Hong Kong Cinema

Shaw Brothers Buying Guide

Shaw Brothers History / Shaw Brothers Buying Guide / Shaw Brothers DVD Release Schedule

If you've already read up on the Shaw Brothers' History and you are keen to get your hands on some of the best films ever made in Asia, then the following guide with give you some useful pointers on buying these titles.


It is worth remembering that Shaw Brother titles were largely unavailable before 2003, when the mass-scale distribution began following Celestial Pictures acquiring the rights to the entire Shaw Brothers back-catalogue. After several years of laborious remastering and DVD production, the vast majority of titles are now available. However, as with all coveted items (particularly from Asia) there are plenty of fakes and pirates in the market as well. So keep a look out for the genuine article.

Step One: Consider the Distributor Options

By Distributor, I do not mean Amazon, or Play.com. I mean the actual DVD distributor who owns the rights for the title in each region. Your choice of distributor will be based on a number of factors, including:

  • Your geographic location
  • Your preference between DVD or VCD
  • Range of films available from each distributor
  • How much you like extras
  • Your ability to play multi-region DVDs
  • And obviously price

As you can guess, there is no single solution that scores top marks for all these categories, so instead I will provide a quick overview of several of the main distributors that most Western fans will consider (but it is worth remembering that there are many others distributors that I have not included).

IVL (Hong Kong) - Region 3 NTSC

IVL has released the majority of the Shaw Brothers catalogue between 2003 - 2009. Titles are Region 3 PAL, so a multi-region DVD player will be needed outside of Asia.

Overall the quality of IVL titles is very good - beautifully restored and remastered prints. There have been some grumbles on audio options, non-anamorphic presentations and limited extras on many titles. But these were the first to market and they are the yard-stick for all other releases.

Notable titles - Virtually everything!!! - see all IVL releases


Dragon Dynasty (US) - Region 1 NTSC

Backed by the likes of the Weinsteins, Tarantino and Bey Logan, this team certainly has some big hitters. They also hold rights to the largest number of titles (c.50 Shaw Brothers movies). A number of flagship titles have been released with an impressive number of extras and a polished feel. However, the regularity of releases has slowed down somewhat raising some murmurings of concerns in the online community (as at Jan 09)

Notable titles - 36th Chamber of Shaolin, One Armed Swordsman, Come Drink with Me - see all


Image Entertainment (US)- Region 1 NTSC

Acquired a decent size batch of titles in 2005 and have been releasing them steadily, but arguably the most 'extras' light of the releases, however they have tried where possible to include the original English dub and have also provided genuine 16:9 widescreen presentations, in contrast to the predominantly 2.35:1 letterboxed print from IVL

Notable titles - The Water Margin, Legendary Weapons of China, Human Lanterns - see all


Tokyo Shock (Media Blasters) (US) - Region 1 NTSC

Considered many to be the 'dark-horse' of the US Distributors - with the company using High Definition masters rather than porting across the IVL version. Plenty of extras, including original dubbed audio where possible (very popular with many fans!). The company seem to be ticking many of the right boxes for fans and working closely with HK expert Linn Haynes, however they only have the rights to ten releases at the moment.

Notable titles - Heroes Two, Challenge of the Masters, Brave Archer - see all


Well Go (US) - Region 1 NTSC

Announced in March 2008 that they acquired the rights to ten Shaw Brothers titles. As with several other distributors they are trying to release titles with original English dubbed audio. It will be interesting to see how they perform as many of the 'most popular' Shaw titles had been cherry picked by the larger distributors above.

Notable titles - Brother's Five, Two Champions of Shaolin, The Heroic Ones - see all


BCI Eclipse (US) - Region 1 NTSC

Bad news here - the company closed its doors in December 2008 after announcing the North American rights to 15 Shaw titles in Jan 2008 - very disappointing news as they were also promising blu-ray versions of titles. We await news on what will happen to their catalogue.

Notable titles - Life Gamble, Invincible Shaolin, Shaolin Rescuers - see all


Momentum Pictures (UK) - Region 2 PAL

Announced an exciting deal to distribute 30 Shaw Brothers titles in the UK in 2004. However, to date six disappointing discs have been released. However a number of titles are slated for a 2009 release including King Boxer and 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Notable titles - Heroes Two, Death Duel, Spiritual Boxer - see all

Step Two: Check you can play the DVD

If you are buying a disc that is from a distributor from a different DVD region, it is worth checking whether you can play the disc before buying. Our guide gives some pointers on DVD Region Codes- click here

Step Three: Buy the DVD

It is actually surprisingly easy to buy Shaw titles on DVD from the distributors mentioned above. Most of the large online stores will stock these titles - Our buying (which is fully independent provides a few useful names) - click here

Step Three: Things to be aware of...

Bootleg DVDs -

Several brands spring to mind, who have been 'allegedly' selling VHS transfer DVDs since the 1990s to meet the demands of the Shaw Brothers fanbase; Ground Zero, Panmedia, Venoms Mob, Red Sun, FYE and Xenon. They will also make exaggerated / false claims about being remastered / restored etc. Most of these are very poor quality, full-screen bootlegs.

(Please note, after looking at this site for ten minutes you will see that I have seen and reviewed many of these bootleg titles - this is correct, but this was from the days when a legitimate source was not available - now they are available I am upgrading my whole collection to the Celestial discs)

Even if you are buying a title from what looks like a legitimate distributor, there are many pirate copies in the market, particularly on auction sites such as Ebay. Always check the small print on Ebay, sometimes auctions will mention that you are actually buying copies or 'backups'. Although you may get a good price, this is still putting money directly into the hands of bootleggers and away from Celestial / Shaw Brothers.

Packaging can be a give-away too; IVL discs (Region 3) normally come in a cardboard slip case which opens from the side. Anything else could mean that the discs are not legitimate.

If you have any questions, please let me know - Email Webmaster