movie Scene:

“Men of Shaolin, the ten disciples. Five of them monks and five lame, are now prepared. The studies are complete. Give them your instructions.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“As more and more martial arts movies were being produced and co-produced around the world, budgets (and quality) would predictably vary. The practice of dubbing was commonplace for many movie genres, and the quality of these kung fu dubs also varies. Sadly, many martial arts movies became better known for the words not matching up with the actors’ mouths than some of their actual content. As a result, dubbing actors could potentially change entire plot points with their decisions.”

Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave (1982) Movie Scene:

“I am Dracula. Come to my aid!”

“Get him!”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“It was soon commonplace for just about everyone to poke fun at the often-awkward dubs on some of the lower level kung fu imports from filmmakers like Godfrey Ho, Jeffery Lai, or the glut of ‘Brucesploitation’ pictures that emerged to cash in on the actor’s tragic death in 1973.”

The Clones of Bruce Lee (1980) Movie Scene:

“Bruce Lee the world-famous film star died last night of a sudden heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital in a comma.”

“He was at the very height of his career. His most recent movie had broken all previous box office records. The world indeed has lost one of its greatest heroes.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“So sure, the genre’s ‘chopsocky’ stereotype isn’t without merit. But the truth is that martial arts cinema is much more fluid.”

Hero (2002) Movie Scene:

“About 10 paces.”

“Good. Ten paces it is.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“These movies aren’t just beat ’em ups and can just as easily incorporate historical and political themes alongside more traditional story arcs involving skill sets, revenge, or heroic bloodshed. The 90s and 2000s in particular saw updates of the classic wuxia approach, with movies like ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ ‘House of Flying Daggers’ and ‘Hero’ evoking warm memories of those early moments watching classic Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest pictures on the big screen.”

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Movie Scene:

“I wish that we’ll be in the dessert, together again.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“Actors like Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Donnie Yen, and Chow Yun-fat were becoming part of the mainstream consciousness, and filmmakers like Gareth Evans, Ang Lee, and Ringo Lam brought martial arts movies to new audiences.”

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) Movie Scene:

“Remember, arms must be straight. You should carry water everyday to build up arm strength. Go now.”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“Appreciation for martial arts classics was also blossoming more than ever before, with previously hard-to-find genre titles finding release on home video. This was thanks to the championing efforts of Hollywood heavy hitters like Quentin Tarantino, whose ‘Kill Bill’ franchise acknowledged not only Shaw Brothers kung fu classics like ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,’ but also Japan’s equally iconic samurai and gangster pictures, such as ‘Lady Snowblood’ or the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series.”

Lady Snowblood (1973):

“Step aside. Out of our way, woman! Who the hell are you? Don’t you recognize Genzo Shibayama, leader of the Asakusa Senryo gang?”

WatchMojo.com (WatchMojo.com YouTube Channel – Top 10 lists on Music, TV, Film and Video Games – Narration by Rebecca/ WatchMojoLady):

“At the end of the day, the complete history of martial arts cinema is still being written and revolutionized on a daily basis. We can remember how “bullet time” helped shift the paradigm of martial arts cinematography when ‘The Matrix’ was released in 1999, or the first time we saw ‘The Raid,’ or how impressed we were that Keanu Reeves and crew could achieve the choreography demonstrated in the ‘John Wick’ franchise. We acknowledge that none of this could’ve been accomplished without those who came before, but we’re just as excited to see what new stars have in store for this world in the future.”




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