Run Run Shaw, the Father of the Kung Fu Film, Dies at 106

    Death is inevitable for us all and no amount of false sage-speak or clever metaphors will make anyone feel any better about the long kiss goodnight. For better or worse, movies are one of the most popular ways that cultural nuances are disseminated. And it is this fact that makes Run Run Shaw a revered figure in the United States.

    Shaw is responsible for the unwavering popularity of Asian martial arts in the United States. Responsible for producing film, Run founded the Shaw Brothers Studio, one of the largest studios in the world, and Television Broadcast Limited.

    His catalog is formidabley relative to his American peers; The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Five Fingers of Death, Five Shaolin Masters, Five Deadly Venoms, Return to the 36th Chamber, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. Fist of the White Lotus and many other Kung Fu classics and art house films as well. Hip-Hop fans can easily recall some of these movie titles from the works of The Wu-Tang Clan. Their first album, Enter the 36 Chambers, borrowed its name from one of Shaw’s most famous offerings. Their Staten Island home was affectionately called Shaolin, which served as the backdrop to many of his films as well.

    Fans over the age of 35-years-old can easily recall a time when Run Run Shaw’s films dominated Saturday matinees at movie theaters in urban areas in the 80s. Viewings would be packed throughout the day as moviegoers would stay for double-features or even watch the same film repeatedly. These movies were a welcome escape from the reality of urban life that some faced at home.

    But Run Run Shaw’s influence would not end there, as his films spawned American copycats that persist to this day.  Run Run invested in and influenced the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. Matrix directors Bill and Lana Wachowski have said Shaw was integral to their filmmaking style. And Kill Bill Vol. 1 opened with a splash of the Shaw Scope logo. Director Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill trilogy is an obvious homage to the works of Shaw with its female heroine, well-choreographed fight scenes, and sinister antagonists. In fact, Gordon Liu, who starred in Fist of the White Lotus and the 36th Chambers series as Master Killer, also appears in the Kill Bill series as Uma Thurman’s teacher. "Run Run Shaw is Hong Kong cinema," states Bill Kong (producer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). "He was like a totem of Hong Kong cinema. For 60 or 70 years, he grew Hong Kong cinema. We all grew up watching his movies every week in our younger days."

    Run Run Shaw died at home in Hong Kong on Jan. 7 at the age of 106.