HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, January 11, 2008

Interview with Linn Haynes about the Upcoming Shaw Brothers Media Blaster Releases

Interview with Linn Haynes about the Upcoming Shaw Brothers Media
Blaster Releases.

1.Can you tell us a little about yourself and how did you first got interested into Shaw Brothers films?

Now that is a LONG story, here's the short version: When I was kid, I just watched kung fu films, not really knowing about the production companies and the like, but I DID watch everything around the age of seven or eight. As for the Shaw Brothers, like a lot of U.S. fans, I caught their films as part of the Black Belt Theater package on TV. We could actually barely get the station (this was before we got cable), and I stayed up late at night to catch it. Luckily my parents never caught me! I saw a handful of movies in the theater locally, but mostly television was where I really watched most of the films. When BBT stopped, I started watching Kung Fu Theater on USA Network. Saturdays were usually spent watching cartoons until noon when my parents changed the channel to USA for the rest of the day. I've still got an old tape of Kung Fu Instructor off of Kung Fu Theater that's a prized possession of mine.

After that, I took a break and saw just a few films over the next six years or so. I had started reading martial arts magazines as a kid, so I never really fell out of some of what was going on, but I didn't really have access to any current films. By that same logic, it helped me out a bit, because I could only watch period kung fu films on video. It wasn't until towards the end of high school that I really got back into the genre with a great deal of force.

I went to a convention in Atlanta called Dragon Con and came across a guy selling kung fu tapes. He was talking up a few films, and I recognized Jackie Chan's Police Story. I had heard about the film and wanted to see it. So I got that, Dragons Forever (the dealer said it was great), and A Chinese Ghost Story (still one of my all time favorite films),and went home. That night I watched them all and that was all it took. The next day, I went back, and bought something like twenty tapes. What's funny is, I recognized a LOT of actors from my Kung Fu Theater days, so I wasn't a lost as I thought I would be. I didn't know Sammo Hung's name, but I certainly knew his face! From that point on, I was a kung fu fanatic and started looking everywhere for kung fu tapes. I started renting films and making copies. I soon found a kung fu trading site online called Rindge on the Fringe that listed people from around the world with their lists and wants where I made a lot of friends I still stay in contact with today. I started doing everything I could to learn about these films, from digging in Chinese groceries to buying Chinese books and magazines. I even hired a guy at a local Hong Kong restaurant to translate some things for me! Within two years, I saw perhaps two hundred films. Now, I don't even want to think how many I've seen!

I started writing about the films where I could, first in a college newspaper. Damon Foster gave me a break with some reviews in his Oriental Cinema Magazine, and then I was off! Later I discovered a voice online and joined a couple of forums, notably Kung Fu Fandom, which I became an administrator for. In a couple of years, I'd written for and been interviewed in publications all over the world. Though I didn't start off doing this, it seemed everything I wrote of any substance was dealing with Shaw Brothers films. I realized just prior to doing this interview, I've never written anything that's been published on Golden Harvest. For whatever reason, I really gravitated to the Shaw Brothers films. Part of it was my local video store had some of the old “Shaw Brothers Video” releases, so the core films were easier for me to see. And of course I remembered seeing that Shaw Brothers films as a kid, as they were the main staple until about 1984 or 85, when it became more Taiwanese films.

2. How long has Media Blasters been interested in distributing the Shaw
Brothers films?

For as long as I've been involved with the company, since the release of Seven Grandmasters a few years ago. The issue has often been one of availability of titles, or viability of the market. It certainly hasn't been lack of want, as many of the people there are fans themselves of the films. I think their list of titles speak to that fact.

3. Media Blasters got some very well known titles, it was long thought that anything well known was controlled by Dragon Dynasty or Image. How could such well known titles slip through the cracks?

You'd be surprised how often this happens. It often comes down to one of three things: 1. Companies don't know enough about the films to make a valid judgment on the titles they're looking at. 2. The people viewing availability lists don't know the original international titles (meaning titles prior to them being changed for US releases), so they don't recognize the “good” films. 3. There's of course certain titles a company is looking for and some are naturally not chosen due to a set limit they have. To be honest, it's often VERY surprising to me what's not picked and what is picked. In the case of the Shaw Brothers films, many were not available until they were set for release in Hong Kong.

4. Shaw Brother releases in the United States have been extremely un-even at times. Is Media Blasters committed to doing more than just ports of the IVL discs?

First off, the majority of Media Blasters titles will be from High Def masters. That means that they'll be no issues with the PAL to NTSC transfers that have plagued all the IVL releases and some of the US DVDs.

Also, in the rare case a HD master isn't available for a title, they will be working with the original PAL masters to do a transfer, so those titles should be a step above the HK releases. One thing to keep in mind, all of the Media Blasters releases will also be 16:9 enhanced, which nearly all of the HK DVDs of these titles were not.

5. When do you expect the first title to hit retail and is Media Blasters planning to make the Shaw Brother titles a major part of their 2008 releases?

The first title is currently set to come out the second quarter of 2008. The idea is that one title a month afterward. Black Magic 2 is a natural for October I think. The Shaw releases are one of the cornerstones of Media Blasters release schedule for next year and they really want to do a good job on these.

6. Does Media Blaster rights extend only to DVD or also to next generation formats?

Media Blasters at the moment have no plans to release Shaw Brothers films on next generation formats.

7. Will sub-titles be retranslated by Media Blasters?

The plan is to retranslate problem subtitles.

8. Will the original English dubs be used? What steps are being done to find dubs that Celestial does not still have? Also would Celestial allow the use of collector prints for rare dubs (which seem to be coming out of the woodwork once again)?

Yes, the original dubs are being used. As a matter of fact, some may be 5.1 audio. And before fans freak out, mono tracks for both English and original languages will also be included. For the titles Media Blasters are releasing, there's only a couple that don't have complete English audio available, and every attempt is being made find missing elements if they exist.

9. What type of extras is Media Blasters aiming for the discs?

I talked to Mike Leeder (Editor of Impact Magazine, interviewer for Hong Kong Legends) almost immediately after I heard about the Media Blasters releases. Mike is on my short list of the most knowledgeable people on Hong Kong films in the world. Mike and I have been hoping to do something together for a while. I also contacted a lot of friends around the world looking for footage for extras and the like. I've contacted Frederic Ambroisine, an old friend of mine in France who handled the extras for the well known French Wildside releases, about looking into interviews he had done. I'm still looking for English trailers for these films BTW, so if anyone's got some out there, contact this site!

10. Are their attempts to interview some of the more uncommon subjects for the discs (English dubbers, Shaw crew members and non-actors, major actors who did not appear on the DD discs such as Ti Lung and Lar Kar Leung)?

If everything goes as planned, I think fans will be VERY happy with the extras for these releases. Media Blasters, Mike and myself are trying to set the bar high, some might say too high, for the extras. If everything works out, there's no way fans wouldn't enjoy what they find extras-wise. And yes, every effort is being made to get interviews.

11. Many people were pleasantly surprised with the skill the RZA displayed on the 36th Chamber of Shaolin commentary, is there any ideas about working with the RZA or other Wu-Tang Clan members on the discs? It seems with the new release of a Wu-Tang Clan CD in December entitled 8 Diagrams that it would be good marketing (with the Wu-Tang Clan in the news) to get them on the discs.

I was also impressed with the 36th Chamber commentary. As for getting him on the Media Blasters discs, we'll see.

12. Are there any plans for documentaries about the Shaws and how should documentaries be handled.

We've got some ideas we're floating around, but nothing set in stone at the moment. I don't want to get fans to excited and then something come up to slow things down. This is not an exact science after all.

12. Are there any plans for audio commentaries?

Media Blasters have asked me to do some. To tell the truth, I'm hesitant to do it, as every time I have, something bad has happened. The last time I agreed to it, I brought in a friend to be on it, only to have the DVD canceled the night before the commentary was to be recorded. I worked in radio for a couple of years, so I don't have a problem being on the mike, and I practice every time I watch a film with someone. I drive a few of my friends nuts!

14. Is it possible for footage of lost/un-made Shaw films to be licensed by Media Blasters as extras? Is it also possible for films to be licensed that Celestial declined to re-master themselves (ie Hong Kong Godfathers and To Kill A Mastermind)?

Mike and I have plans to try and find anything we can as far as vintage materials go. I sent him some things to look for, but it's currently too early to really comment on that. As for titles Celestial hasn't remastered: It's a possibility. You certainly mentioned the top two on my list. [Note: Just after this interview was done, it was revealed that BCI had purchased the rights to Hong Kong Godfathers and fourteen other films. Linn was responsible for picking those titles and specifically requested BCI to seek out the film for release.]

13. Any hint on what the first title will be?

The first title at the moment is Heroes Two. That doesn't mean something can't change between now and then, but I personally think it's a perfect title to start with.

14. Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview with HK AND

Thank you. And thanks to everyone reading this for supporting Asian
film releases throughout the world.


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