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Chang Cheh

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Chang Cheh
(Chang Yi-yang)

(1923-02-10)10 February 1923
Died22 June 2002(2002-06-22) (aged 79)
Years active1947–1993
AwardsAsia Pacific Film Festival
1970 Best Director (Vengeance!)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Chang Cheh (pinyin: Zhāng Chè; 10 February 1923 – 22 June 2002) was a Chinese filmmaker,[1] 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.

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 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 Chongqing, where he studied politics, Chang moved to Hong Kong, where he became a film critic.[2] 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 Happenings 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,[3] a sequel to King Hu's classic wuxia picture Come Drink With Me.

Chang 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.

Chang was heavily influenced by directors Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Gosha, Sergio Leone, and Sam Peckinpah,[4][5] 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 Chang 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
1966 Tiger Boy 虎俠殲仇 Yes 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
1967 One-Armed Swordsman 獨臂刀 Yes Yes [6][7]
1967 The Assassin 大刺客 Yes Yes [8]
1968 Golden Swallow 金燕子 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
Dead End 死角 Yes
Have Sword, Will Travel 保鏢 Yes
1970 The Wandering Swordsman 遊俠兒 Yes
Vengeance 報仇 Yes Yes
The Heroic Ones 十三太保 Yes Yes
The Singing Killer 小煞星 Yes
1971 King Eagle 鷹王 Yes
The New One-Armed Swordsman 新獨臂刀 Yes
The Duel 大決鬥 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
Angry Guest 惡客 Yes
The Water Margin 水滸傳 Yes Yes
Trilogy of Swordsmanship 群英會 Yes Yes co-directed with Cheng Kang
Young People 年輕人 Yes Yes
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
Four Riders 四騎士 Yes Yes
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 Pirate 大海盜 Yes Yes co-director
The Iron Bodyguard 大刀王五 Yes co-directed with Pao Hsueh Li
1974 Heroes Two 方世玉與洪熙官 Yes Yes
The Savage Five 五虎將 Yes Yes
Men from the Monastery 少林子弟 Yes Yes
Friends 朋友 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
Marco Polo 馬哥波羅 Yes Yes
1976 Boxer Rebellion 八國聯軍 Yes Yes
7-Man Army 八道楼子 Yes Yes co-director
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
Chinatown Kid 唐人街小子 Yes Yes
1978 The Brave Archer 2 射鵰英雄傳續集 Yes
Five Venoms 五毒 Yes Yes
Invincible Shaolin 南少林與北少林 Yes Yes
Crippled Avengers 殘缺 Yes Yes
1979 Life Gamble 生死鬥 Yes Yes
Shaolin Rescuers 街市英雄 Yes Yes
Shaolin Daredevils 雜技亡命隊 Yes Yes
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
Masked Avengers 叉手 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
1984 Death Ring 擂台 Yes
The Demons 九子天魔 Yes
Shanghai 13 上海灘十三太保 Yes 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
1990 Hidden Hero 江湖奇兵 Yes Yes
1991 Go West to Subdue Demons 西行平妖 Yes Yes
1993 Ninja In Ancient China 神通 Yes Yes

TV series[edit]

In 1992, Chang 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.

As lyricist[edit]

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.


  1. ^ Jason Buchanan (2015). "Chang Cheh". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-07-02.
  2. ^ National Central University later renamed Nanjing University in Nanjing and reinstated in Taiwan.
  3. ^ Dan Pavlides (2015). "Golden Swallow". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-06-30.
  4. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 2016-09-16. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  5. ^ "Honouring Master Cheh - Film - www.theage.com.au". www.theage.com.au. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  6. ^ "Hong Kong Director and Martial Arts Master Lau Kar-leung Dies at 76". hollywoodreporter.com. June 25, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Cremin, Stephen (January 27, 2011). "Horse announces greatest Chinese films". filmbiz.asia. Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Assassin (1967)". asiasociety.org. 1967. Retrieved June 7, 2021.

External links[edit]