Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Shaw Brothers Night at the Vancity Theatre: Come Drink With Me plus vintage trailers!

You meet people who remember the Rickshaw as it was from time to time, back when it was known as the Shaw Theatre. One of my wife Erika's coworkers tells me he used to regularly go see Hong Kong-made Shaw Brothers movies there with his father throughout the 1980's, back when it was actually a movie theatre. The place was an institution for Vancouver's Chinese-Canadian (and/ or kung-fu-movie-loving) community for decades, run by the actual Shaw family, before it eventually closed and fell into disrepair. The resurrected Rickshaw's current proprietor, Mo Tarmohamed, has put up a couple posters for vintage kung fu movies in honour of the building's heritage, but - though I've chatted with him a bit about the building's past - I hadn't heard until recently that, when he took over the building, he also inherited film reels that had been left in an office, including some vintage Shaw Brothers trailers. (I believe Adrian Mack over at the Straight has actually seen the film cannisters in question, which Mo and co. are currently cataloguing; it was all news for me, as of a couple weeks ago).

That's all some cool local history. But besides being overwhelmed with other work, I'm maybe not the best-suited man to write a story about all this, because, despite a recent  failed attempt to make it through The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, the only actual Shaw Brothers movie I have seen to completion is an anomalous one: The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, a Hammer Studios co-production that features Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, battling, yep, kung-fu fighting Chinese vampires. It is very silly, very fun, and reasonably well-made, even if the film's Dracula pales next to Christopher Lee.

I mean, vampires are supposed to be pale, but... you know what I mean.

I do like a good kung fu movie, mind you, and have enjoyed two Ip Man movies, Bloodsport, Circle of Iron, and a couple of vintage Bruce Lees, but it's a genre I have less than exhaustive knowledge of. I am too fussy to watch poor-quality bootlegs, I can't abide most dubbing, and am even less fond of incompetent subtitling (which I have noted more than once on less-than-reputable DVDs of Chinese films). You just don't stumble across good quality DVDs or Blu's of classic kung fu actioners that often in your da-to-day scroungings in this town. (Or at least I don't). Hell, I don't even know if Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon counts as a wuxia film. To be totally honest, I'm not even sure what a wuxia film is, though I know that the 1966 feature Come Drink With Me is a wuxia film, because it is mentioned in the Vancity Theatre's program description.

Which brings us to the point. The Vancity Theatre will be playing Come Drink With Me and THREE of the Shaw Brothers trailers rediscovered at the Rickshaw on February 11th, at 9:45PM, to mark the occasion of Chinese New Year (the next day). Apparently the star of Come Drink With Me, who made a splash at age 20 in the film - her name is Cheng Pei Pei - was also in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and acts in Mina Shum's upcoming Meditation Park. She's still around, and through Shum, she too has a Vancouver connection. All of this is more than enough to put this film on my radar (my crazy-busy worklife right now might still mean I don't make it, but I'm gonna try).

There really isn't a lot else I can tell you, but Tom Charity has posted a piece on the Vancity Theatre website which includes trailers for some classic Cheng Pei Pei films, including Come Drink With Me, and more news about the Rickshaw discovery. It should fill in a few blanks. I wonder if Erika would enjoy Come Drink With Me? (Maybe she should tell her aforementioned coworker?).

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