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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has received a collection of more than 800 kung fu film posters and other related materials from producer, screenwriter and former motion picture executive Stephen Chin, announced Academy COO Ric Robertson. The collection features marketing and promotional items including posters, lobby cards, photographs, toys, comic books, clothing and accessories from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. It focuses predominantly on the 1970s, which many fans and scholars mark as the golden age of the kung fu film.
“Stephen is a true fan and an extraordinary collector,” said Robertson. “His dedication to documenting this important genre will help the Academy provide film enthusiasts and historians with a broader, deeper view of world cinema.”
The posters, many of which utilize bold graphics and dynamic depictions of action, will join the more than 44,000 posters held by the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, a leading center for film research. The collection prominently features items used to market and promote the films of kung fu legend Bruce Lee. Of particular note is the collection’s coverage of Lee’s landmark ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973). The international blockbuster is represented by the banners that were hung at the film’s world premiere and by posters from the United States, Hong Kong, England, Italy, France, Poland, Turkey, Japan, Denmark, West Germany and Australia. Also represented are many of the films made after Lee’s death that exploit the performer’s legacy by featuring imitators billed under variations on his name.
Many other iconic films and filmmakers are also featured, including the Shaw Brothers’ ‘5 Fingers of Death’ (1972), which helped the genre first gain popularity among American audiences. Other highlights include films made in the 1970s by John Woo and Jackie Chan, long before they became internationally known. A number of films featured in the collection are represented by materials from a wide range of international territories, enabling fans and researchers to compare the various ways an individual film was marketed around the world.
The collection also reveals how the kung fu phenomenon spread around the world and influenced many national cinemas. Representing the United States are posters from films featuring such martial arts icons as Chuck Norris and David Carradine, as well as films that combined kung fu with other genres. A notable example of this trend in American movies is the fusion of kung fu with blaxploitation, illustrated by posters from such films as ‘Black Belt Jones’ (1974) and ‘Berry Gordon’s The Last Dragon’ (1985). Women are also strongly represented in the collection – not only as sex symbols, but also as fierce combatants in their own right – on the posters from such Hong Kong titles as ‘Lady Kung Fu’ (1972), ‘Queen Boxer’ (1972), and ‘Deadly China Doll’ (1973).
Complementing the posters and photographs is an array of promotional items and merchandise tie-ins that includes skateboards decorated with Bruce Lee’s likeness, lunch kits, decals, action figures, puppets, 45 rpm records, how-to manuals for aspiring kung fu practitioners, t-shirts, belt buckles and men’s aftershave.
“I am honored to see the collection join the Academy’s legendary holdings,” said Chin. “As future fans and scholars peruse this material, I hope they will appreciate not only how exciting these movies are, but also how Hollywood became more inclusive because of them.”
Chin began building the collection as a teenager. Following a successful legal career, Chin entered the motion picture industry and was soon recruited as a vice president for Miramax Films. There, Chin oversaw physical production and business affairs for such titles as ‘Swingers’ and ‘Scream’. He later co-wrote and produced ‘Another Day in Paradise’ and produced ‘Play It to the Bone’. Throughout his career, Chin continued to develop his collection of kung fu film posters and other related materials. The collection would grow to become the largest of its kind in the world.
Items in the Herrick Library collections are preserved and cataloged, and may be accessed by filmmakers, historians, journalists, students and the public.
For more information about the Academy’s holdings, visit www.oscars.org.