Golden Harvest Studios Then & Now
Following on from this post a couple of years back when it seems as though the makers of Enter the Dragon inadvertently captured a corner of Golden Harvest’s main studio building on camera, I’ve finally managed to grab an aerial photo – snapped in October of 1973 from a height of 1700′ – showing the studios site. I thought it would be interesting to compare to a modern day Google view to see how the area has been redeveloped since the studio was closed.
It’s always good to see HK aerial photos – given the speed the place can change and the regularity with which the Govt now conducts aerial surveys they seem to a be a great way of looking back in time even if the angle isn’t necessarily the most helpful. When it comes to looking at a large site (instead of just one building) they are useful as long as you know what you are looking at.
This shot was taken in October 1973 just after the studio found success with Enter the Dragon. Bruce had already died by this time but it’s a snapshot close enough to the time of filming that we can see if there is anything on film that can be recognised – however, I’ll leave that for a later post.
The studio lot is the triangular shaped area in the top right hand side. I’ve oriented the photo north south because it makes it easier to look at but actually the studio lot sat on a east/west plane so in fact the top of this photo points towards the east (i.e. if you want to see the plot’s true orientation – tilt your head to the left).
The plot was demarcated by hills to the top and right (east and south) and a stream to the left (north) and the point where the stream meets the road is where the studio’s front gateway was.
The large road at the bottom is Hammer Hill Road, with the smaller King Tung Street leading from Hammer Hill Rd up to the studio gates.Here’s another version of the picture showing you these points (click for a better view).
Okay, that’s the general area outlined, what about a closer look at the actual studio lot. Well, here it is.
After looking at it I am beginning to think this may be the exact same picture used by both Steve Kerridge and John Little in their recent Lee-related media (the Chronicles of the Dragon ebook and In Pursuit of the Dragon documentary, respectively). Anyhow, my knowledge of the studio is limited but I think most people will have guessed that the large rectangular block in the middle is the main studio block – the old ‘saw mill’.
Inside this large block were two sound stages: A & B (A on the right side, B on the left – as mentioned at the top of this post, B was the side of the building inadvertently caught by the camera man whilst filming the Angela Mao scenes in Enter the Dragon) where ALL of Golden Harvests productions were filmed (when a studio set was needed). One of the studios had distinctive column in the middle of it which set designers always had to somehow incorporate into the production.
There was a smaller studio as well (studio C?) and believe this occupied the roof space above A&B – you can see that the roof does actually have a window in it, so this is probably where it was.
In front of the main studio block are the small triangular double-ended steps that lead down into the main car lot. Actually it looks as though there were two car lots – a lower and upper one. If you zoom in you will see two sets of triangular steps. The lower portion is where Lee had some promo shots of him and his car taken for Way of the Dragon. Here is an example.
I will guess that the other buildings consisted of places such as the dubbing studio, film development lab, editing suites, costume dept and the like but actually – having never visited the studios – I can’t tell you which is which.
So anyway, what happened?
Well, remember that Raymond Chow left Shaw Bros over a dispute whereby he was passed over for promotion by his rival – ex-singer and Sir Run Run Shaw love interest, Mona Fong. Mona went on to marry Sir Run Run and to co-helm the TV part of the empire, but the fact is that Raymond under bitter circumstances and I doubt whether that kind of stuff ever gets forgotten (which also means that Raymond must have been severely pissed off when he saw this photo).
Golden Harvest actually pretty much beat Shaw’s hands down at the movie business simply because it gave the film makers greater creative freedom, more pay and ultimately more control over the released product. This may have been one of the reasons that Shaw’s eventually bowed out of film production and concentrated on TV (however, I’m speculating) but the former rivalry didn’t end there.
At the end of the 1990′s the Govt – from whom GH was leasing the studio site – decided to include it in a land sale for redevelopment and told GH it would no longer be renewing the lease. This left GH without any studio space and an alternative site search was commenced. It just so happens that at the same time Shaw’s were also after a new site and a bidding war broke out between the two companies for a spot on newly reclaimed land in Junk Bay (nr Tseung Kwan O). It was a war that was eventually won by Shaw’s and the rest, as they say, is history.
With no alternative studio site lined up, Chow and GH was ultimately defeated by his old foe, film production was wound up and the company concentrated on distribution and cinema management. It was truly one of the nails in the coffin of the film industry and quite honestly the HK film industry died a death soon after.
The old lot at Hammer Hill was actually redeveloped into a Govt subsidised housing estate called Kingsford Terrace – completed and on sale by 2003 – and as you are about to see, it looks as though construction work started circa 2000. Here are some Googleearth snaps over the past few years.
The highrises along King Tung St had actually been built several years before (around 1984) and are called Sun Lai Garden. So even before the lot was eventually developed, GH was slowly being surrounded by highrises. The above shot shows what looks to be initial site formation but it looks as though the site boundaries haven’t changed even if the buildings inside have.
It looks as though the old stream was filled in (or more likely directed underground) and some semblance of a perimeter wall was being constructed. But you can still see vaguely the shape of where the parking lot was. Film history slowly being removed. here is a shot the following year.
The following year you can see that the construction of block 5 at the back is already underway and block 4 next to it has also commenced. There would be 5 blocks in all actually and King Tung St would be extended slightly up the side where the old stream used to be. There is no aerial snaps on Google between the years 2001 and 2008, so the next shot we have is from the latter years when the development was already completed and sold.
The fact that King Tung St and Hammer Hill Rd remain unchanged in the main (apart from the extension of King Tung Street I just mentioned) gives you a good reference from comparing the 1973 close up and the 2008 snap. I’ve put in the block numbers below.
You can just about see that Block 1 now stands where the old entrance to GH was. Block 2 pretty much occupies the space where the car lot and main studio building was.
Interestingly, GH used to hold quite a few open days and I do know of a couple of total nutters who came to HK specifically to join the tours in the latter stages of the studio’s life. Thankfully, their nutterdom meant that lots of film and photos were snapped of the old site but I’m not sure when or if any of it will become available.