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The Shaw Brothers Meet Hammer: Coproduction, Coherence, and Cult Film Critera

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Abstract:

During the 1970s, Shaw Brothers and Hammer Films sought to blend kung fu spectacle with traditional genres. The fruits of this endeavor The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Shatter, both 1974 were castigated by mainstream critics as idiosyncratic and incoherent. The films’ appropriation by cult audiences, however, is predicated on precisely their purported incoherence. This essay argues that incoherence constitutes a tacit and under-theorized criterion for cult movies, and insofar as it is conceived as a homogenous phenomenon, tends to offer an uninformative barometer of a cult film’s value. In contrast, I propose several levels of coherence, the better to specify the cult film’s unities and disunities across a range of dimensions. Centrally, I explore the alleged incoherence forged by fusing kung fu with the norms of horror (Legend) and crime thriller (Shatter). Arguing that both films obey canonized principles of storytelling, I go on to examine the effects that their apparent incoherence has upon the viewer’s experience. The paper also points toward the relevance of transnational coproduction for grasping both the viewer’s activity and the critical neglect of coherence in the Shaws-Hammer movies.

Keywords: Hammer films; Hong Kong cinema; Shaw brothers; cult film; evaluation; transnational coproduction

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ac.22.1.122_1

Affiliations: University of Lancaster

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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