Harry here... You've heard a lot of griping from us here at AICN in regards to the treatment that SHAOLIN SOCCER has been getting from its American Distributor, MIRAMAX, but that's pretty much the story throughout the history of Martial Arts Imports to the United States.
At QT5, Tarantino illustrated this by showing the original Cantonese print of Bruce Lee's FISTS OF FURY, with all of the original social and political subtext that was cut out of the original U.S. theatrical release. In fact, watching that print, you can't help but realize that for the first time, you are not only watching Bruce Lee's performance, but this was the first and only time I actually got to HEAR his performance in FISTS OF FURY.
Adding to that, you can often see the manhandling of the Shaw Brothers films by their U.S. Distributor American International. However, as Quentin stated... At least they were released here. Certainly that is a consideration. We folks that have already seen SHAOLIN SOCCER, we are in fact the aficionadoes of Asian Cinema. We're the folks that haven't already seen just RING, but RING 2 and RING 0. When Gore Verbinski's remake comes out, most attendees will never know there was an original, until they stumble into a video store to rent Verbinski's and perhaps a shrewd Video Clerk will mention.... "Have you ever seen the original?" It won't happen to most, but perhaps it will happen to some.
About a month ago, Miramax called me because they were thinking of renaming SHAOLIN SOCCER as KUNG FU SOCCER again. Apparently when they tested the titles, more people were interested in KUNG FU SOCCER because they didn't know what SHAOLIN meant. I tried to tell them that people didn't know what an E.T. was or a CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF A THIRD KIND or a FORREST GUMP or a BLOOD SIMPLE... That on these types of titles, it becomes the marketing challenge to use that in your favor. Define the word "Shaolin" to the typical American. Then to be cute... Define the word "Soccer" to them too. That seemed to work well for PULP FICTION.
Apparently though, Stephen Chow has given them his blessing for the title change, so who am I to raise a ruckus. Afterall, since the U.S. release has had other changes besides a possible title change, it'll make it easy for us. KUNG FU SOCCER will be the version that most Americans have seen... When you are talking to someone and they say to you, "Have you seen KUNG FU SOCCER?" You can retort with, "Have you seen SHAOLIN SOCCER?" then invite them to your house for enlightenment. You get to bring the original version to them. I asked Miramax to compromise... To release the original Hong Kong release version of SHAOLIN SOCCER with its original title, print and subtitled to a limited art house release, at the same time that they do the big roll out for KUNG FU SOCCER with the Saturday Morning commercials to get the kiddies into the theaters. They seemed intrigued by the notion, let's keep our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, in new news it seems that Stephen Chow will be making a sequel to SHAOLIN SOCCER entitled, fittingly enough, SHAOLIN SOCCER 2. He is going to star and direct again! Now for those that know the film already, given the last shot of the film... I wonder if the whole film will take place in that idyllic Shaolin world where evil practitioners of the Shaolin way corrupt the serentity of Chow's message. What angle is Chow going to pursue? Well... All I know is I'm going to be watching the ASIA AICN reports like a hawk for news, because I'm genuinely excited about a sequel to this BRILLIANT COMEDY ACTION FILM!
Meanwhile, additional great news for lovers of Asian Cinema came from the New York Times today as an article detailing Celestial Pictures restoration and dvd & video release of the SHAW BROTHERS films. They have been restoring the original negatives and in addition to the video and dvd prints, they will be striking NEW 35mm Negatives for use at inquiring theaters, festivals and film programs. This is fantastic news for all film societies around the world, as the Shaw Brothers always kept an intensely firm grasp on their prints, never allowing their films out for fests, institutions or revival houses. The edited and dubbed versions have been seen in limited venues, but usually due to the industrious theater manager that dug and dug and dug. In addition... Apparently there will be a SHAW BROTHERS KUNG FU CHANNEL that'll be launched at some point this year!!!
Man, that's geek nirvana there! Think of it. 24 hours of Kung Fu films 365 Days a year! CAN YOU IMAGINE! Time for those oak walls to be put in your house, otherwise little fist and foot holes will spot your living room walls from all release of pent up wannabe Kung Fu spirit!
These releases should begin later this year and next... There are several hundred titles, and Celestial plans on doing a massive restoration... but also they have remake rights to all this stuff, so there could be a ton of remakes of these things coming (we won't diss that till we hear more about those sorts of plans though...)
NOW... In the New York Times article they grabbed a quote from Quentin Tarantino that elevated my already boundless enthusiasm for KILL BILL. It turns out that... Hold on, I'll direct quote for ya...
Tarantino, a well-known martial arts buff who wowed American audiences with ``Reservoir Dogs'' and ``Pulp Fiction,'' is now shooting his next film, ``Kill Bill,'' on the old Shaw Brothers lot.
``I've always loved the Shaw Brothers films and they have a
very special place in my heart,'' Tarantino said. ``It's
important for me to shoot part of 'Kill Bill' on the old
Shaw Brothers lot. It's sort of my homage to Hong Kong film
and there will be references to Shaws in the film.''
I'm sorry for the high brow vocabulary there, but I can't help but get a little Spicolli when I hear something that fucking cool. The concept that Quentin Tarantino is actually shooting part of his Kung Fu epic exploitation film on the stages and back lots of Sir Run Run Shaw and Run Me Shaw's SHAW BROTHERS PRODUCTION? WHOOOOLLLEEEEE SNUFFLUPPULLUS!!!!
Think of it... Sonny Chiba loose on the Shaw Brothers' stages! Yuen Wu Ping back there! Too Friggin Cool For Words!