A History of Hong Kong Production Company Logos, Part One: The Early Years
Anyone who goes to the movies knows the power of the animated, production company logos that precede them. MGM is a pale shadow of its former self, but its roaring lion logo reminds viewers of their proud dominance of the industry in days gone by. The best logos are easily remembered: along with the lion, there is the unicorn (Tri-Star), Columbia (well, Columbia), tinker bell (Disney); while others are just as easily forgotten. Here is a first look at some of these mini-movies before the movie, that heralded Hong Kong production companies of the past and present.
Early Hong Kong films are hard to come by, pre-WWII films, practically non-existant. movies from the fifties are more abundant, but often cut and in poor shape. Thumbing through my collection, I found many films had no logo proceeding the film, whether by edit or intent I couldn't really tell. Here are the logos I did find, from 1950 ~ 1969:
[Note: Click on each image to play the logo as a Flash video.]
The Great Wall Film Production Company
After WWII, Shanghai filmmakers continued to enter Hong Kong, and began a number of leftist movie production companies. One of the largest and most successful of these was the Great Wall. In the early fifties, before Shaw Brothers began producing their own films, they often filled the movie theaters they owned with pictures from Great Wall. The films were often idealistic, but tended not to be overly propaganda filled, and some were simply straight ahead martial arts films, like THE JADE BOW (1966), from which I extracted their logo:
The Great Wall lost its Chinese audience during the Cultural Revolution, and never really got it back; perhaps after a catastrophe like that, even die-hard leftists start trying to look busy doing something else. The production company merged with a few others in the eighties to form Sil-Metropole. In the 32 years of its existence, Great Wall produced over 150 movies.
Zhonglian (Union) Film Company
Founded in 1952 and lasting until '67, Zhonglian was a film collective formed by a group of Cantonese film artists. They produced 44 pictures, including the famous IN THE FACE OF DEMOLITION (1953). Here is their logo, captured from their 1957 production TAKING THE BIRTHDAY GIFTS CARAVAN BY STRATEGY (a movie based on an episode from THE WATER MARGINS):
Xianhe Ganglian (Hong Kong) Film Company
I'd like to see more of this production company's output, as they focused on martial arts action serials. Founded in 1961 and lasting through '69, Xianhe produced 39 films. Among their big martial arts films were THE GOLDEN HAIRPIN (1963), THE SIX FINGERED LORD OF THE LUTE (1965), and THE SNOWFLAKE SWORD (1964), from which I grabbed this rather serene and gentle logo, in comparison to the fanfare of its contemporaries:
The logo evokes the success of their first picture, THE SECRET BOOK (1961), a film whose Chinese name was MYTHICAL CRANE or "Xianhe," which also became the name of the film company.
Hing Ngee Film Company
I would have loved to find the logo for Kong Ngee, a production company that was recently the focus of a retrospective at the Hong Kong Film Archive during the 2006 HKIFF. Couldn't find it. But I did come across this logo for spin-off company Hing Ngee, owned by the same guy, spun off to feature a series of youth films starring the hottest actresses of the late sixties (Conne Chan, Josephine Siao). Amusingly, however, the logo appears to simply be a shot of the company name as engraved on a building, presumably outside the company headquarters:
MP and GI Film Co. Limited
Of course, one of the biggest companies of the era was MP&GI, which existed from 1956-1965, after which it became Cathay. MP&GI made 140 films, around 80% of which were Mandarin. MP&GI showed audiences a new world of singing, dancing, leisure, and business, and made films about the wealthy or those aspiring to be so, to give audiences something to strive for. Panorama is now releasing some of MP&GI's back catalog on DVD, though it has been slow going and the quality has not always been there. Here's the B&W version of their logo, from MAMBO GIRL (1957):
Smacking down all the other studios on this page with around 800 productions, Shaw Brothers, founded in 1957, ruled the roost until the 70s. Celestial Pictures is restoring the Shaw Brothers library and releasing it to DVD around the world. Lots of fantastic films cranked out by this studio, by top directors Chang Cheh, Chor Yuen, Li Han-Hsiang, Ho Meng-Hua, etc., but it took a huge hit when Golden Harvest got Bruce Lee in the seventies, and as other studios moved to more natural location shooting and new styles, Shaws could no longer compete and withered away to television by the early eighties.
Shaws has at least two logos. I haven't been able to grab the earlier version, but here's the logo and fanfare that martial arts movie fans have come to know and love:
More to Come: Studio Logos of the Seventies.
Sources: This page was written with lots of help from the Hong Kong Film Archive publication 50 YEARS OF THE HONG KONG FILM PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION INDUSTRIES: AN EXHIBITION; and various articles on the Hong Kong Film Archive website.