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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kung Fu movie genre founder Sir Run Run Shaw dies at age 106

The ritzy Elgin Theatre on Toronto's Yonge Street, which began life as The Lowe's, was in a state of decline by the early 1970's. Of course, an adolescent who only stared going to movies without being taken by his parents then wouldn't have known that.

The theatre was immense, of a sort one rarely sees anymore in the age of multiplexies, In the vaudeville era, it had hosted some of the biggest stars of the time, including Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker and George Burns. But the entertainment that I saw there was of an entirely different sort.
For me, The Yonge Threatre, as it was known in the early 70's, was a Saturday afternoon Mecca. Each weekend would bring a new triple feature. The Yonge's mix would usually consist of a pair of kung fu movies and a second run action movie with someone like Charles Bronson or Robert Mitchum.  And so my Saturdays would entail a trip to Yonge and Queen with my friends. Six hours of movies later, the whole time while munching on popcorn, candy bars and guzzling pop,we would emerge bleary-eyed onto the east side of Yonge Street and recreate flying kicks and wield imaginary nunchucks as we made our way to a pinball emporium up the street. A couple of hours of pinball wizardry on games like Gotleib's Centigrade 37 or Bally's Playboy would be followed by a visit to
McDonald's and a burger, fries and coke. They were very happy days, and not just because I was able to maintain a rail-thin frame back then despite non-stop junk-food gouging.

Yonge Street back then
Those kung fu movies were a craze back then, and I've just learned that the creator of the genre, Run Run Shaw, died today at the age of 106. Shaw was the Louis B. Mayer of Hong Kong, who, through the Shaw Brothers Studios he founded, controlled every aspect of the films he produced, from talent and production to distribution and exhibition. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1977, Sir Run Run continued to produce the movies that gave my friends and me such childhood joy until 1985, and was responsible for such classics as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and The Five Deadly Venoms.

So to Sir Run Run Shaw, from those of us to whom you provided so much good fun, thank you and farewell.  

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