The clash of swords and screams of the dying fill the air. It's a typical?
The clash of swords and screams of the dying fill the air. It's a typical day in the studios of Hong Kong's booming cinema industry, where tales of violent swordsmanship and chaste romance have become the basis of a multi-million pound investment.
While Hollywood is fighting for survival, the film industry of the Far East has struck a box-office bonanza. Films in Chinese pack cinemas from Djakarta to Bangkok, from Singapore to Taipei.
Biggest of the Oriental companies is the Hong Kong-based Shaw Brothers organisation. At hillside studios, overlooking the Crown Colony, Run Shaw -- one of the two brothers who founded the company more than 40 years ago -- presides over an empire which yields an estimated GBP 125 million Sterling a year.
Although they are household names throughout asia, the stars do not lead pampered lives. Most of them live in modest apartments in a studio block.
Naturally, the Hong Kong stars look up to Hollywood counter-parts. But, as actress Li Ching explains, the Shaw Brothers heroine isn't encouraged to regard herself as a sex symbol:
With one or two minor exceptions, Chinese film-makers do not tolerate the permissiveness of the Western cinema. Human dreams -- such as Li Ching's latest film -- are popular.
But the biggest moneyspinners are blood-and-steel epics of revenge and hate, where Chinese audiences can revel in the more violent traditions and customs of their past.
To produce these epics, the Shaw Brothers studios work a punishing seven-days-a-week schedule. The staff receive only four days holiday a year. Increased competition accounts for the frantic pace of studio production.
In recent months, the Shaw Brothers have faced a mounting challenge from high-quality Taiwanese Mandarin films. And now a Filipino mogul is threatening to cash in on Hong Kong's phenomenal cinema boom.