Shawscope Volume One: Limited Edition Box (Hong Kong, 1972-79, Arrow Video, 8 Blu-rays + 2 CDs, NR, 21 hours 12 min.). This terrific set – no, make that essential set – contains 12 films made by the Shaw Brothers during the 1970s. Many here were directed by Chang Cheh or his action choreographer Lau Kar-leung, when he started directing himself. Several are set in the period when the Chinese, especially in the south, were rebelling against the Manchus and the Qing Dynasty, who destroyed the Shaolin Temple, a headquarters for kung fu teaching in northern China, while “Chinatown Kid” is then-contemporary and “Mighty Peking Man” is an outlier, crazy monster movie that owes a lot to “King Kong.” Among the many stars here are the charismatic Alexander Fu Sheng, Lo Lieh, David Chiang, Chi Kuan-chi, Chen Kuan-tai, Gordon Liu and Hsiao Hou.

The set also comes with two CDs of score music from the De Wolfe Music Library for six of the films; hours of extras, including audio commentaries, excellent video essays by film critic-historian Tony Rayns, documentaries, actor interviews from 2002 to 2007 by Frederic Ambroisine, as well as several new interviews by Arrow Video, and trailer and image galleries for each film; a 60-page book with new writing by David Desser and Terrence J. Brady, with cast and crew information and notes by Simon Abrams for each film, plus trivia and soundtrack information; and new artwork for each film by artists Matthew Griffin, Chris Malbon, Jacob Phillips, Ilan Sheady, Tony Stella, Darren Wheeling and Jolyon Yates.

For purposes of this column, each film will be reviewed separately, but the overall box deserves 5 stars.

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

“King Boxer” aka “Five Fingers of Death” (1972, NR, 105 min.). Directed by Chung (Jeung) Chang-hwa (“Six Assassins”), this was his sixth and final film for Shaw Brothers Studio. It concerns promising young kung fu student Chao Chih-hao (Lo Lieh of “The One-Armed Swordsmen,” “Fists of Fury 2” and this set’s “Executioners from Shaolin”), who is sent off to study with another master, one who becomes victimized by a rival martial arts school. The film helped launch the world’s appetite for kung fu films, even preceding Bruce Lee’s first two classics for rival Golden Harvest studio.

Chih-hao moves on to study with Sun Hsin-pei (Mien Fang of “Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan”) for an upcoming tournament, after his own teacher is attacked. His beloved Sung Ying-ying (Wang Ping of “Tiger Killer”) has been raised by his teacher. When his training is found to be inferior, he starts training under Yen Chu Hung (Chin-Feng Wang of “The 14 Amazons”), who at first accuses him of having a lower skill level and assigns him to work in the kitchen instead of actual training. Meng Tung-shun (Tien Feng of “The Chinese Connection”) moves in with his gang into the area and attacks Chu Hung’s school.

Chi-hao eventually trains in the Iron Palm technique, which, in a later fight, means his palms glow red, while Meng imports Okada and two of his Japanese friends (both with bad hair) as the fighting becomes more intense. The climax features lot of spraying blood and, in the course of the film, not one, but two fighters have both their eyeballs plucked out. The final fight starts versus swords. There is fine action choreography by Chen Chuan and Liu Chia Yung, including a brutal ambush in the woods, during which Chih-hao’s hands are maimed. The multi-fighter tournament in the film’s second half gives the fighters numerous chances to showcase their skills.

The film comes with new audio commentary by David Dresser, co-editor of The Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema and The Cinema of Hong Kong; a new discussion of the film by Rayns, which begins with a 13-minute rundown on the history of the Shaw Brothers; 2003-04 interview bits with director Chang-hwa Chung, who talks about working in his native Korea and then in China and calls the film his “magnus opus” (39:54); a 2007 interview with actress Wang Ping (25:51); a 2005 interview with Korean cinema expert Cho Young-jung, author of “Chung Chang-wha: Man of Action” (33:24; in English); “Cinema Hong Kong: Kung Fu,” the first in a three-part documentary on Shaw Brothers’ place within the martial arts genre, produced by Celestial Pictures in 2003 and featuring interviews with Jackie Chan, Jet Li (he talks about his ladder fight in “Once Upon a Time in China”), John Woo, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar-leung, Cheng Pei-pei, David Chiang and others (49:36); alternate opening credits from the American version, titled “Five Fingers of Death”; Hong Kong, U.S. and German theatrical trailers, plus U.S. TV and radio spots; and an image gallery. “King Boxer,” like “The Boxer from Shantung,” is one of the seven films in the set that have brand new 2K restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 4 stars

“The Boxer from Shantung” (1972, 134 min.) is the first film in the set directed by Cheh Chang, who basically changed the direction of Hong Kong martial arts film, which mostly had centered around female characters. Chang made them very male-oriented, surely in part due to his fetish for strapping, shirtless young men engaged in combat, with many being seriously stabbed or wounded in the stomach or intestines (that is, penetrated), yet at least on two occasions, the injured fighters continue fighting, even as the instrument of their death is still lodged in their body.

Chang also directed this set’s “Five Shaolin Masters,” “Shaolin Temple,” “The Five Deadly Venoms” and “Crippled Avengers.” Here, he actually co-directed with Hsueh-Li Pao, with John Woo (later to direct “Face/Off,” “Hard Boiled”) an assistant director. Chang also co-wrote the film.

Chen Kuan-tai (this set’s “Challenge of the Masters,” “Executioners of Shaolin,” “Crippled Avengers”) had his first lead role as Ma Ying Chen, the title character of this period effort. Arriving in Shanghai with no money and no prospects, brawny Ma (Chen) and meek friend Xiao Jangbei (Cheng Hong-yip) struggle to survive. Ganglord Tan Si (David Chiang) sees Ma fight several carriage drivers and is impressed with his kung fu, but the proud young man envies the crime boss and is reluctant to ask for his help, even refusing the coin given to him. However, when Ma defeats hoodlums in the employ of rival boss Yang (Chiang Nan), and defeats a Russian wrestling champ (Mario Milano) the gang imported in a prize-fight scam (pay 20 cents to win $20, if one can beat the immovable Russian), Ma is corrupted by the adulation of the common folk, who enjoyed watching him defeat the hoodlums that had been forcing them to pay protection money. They willingly offer Ma the same fees and Tan Si allows Ma to take over the area around the Spot of Spring Teahouse.

Yang had asked Ma to take over Tan Si’s complete territory, but he refused. Yang has on his side the Four Champions, who are deadly fighters. With the wealth that comes with having his own territory to extract payment from, Ma gets overly ambitious and moves to take over Qunfu Lane, with its brothels and the Hongfu Casino, which were part of Yang’s territory.

Chen effortlessly commands the screen, in both enjoying his newfound status and in battles against dozens of hatchet-wielding attackers, although he finally gets stabbed by a hatchet and has not one, but two fights with it stick sticking out of his abdomen. Once again, the finale is very bloody. Ching Li has a minor role as singer Jin Lingzi, whom Ma falls for, but who is turned off by his turning to crime.

Extras include a 2007 interview with actor Chen Kuan-tai with actor Vincent Tze on the northern style of kung fu he learned (22:43); a 2003 interview with actor David Chiang, who discusses director Cheh Chang’s style, working with Peter Cushing and later becoming a director who tackled social issues (31:49); a 2004 interview with John Woo, who discusses Cheh Chang’s use of slow-motion and telephoto lens (8:02; in English); a 2007 conversation between stars Chen Kuan-tai and Ku Feng, filmed at a Shaw Brothers reunion (13:46); alternate opening credits; Hong Kong and German theatrical trailers, plus U.S. TV spot; and an image gallery. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3 stars

“Five Shaolin Masters” (1974, 109 min.). This film, directed by Cheh Chang, takes place after the Qing Court sent martial arts masters to burn down the Shaolin Temple, because the monks had begun training outsiders in their kung fu techniques. While two fled in the north, five went to central China to connect with supporters who also were against the regime. The film tells their story. They are Tsai Te-chung (Ti Lung), Hu Te-ti (David Chiang), Ma Chao-hsing (the ever-engaging Alexander Fu Sheng of “Disciples of Shalolin,” who provides some comic relief), Li Shih-kai (Chi Kuan-Chien) and Fang Ta-hung (Meng Fei). They separate to lose the Manchus who follow to kill them. Each of the five getting a fighting introduction, which shows off their individual styles. Later in the film, each decides to train in a different, specific style to offset their opponents’ skills.

There is lots of sacrifice for the good of the cause during their travels. The good Ma (Fu Sheng) meets up with the traitorous Ma Fu-yi (Wang Lung-wei), but he does not know he is the one who betrayed the monks. Fu Sheng plays the only character with any real personality and the film comes alive when he is on screen. A year passes, with some training shown, then come the individual battles, which make for a strong ending.

Extras include a new Tony Rayns piece on director Cheh Chang, who first was hired at Shaw Brothers as a screenwriter, but soon became a director, having a hand in 10 films in both 1971 and 1972, with this and “Shaolin Temple” both filmed in Taiwan (36:46). Rayns points out the plentitude of semi-gay situations in the film, including male bonding and impalings. There also is a 2005 interview with star Kong Do, aka Chiang Tao, who plays the flying axe-wielding villain Chen Wen-yao, and Kong Do points out the director used two action choreographers, that being Lau Kar-leung for the southern style and Tong Kai for the northern style (22:55); 2003 actor profiles on Ti Lung (9:30) and David Chiang (8:04); U.S. opening credits for its release as “Five Masters of Death”; U.S. and German trailers; and an image gallery. Grade: 2.75 stars; extras 3 stars

Chi Kuan-chien, left, and Alexander Fu Sheng star in “Shaolin Temple.” Fu Sheng also plays the title character in “Chinatown Kid.”

“Shaolin Temple” (1976, 120 min.), also on disc three and directed by Cheh Chang, serves as a prequel to “Five Shaolin Masters,” albeit with different actors and some returning actors playing different roles. The film centers on three outsiders wishing to study kung fu with the Shaolin monks. They are Fang Shiyu (Alexander Fu Sheng), Hong Xiguan (Frankie Wei-huy) and Hu Huiqian (Chi Kuan-chien). We see the arduous, seemingly unrelated training they start with, including stirring giant pots of rice, breaking up firewood for a stove and turning over blank pages in the library.

Also in the film are David Chiang as Hu Dedo and Yueh Hua as Li Shi Kae, as well as a boatload – yes, they arrive in a boat – of bad guys. The most interesting sequence has Fang and Hu dare to go through the temple’s Wooden Men Alley obstacle course, seeking to leave the temple. The attack, which destroys the temple, comes in the final 25 minutes.

Extras include an unrestored, standard-definition version of the film, an alternate opening credit sequence, an image gallery and Hong Kong and German trailers. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 1 star

This is the title character of “Mighty Peking Man,” the outlier film in the otherwise kung fu-oriented “Shawscope” box set.

“Mighty Peking Man” (1977, 89 min.). This is the sole non-kung fu picture in the 12-film set. The Shaw Brothers could not get the rights to King Kong, so they called their giant gorilla man the Peking Man and basically remade “King Kong” anyway.

After a bit of exposition at Hong Kong University, flashbacks show a giant gorilla in the Himalayas and then an Indian jungle village struck by an earthquake (too obvious a use of  rear projection here). The gorilla, supposedly 50-feet tall, then terrorizes the village.

Explorer Johnny Feng (Danny Lee) ends up on his own, after half his party falls to their death while scaling a cliff and the rest desert him during the night. David is humanized (was that the aim?) by a flashback that shows him catching his girlfriend sleeping with his brother. En route, there was a tiger attack and some quicksand. David is grabbed by the Peking Man, but is saved by the monster’s gal-pal, a female Tarzan called Samantha Ah-wei (Evelyne Kraft), whose parents were killed in a plane crash and she was raised by Peking Man, with whom she can communicate.

The two humans fall for each other – cue the romantic English song montage – and the big guy gets jealous, but both agree to go to Hong Kong, where Peking Man can be displayed. Except for one tacky leather outfit, it seems no one ever offers Ah-wei a change of clothing from her goatskin loin cloth and strap bra. Naturally, there is a storm at sea while Peking Man is chained on deck.

During the first exhibition show, Peking Man sees the promoter trying to rape Ah-wei and he inevitably breaks free and starts to wreck the city. This is the only part of the film that is interesting, as here the miniatures and destruction work well – thanks greatly to the imported Japanese effects team. The ending takes place atop a 50-story building the monster has climbed.

The film’s plot has nary an original idea, as it is all Tarzan with a sex change and King Kong with a name change. Extras include new audio commentary by Travis Crawford; a new interview with gorilla suit designer Keizo Murase, who also ended up doing one of the fire stunts and helped edit the film (19:23); a 2003 interview with director Ho Meng-hua on his career (24:04); a 2004 interview with star Ku Feng, who plays bad guy Lu Tien, on working with the director (7:18); behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage from Murase’s archives, with no sound from a newly-discovered VHS tape (28:30); an unrestored, standard-definition version of the film; alternate opening credits for the U.S. version called “Goliathon”; Hong Kong, U.S., German and Dutch theatrical trailers, plus U.S. TV spot; and an image gallery. Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 3.25 stars

Cheng Kang-yeh, second from left, shown here in “Challenge of the Masters,” often plays a comic role and he appears in four films in the “Shawscope” boxed set.

“Challenge of the Masters” (1976, 97 min.). Returning to kung fu, here we have an origin story of the legendary Wong Fei-hung, played by Gordon Liu in a performance that helped make him a global superstar. In the film, he is billed as Liu Chia-hui and the character is called Huang Fei-huang. (Note that throughout these reviews I am mostly using the names as in the subtitles or movie credits. Most actors, directors and so on have both Cantonese and Mandarin versions of their names, hence the different spellings at times.) This was one of the first times that Fei-hung’s youth was presented.

The film, the second directed by Lau Kar-leung, who served as an action choreographer for 10 years, has Chia-hui and costar Chen Kuan-tai, who plays his master Lu A-tsal, practicing their moves during the opening credits.

As rival schools prepare for their town’s prestigious Pao contest, tensions arise as the school run by Wong Kei-ying is threatened by a ruthless rival clan. The rival clan wins by cheating, aided by a vicious fugitive named Ho (Liu Chia-liang), a man being hunted by a close friend of the Wong school (Lau Kar-wing as Yu). Meanwhile, Wong’s untrained son, Fei-huang (Gordon Liu), seeks kung fu lessons from his father so he can avenge his school’s humiliation at the Pao competition. While his father refuses, close family friend Master Lu agrees to take Fei-huung away for two years for intensive training. As Wong progresses in Lu’s isolated home, Yu is murdered by Ho and the Wong school continues to face persecution from its rival.

The trained Fei-huang returns to town to right all the wrongs. Bad guy He Fu (played by the director) not only uses a spear, but has disguised iron brackets on the toes of his shoes. The film pushes the centerpiece of kung fu as being: “More forgiveness, less aggression.”

The extras include a new talk by Tony Rayns on the director (28:36); a 2002 interview with Gordon Liu (20:24); an image gallery; a textless opening; and Hong Kong theatrical trailers. The film is presented in a new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films. Grade: film and extras 3 stars

“Executioners from Shaolin” (1977, 100 min.), on the same fifth disc and also directed by Lau Kar-leung, this has a similar story to “Five Shaolin Masters,” but with more historical fact as it introduces the “red boats,” which were traveling troupes of entertainers, who were also resistance fighters against the Manchus. The film stars familiar faces Chen Kuan-tai as Hong Xiguan, Gordon Liu as Tony Qianjin, Lo Lieh as evil priest Bai Mei and Lai Hai-shu as good guy Priest Zhishan. The latter two’s fight opens the film during the credits.

The action takes place after the burning of the Shaolin Temple, with some of the escapees joining the red boat troupes. Lily Li plays Fang Yongchui, who knows the Crane Style of kung fu. Former Shaolin student Hong Xiguan lands on her boat and soon falls in love with her. Throughout this period, they are accompanied by Xiaohu (Cheng Kang-ye, also of “The Boxer of Shantung,” “Challenge of the Masters”), Hong’s friend who usually plays the fool. Fang and Hong marry – there is a whole comedic bit of her forcing him to try and separate her knees in order to consummate their marriage — and have a son (David Wang as Hong Wending). While Wong refuses to teach his son kung fu, Yongchui teaches him Crane Style.

Through the decades, the elder Wong, who sticks to his Tiger Style as he refuses to learn Crane, goes after Bai Mei, seeking revenge. When Wending is 10, Wong challenges Bai Mei, but barely escapes with his life. Another seven years pass and Wong challenges Bai Mei again, this time knowing about the priest’s weak point and his best chance to overcome Bai Mei’s kung fu is to challenge him between 1 and 3 p.m. It turns out, though, that Bai Mei can move this vulnerable spot to different parts of his body and Wong is again defeated.

Wending (now played by Wong Yue) swears to avenge his father’s defeat and, with the aid of an old fighting manual that is partially destroyed, he begins to expand his training, using the same copper dummy with metal balls representing pressure points that his father used. The film, which is basically a family drama, has a rather abrupt ending.

Extras include the second part of the 2007 interview with star Chen Kuan-tai and actor Vincent Sze (17:30); alternate English credits; Hong Kong and U.S. theatrical trailers; and an image gallery. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 1.5 stars

“Chinatown Kid” (1977, 115/90 min.). This more modern-day film moves the action from Honk Kong to San Francisco and once again stars charismatic Alexander Fu Sheng as the title character, Tan Tung. The film is presented in two versions – the 115-minute international version and the 90-minute alternate version – which have decidedly different outcomes for Tan Tung. The international version is a new 2K restoration from the original film elements and comes with Cantonese and English soundtracks, while the alternate version has a Mandarin soundtrack.

Tan Tung shows up from his countryside village to stay with his grandfather in the big city of Hong Kong. While he develops a scheme to sell hand-squeezed orange juice with his grandfather (Wang Ching-ho), who had been telling fortunes on the street, he falls into the orbit of gangster Wade Tsu Ho (also given as Hsu Hao, played by Wang Lung-wei). Tung has been impressed with Ho’s digital watch, which he can earn if he can defeat Ho in a match. After the match, during which the watch gets broken, a woman with Ho asks Tung to rescue her cousin from some men who are holding her. In turns out the woman was being forced into prostitution by Ho’s gang, so Tung gets her safely home.

When Ho then plants heroin on Tung, Cheung, a friend or relative of the rescued woman, smuggles Tung on a boat to San Francisco, where the rest of the film plays out. (In the extras, we learn that most of the San Francisco scenes were shot on the Shaw Brothers’ lot in Hong Kong, and you will notice some of the cars have the driver’s seat on the right instead of the left.)

There is a lesser parallel story involving Yong Jainwen (Sun Chien of “The Kid with the Golden Arm,” and this set’s “Five Deadly Venoms”), who has returned to Kong Kong after two years of military service and teaches Taekwondo. He is awarded a scholarship to study in San Francisco. Both Tung and Jainwen arrive at the same restaurant, looking for work. Tung pushes for Jainwen to also be hired and the two become roommates in the attic of the restaurant.

At the time, San Francisco’s Chinatown is ruled by two rival gangs – the Green Tigers and the White Tigers – who both have martial arts schools and run protection rackets. There are some “Scarface” elements here, but as Tung rises into leadership of the White Tigers, he tries to make things better, banning the selling of cocaine and giving raises to the courtesans. He also is given a girlfriend (Susan Yam-Yam Shaw as Sinwa) that he really does not want. In one of the film’s nice character moments, the now-rich Tung has a giant bunk bed put in his quarters, so he can sleep being able to reach the ceiling as he used to do back in Hong Kong and at the restaurant.

Trouble comes for Tung when Tsu Ho shows up in San Francisco and recognizes him and then works to bring him down. The White Dragon boss is played by Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok (“Hard Boiled”). Jainwen works back into the story when Tsu Ho tries to force him to reveal Tung’s whereabouts.

As always, Fu Sheng demonstrates wonderful kung fu skills. Extras include a new select-scene commentary by actress Shaw (23:42); a 2005 profile on Fu Sheng and his marriage to singer Jenny, who also has a role in this film (7:01); Hong Kong, U.S. and German theatrical trailers, plus a U.S. TV spot; and an image gallery. Grade: film and extras 3.5 stars

“The Five Venoms” aka “5 Deadly Venoms” (1978, 102 min.) is a high point of the set. The film, directed by Cheh Chang, has had a large cultural impact, showing up in everything from the World of Warcraft role-playing game to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films to the Wu-Tang Clan’s hip-hop albums. In the film, there are five “secret” experts in various forms of kung fu, namely The Centipede (Lu Feng as Change Hsio ), The Toad (Lo Meng as Liang Shen), The Snake (Wei Pai as Chi Tung), The Scorpion (Sun Chien as Ma Chou) and The Lizard (Kuo Chue, aka Philip Kwok, as Ho Yuan-Hsiao-tien). As the master mentions each, we see brief flashbacks to each training in their own particular style.

The film has a mystery element as young kung fu student Yang Tieh (Chiang Sheng) is tasked by his dying master to track down his five former students — the five deadly venoms — to see if they are using their powers for good or evil, and to recover a treasure and give it to charity to make up for past bad deeds. Yang Tieh must uncover their new identities and figure out if they have been bad or good, while attempting to counter their highly specialized fighting techniques with his partial knowledge of each technique.

The film has lots of action, including the murder of 11 members of one family in order to find the treasure’s map. The map’s holder was a junior master at Venom House. There also is a torture scene involving Li Hao and a witness to the murders. It turns out three of the Venoms are evil, while two are good. It appears there may be a lot of wire work involved in the action finale.

Bonus features include audio commentary by critic Simm Abrams; a 2003 interview with Lo Meng (also in “Chinatown Kid” and the mute in “Crippled Avengers”; 19:12); a 2003 featurette on director Chang Cheh (17:32); Hong Kong and U.S. theatrical trailers; and an image gallery. Grade: film 4 stars; extras 3.25 stars

“Crippled Avengers” (1978, 106 min.) is an even cleverer film from director Chang Cheh, as three kung fu fighters must overcome severe handicaps to still inflict justice. The film opens with a battle at Du Tiandao Manor, with three men hacking off the wife’s legs and the son’s arms. The son (Lu Feng as Chang) survives and gets mechanical arms, but he and his warlord father (Chen Kuan-tai as Black Tiger Du Tiandao) become tyrants. The mechanical arms can shoot out concealed weapons. The Black Tigers have three fighting styles: Emergence; Winged Tiger: and Windmill Style. Chang is allowed to cripple the descendants of the three Tigers of the South who attacked Du Tiando’s family.

With that pedigree, the pair basically cripple anyone who gets in their way. Chang blinds Shun Chen (Philip Kwok), while blacksmith Wei Datie (Lo Meng) is turned mute and deaf by Du Tiando for cursing at his son. Often during Wei Datie’s scenes, the film has no sound. The third to-be avenger is Hu Agui (Sun Chien, who has his legs chopped off for bumping into Chang. Finally, there is fighter Wang Yi (Chiang Shang), whose head they squeeze so hard that his brain is damaged and he mostly acts like a playful child, although he still remembers his kung fu moves. This is a very clever set-up.

As three of the four at least try to overcome their new handicaps, there are extended training sequences, some of which are extraordinary. One sequence is almost a ballet between the idiot and the blind one, using metal rings of various sizes. Three years pass until they feel they are ready to free the village of the warlord and his son.

Both this and “The Five Venoms” are new 2K restorations of both films from the original negatives by Arrow Films. In addition to the interview and featurette on the director mentioned with “The Five Venoms,” “Crippled Avengers” comes with a Hong Kong theatrical trailer and an image gallery. Grade: film 4 stars

“Heroes of the East” (1978, 105 min.), directed by Liu Chia-liang, is another “contemporary film” that starts with a marriage between a well-off Chinese man and an arranged Japanese bride and lots of comedy, and then turns into a tournament style film. The couple are Gordon Chia-hui Liu as Ho Tao and Seikendo expert Yuka Mizuno as Lady Yumiko. Ho Tao is less than pleased to learn his new bride takes her martial arts training seriously, as she is wrecking brick walls and statuary in his father’s garden and she has had a delivery from Japan of a sword, spear, Sai daggers and a chained hook, among other weapons. They then have a royal battle involving several of the weapons.

Miffed, the missus travels back to Yokohama. Trying to get her back and using the probably ill-advised advice of servant Shou (Cheng Kang-yeh, also of “The Boxer from Shantung,” “Challenge of the Masters,” “Executioners from Shaolin”) sends Yumiko a challenge letter as a means of making her come back to his home. The challenge letter works too well as she is hanging out with former training partner, handsome Takeno (ninjutsu expert Yasuaki Kurata of “The Fists of Vengeance”), who takes the letter personally and gathers seven other experts in different fighting forms to go and fight Ho Tao, one challenge a day. Of course, Ho Tao is up to the challenges, but each battle is interesting, particularly the one with Takeno, who uses all kinds of tricks and subterfuge.

Amusingly, to prepare for his karate match, Ho Tao goes to watch a drunken boxing expert, played by the director himself. All of Ho Tao’s action, though, means that Yumiko is just about forgotten after the first hour.

Extras include a new audio commentary by Jonathan Clements, author of “A Brief History of the Martial Arts”; a new video piece with Tony Raynes discussing this film and “Dirty Ho,” the other film on disc eight (30:20; he points out that Gordon Liu was the director’s adopted brother; a 2003 interview with Kurata (25:24); alternate opening credits for “Shaolin Challenges Ninja,” the international version of the film; the Hong Kong theatrical trailer and a U.S. TV spot; and an image gallery. Grade: film 3.5 stars, extras 3.75 stars

Wong Yue, left, plays Ho Jen and Gordon Liu is Wang Tsun Hsin in “Dirty Ho.”

“Dirty Ho” (1979, 103 min.), the final film in this first Shawscope collection – there will be at least one more collection – and also directed by Liu Chia-liang, is another terrific kung fu comedy. The wordless action during the opening credits gives a summary of the story to come. The film is basically a buddy comedy, which ultimately features a role reversal in how the two interact.

Gordon Liu again is the star, this time playing Wang Tsun Hsin, wo has traveled south from Beijing to sample the wines of southern China, as well as its art and manuscripts, while pretending to be a dealer in jewelry. In actuality, he is one of the 14 princes, sons of the emperor, one of whom is about to be named the successor ruler. Wang becomes involved with petty thief Ho Jen (Wong Yue of “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,” “Dirty Kung Fu”), when both are vying for the same two courtesans’ attention on an entertainment boat. Each tries to up the other with regards to the money they offer the women.

They end up having a fight that the police interrupt, but Wang, surreptitiously showing his imperial seal, saves Ho Jen from being arrested. A bit later, Ho Jen has another well-staged fight, with a stool passed continuously between the two combatants. As Wang and Ho Jen begin to link up, they have to battle the Handicapped Four, one of whom is blind, one who has only one leg, one who has only one arm and one who is hunchbacked, and all four of whom are faking. Again, it makes for some good, unusual action.

In another well-staged battle, this time between Wang and Ho Jen, Wang is hiding behind courtesan Crimson, using her dress to disguise the fact that it is his kicks, not hers, doing the damage to Ho Jen. Ho Jen does get a scratch on his forehead that turns out to contain poison and the effects get worse when he becomes stressed. Wang makes Ho Jen accept being his disciple and gives him a little of the antidote every three days. Wang is trying to reform Ho Jen and calm him down.

Thirty-nine minutes into the film, the viewer discovers that Prince Four is plotting to kill Wang. The assassins he sends out try some unusual ways of accomplishing their goals. Wang has a wine glass/mug balancing joust with one. Another would-be assassin attacks directly, with hidden blades in his slippers. An hour into the film, the tables are turned as Wang is stabbed in the leg and cannot walk on it while he recovers. With Ho Jen more in charge of his mobility, Wang teaches him how to do better kicks while fighting. A bounty on Wang, leads the two to battle the 7 Agonies and their effeminate (possibly trans) leader, who tries to seduce Ho Jen.

The bonus features are the same as for “Heroes of the East,” but with only a Hong Kong trailer for
“Dirty Ho.” Grade: film 3.75 stars

There also are two CDs with music from six of the films, namely “Shaolin Temple,” “Mighty Peking Man,” “Chinatown Kid” on one CD and “The Five Venoms,” “Crippled Avengers” and “Dirty Ho” on the other.

South of Heaven (RLJE, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 119 min.). This is a love story with a surprisingly high body count. Despite a slow scene in which enemies get to know each, the action usually moves along and the plot is tight, although it probably has too many bad twists. The start is a bit depressing and the ending can be considered pointless. Guess that makes this a mixed review.

Jason Sudeikis (TV’s “Ted Lasso”) stars as convicted bank robber Jimmy Ray, who, in the opening appearance before the parole board (not seen; that’s a way to control costs), says he wants to be released so he can give his girlfriend Annie (Evangeline Lilly of 2 “Ant-Man” movies and an “Avengers”) the wedding she’s always wanted and “the best year of her life.” That is because stoic Annie has lung cancer and only has been given nine moths to a year to live.

Jimmy is released and everything is going fine between the couple, but Jimmy’s parole officer (Shea Whigham of “American Hustle” as Schmidt) is a bit of a dick. Worse, after Schmidt gets Jimmy a job at a loading dock, he intrudes on the couple’s bowling night to ask Jimmy to pick up a package for him. It seems he is taking a lesson from the Chinese gangs of the kung fu movies and is running a protection racket, only this one is for crooks. Amaury Nolasco (TV’s “Prison Break”) plays Manny, the none-too-happy protection payee.

On his way back, Jimmy is involved in an accident with a motorcyclist. He goes to ex-con pal “Honest” Frank (Jeremy Bobb) to help cover up the incident. However, the deceased was carrying $500,000 that belonged to refined mobster Whit Price’s (Mike Colter of “Men in Black 3,” TV’s “Luke Cage”) and that money has gone missing. The attempts to regain the money lead to scenes of torture, Annie being kidnapped by Price and Jimmy kidnapping Price’s son for his own leverage. The kid Tommy Price is played by Thaddeus J. Mixson. Michael Pare (“Eddie and the Cruisers,” “Streets of Fire,” “The Philadelphia Experiment”) is listed in the film as Joey, but I cannot remember seeing him. (The busy Pare, though, has nine projects in pre-production, five filming and 13 in post-production, according to

The body count gets ridiculously high at the end, which is why I consider the ending rather pointless. Extras include a meet the cast (6:17) and a making-of featurette that features director and co-writer (along with four others) Aharon Keshales (“Rabies”). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 1 star

Betty White’s Pet Set: The Complete Series (1971, MPI Home Video, NR, 6 DVDs, 18 hours). With the beloved TV star’s recent passing at age 99, I want to bring attention to this recent release of her weekly 1971 TV show that celebrated her life-long devotion to animals. The series was produced with her husband Allen Ludden (TV’s “Password”) and on the show, White welcomed her celebrity friends with their dogs, cats and horses. There also were dozens of wild animals, including tigers, bears, elephants, lions, wolves, gorillas, chimps, cougars, cheetahs, kangaroos, zebras, penguins, seals, eagles and other animals, both in the studio and on location.

All 39 episodes are included. The guest stars include Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Mary Tyler Moore (her future co-star on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), James Stewart, Burt Reynolds, Shirley Jones, Michael Landon, Barbara Eden, James Brolin, Della Reese, Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Bill Bixby, Mike Connors, Rod Sterling and pioneer animal trainer Ralph Helfer of Africa U.S.A., among many others. Grade: series 3.5 stars