Bruce Lee (born Lee Jun-fan; 27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973) was a Chinese American and Hong Kong actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts movement. He is considered one of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century, and a cultural icon.
Lee was born in San Francisco, California in the United States, to parents of Hong Kong heritage but raised in Hong Kong until his late teens. Upon reaching the age of 18, Lee emigrated to the United States to claim his U.S. Citizenship and receive his higher education. It was during this time he began teaching martial arts, which soon led to film and television roles.
His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, and sparked a major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West in the 1970s. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong and the rest of the world as well. He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films, Lo Wei's The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Warner Brothers' Enter the Dragon (1973), directed by Robert Clouse; and The Game of Death (1978), directed by Robert Clouse posthumously.
Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world, particularly among the Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese nationalism in his films. While Lee initially trained in Wing Chun, he later rejected well-defined martial art styles, favouring instead to utilise useful techniques from various sources in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist). (Wkipedia)
Jun Fan Gung Fu
Lee began teaching martial arts in the United States in 1959. He called what he taught Jun Fan Gung Fu (literally Bruce Lee's Kung Fu). It was basically his approach to Wing Chun. Lee taught friends he met in Seattle, starting with Judo practitioner Jesse Glover, who later became his first assistant instructor. Lee opened his first martial arts school, named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, in Seattle.
Lee dropped out of college in the spring of 1964 and moved to Oakland to live with James Yimm Lee (嚴鏡海). James Lee was twenty years senior to Bruce Lee and a well known Chinese martial artist in the area. Together, they founded the second Jun Fan martial art studio in Oakland. James Lee was also responsible for introducing Bruce Lee to Ed Parker, royalty of the U.S. martial arts world and organiser of the Long Beach International Karate Championships at which Bruce Lee was later "discovered" by Hollywood.(Wikipedia)
Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do originated in 1967. After taping one season of "The Green Hornet", a show later replaced by "Batman", Lee found himself out of work and opened The Jun Fan Institute of Gung Fu.
A controversial match with Wong Jack Man influenced Lee's philosophy about martial arts. Lee concluded that the fight had lasted too long and that he had failed to live up to his potential using his Wing Chun techniques.
He took the view that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid and formalistic to be practical in scenarios of chaotic street fighting. Lee decided to develop a system with an emphasis on "practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency". He started to use different methods of training such as weight training for strength, running for endurance, stretching for flexibility, and many others which he constantly adapted, including fencing and basic boxing techniques.
Lee emphasised what he called "the style of no style". This consisted of getting rid of the formalised approach which Lee claimed was indicative of traditional styles. Lee felt the system he now called Jun Fan Gung Fu was even too restrictive, and eventually evolved into a philosophy and martial art he would come to call Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist.(Wikipedia)
The Jeet Kune Do emblem is a registered trademark held by the Bruce Lee Estate. The Chinese characters around the Taijitu symbol read: "Using no way as way" and "Having no limitation as limitation" The arrows represent the endless interaction between yang and yin.
James Garner is so good as Raymond Chandler's philosophical gumshoe Philip Marlowe that you forget he's totally wrong for the part. Based on Chandler's The Little Sister, Marlowe involves the detective's efforts to locate the missing brother of Orfamay Quest (Sharon Farrell). He follows the clues to two men who deny any knowledge of the brother's existence. Since both men soon find themselves on the wrong end of an ice pick, Marlowe deduces that there's more to this caper than a mere missing-person case. The plot thickens as more 'dramatis personae' are added to the intrigues, including TV star Gayle Hunnicutt, Hunnicutt's gangster boyfriend H.M. Wynant and stripper Rita Moreno. A pre-stardom Bruce Lee shows up as a karate-happy thug who lays waste to Marlowe's office shortly before suffering a spectacular demise.
Fist of Fury (The Big Boss) 1972
Bruce Lee kicked around Hollywood for years looking in vain for an American break when Hong Kong came calling. As Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet he had become an Asian star (the series was renamed for his character when it crossed the Pacific) and ripe for his own vehicle. This raw, low-budget effort, called The Big Boss in its native Hong Kong, is a generic revenge drama enlivened by Lee's intense screen presence and martial arts prowess.
He's a country boy who takes a job at a Thailand ice-packing plant and discovers it's a cover for heroin smuggling. Lee is held back through the first half of the film by a promise he made his sweet, gray-haired mom not to brawl (which means you have to wait to see him in action), but his indignation turns to fury as friends and coworkers disappear and the boss sends thugs to take care of the brooding, intense country boy. The final half of the film is a series of violent confrontations, culminating in a marvelously choreographed showdown at the ice plant.
Lean, mean Lee, with a physique that looked sculpted in bronze, became an overnight sensation with this film, breaking all Asian box-office records and starting an international kung fu craze, but none of the pretenders ever touched Lee's cool cinematic charisma or his martial arts grace.
Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection) 1972
Bruce Lee's second blockbuster kung fu film "Jing wu men" (1972), is arguably his best movie and captures Lee at his most lethal, charismatic and heroic. Set in turn of the century Shanghai, Bruce Lee is the Chinese kung fu school's most promising student (Chen), and he returns home to find his Sifu (or Master) has died. A very upset Bruce refuses to accept his teacher's death, and his suspicions are further aroused by a hostile visit by members of the local Japanese Bushido school bearing a banner insinuating that the Chinese are the "sick men of asia".
Suffice to say, that getting on the wrong side of Bruce Lee is like sticking your hand into a hornets nest, and Bruce is shortly dishing out retribution against the bullying Japanese with his stinging fists and spinning kicks. Produced on a rather modest budget by Golden Harvest Productions, "Fist Of Fury" relies on a relatively simple plot line, however Lee demonstrates during the movie his acting depth and that he is equally capable of playing a lethal avenger, a broken hearted pupil and even a grinning, buffoonish telephone repairman. The film was also the first time Bruce showed off his prowess with a pair of nunchuka.....how many people after seeing this film ran out and bought a pair of nunchuka, and then proceeded to clobber themselves black and blue trying to imitate Lee's whirling technique ?
When "The Chinese Connection" aka "Fist Of Fury" was released in Hong Kong in 1972, it had an even greater box office impact than Lee's first kung fu spectacular "The Big Boss". Once again, Chinese film fans flocked in their thousands to see this handsome, virile and athletic Chinese actor who wasn't afraid to say he was proud to be Chinese, but more than that, he throttled his Japanese adversaries and made them respect him and his Chinese kung fu. And when Bruce goes strolling into a park and is denied entrance due to a sign saying "No Dogs or Chinese Allowed", he vents his anger on mocking Japanese students, and then splinters the sign with a leaping front kick. It's interesting to note that Bruce Lee had a similar effect on Chinese audiences, in much the same way that "blaxploitation" films of the same period hit the right note with African American audiences. Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Bernie Casey were very similar to Bruce Lee....good looking, hard hitting tough guys who didn't take insults lying down, and they took a stand and fought back. No wonder highly popular kung fu and blaxploitation films often turned up on double bills across the USA in the mid 1970's !
There is also an interesting story regarding the USA release title/s of Bruce's first two kung fu films. After the huge success in 1973 of "Enter The Dragon" in the USA, National General released Bruce Lee's three prior kung fu films, but there was a mix up in the titles. Bruce's first big success was "Tang shan da xiong" (1971), about an ice factory being used for heroin smuggling, and with the success of the Gene Hackman film "The French Connection", it was decided to release Bruce Lee's film about crooked drug dealers in the USA as "The Chinese Connection". However, somehow the prints of "Tang shan da xiong" and "Jing wu men" were mis-labeled, and "Jing wu men" was mistakenly released in the USA as "The Chinese Connection", and "Tang shan da xiong" was released as "Fists of Fury".
The DVD on Amazon with the red tinted cover is unfortunately the Region 1 CBS/FOX non-widescreen version, dubbed with English voices and only presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
HOWEVER....over many many years, I've purchased and owned numerous versions of "The Chinese Connection" aka" Fist Of Fury" on VHS, LD and DVD....thus I think I've come across the finest example of them all. Media Asia / Hong Kong Legends have released a Special Collectors Edition DVD that is just jammed full of fantastic features. First off, it's a digitally remastered razor sharp print in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, secondly the soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio for BOTH the dubbed English language version, plus it includes the original Cantonese soundtrack. WOW....those kicks and punches now reverberate through my surround sound system with real cracks and thuds.
There's also a wonderful audio commentary by martial arts practitioner and cinema guru, Bey Logan, which is both informative and entertaining, an animated biography showcase, the HK & UK theatrical trailers, and four photo galleries. Plus to cap it all off, there are recent interviews with two of Bruce Lee' s co-stars from "The Chinese Connection" aka "Fist of Fury", Tony Liu and Max Lee. To the best of my knowledge, the Media Asia / Hong Kong Legends version is only available in Region 2 and Region 4 DVD, however that's no issue if you have a multi zone DVD player. So, if you want to see Bruce Lee's finest film, in its best presentation to date, then definitely hunt down the Media Asia / Hong Kong Legends DVD release...it's readily available on the Amazon UK website.
Way of the Dragon 1972
This is perhaps the best martial arts (from a basic, pure karate perspective) movie, from the man who had started the whole martial arts revolution on screen and made it a household name. There are probably many martial artists who are, and were better than Bruce Lee, but no one compares to him when it comes to understanding the arts and how to project it on screen. His sense of choreographing fight scenes is still unmatched in the world of cinematic martial arts. This is the one simple reason what makes 'Return of the Dragon' the best of Lee's movies. The climatic battle scene with Chuck Norris remains the best-choreographed karate demonstration on screen, so far. He was perhaps the only true movie martial artist who could take of his shirt and have the male audience want a body like him. Like, 'Enter the Dragon', this movie didn't have a host of big-name martial arts stars like Jim Kelly, Yang Ze, and others. It had a relatively unknown Chuck Norris (to the rest of the world) after his reign as a seven-time US Karate champion, but the movie did make Norris a household name. Return of the Dragon remains Lee at his best, without all the glamor and high budget extravaganza of Enter the Dragon. If you like Bruce Lee, and martial arts, the buck stops here.
Enter the Dragon 1973
The last film completed by Bruce Lee before his untimely death, Enter the Dragon was his entrée into Hollywood. The American-Hong Kong coproduction, shot in Asia by American director Robert Clouse, stars Lee as a British agent sent to infiltrate the criminal empire of bloodthirsty Asian crime lord Han (Shih Kien) through his annual international martial arts tournament. Lee spends his days taking on tournament combatants and nights breaking into the heavily guarded underground fortress, kicking the living tar out of anyone who stands in his way. The mix of kung fu fighting (choreographed by Lee himself) and James Bond intrigue (the plot has more than a passing resemblance to Dr. No) is pulpy by any standard, but the generous budget and talented cast of world-class martial artists puts this film in a category well above Lee's earlier Hong Kong productions. Unfortunately he's off the screen for large chunks of time as American maverick competitors (and champion martial artists) John Saxon and Jim Kelly take center stage, but once the fighting starts Lee takes over. The tournament setting provides an ample display of martial arts mastery of many styles and climaxes with a huge free-for-all, but the highlight is Lee's brutal one-on-one with the claw-fisted Han in the dynamic hall-of-mirrors battle. Lee narrows his eyes and tenses into a wiry force of sinew, speed, and ruthless determination. --Sean Axmaker
So here it is... more than 30 years since the original theatrical release of Enter the Dragon, Warner Brothers releases the definitive 2 DVD Special Edition. It's a fine offering, long overdue, and considering the reasonable price, really offers a lot of nice extras, though most of them have been available elsewhere and have therefore been seen before (at least by rabid fans like me).
To start with, there is of course the movie Enter the Dragon (ETD) - Bruce Lee's magnum opus that was not released until after his unfortunate death in 1973, but sealed his immortality. The plot is simple enough - Bruce is a modern day Shaolin monk who is somehow enlisted by the British/Hong Kong government to infiltrate the island of Dr. Han (Shieh Kien), a crusty old renegade Shaolin gone bad who holds a yearly martial arts tournament to recruit talent for an international opium and prostitution racket. Roper (John Saxon), or "Loper" as Bruce says his name, is the established Hollywood caucasian star brought in because of reservations about Bruce's ability to carry the film, while Williams (Jim Kelly) is the token blaxploitation character who, this being the 70's, is kind of a Shaft/Superfly ass-kicker and, in the spirit of horror movies, is the first to die at the hand of Han - actually, at his artificial, interchangeable, iron, and oftentimes bladed hand. Even Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, as young Hong Kong stuntment before they became stars in their own right, make infamous appearances as guys on the receiving end of Bruce's wrath. But the real point, or value, of this movie is that Bruce Lee shines throughout with his incredible fight sequences - he once again casts Bob Wall as whipping boy, hitting him with lightning fast punches, an insane skip side kick, and a great groin shot that still makes me wince despite hundreds of viewings; he has some fantastic weapons sequences with staff, double escrima sticks, and nunchaku; and he more than lives up to his reputation as the "man with three legs" as he demolishes armies of scrawny Asian guys whose gung fu is pitiful in comparison (check out the guy laughing in the background as Bruce connects three successive roundhouse kicks to one sap's head in the final mob fight). This was totally innovative and amazing in 1973 as the first ever martial arts movie made in Hollywood and despite all the subsequent copycats and modern day wire-fu flicks, no one has ever matched Bruce's intensity, charisma, and moves. There are some classic dramatic sequences as well with Bruce speaking English in his own voice (unlike all of his Hong Kong movies whose English versions are horribly dubbed), such as Bruce teaching a student and rapping him on the head as he expounds some homespun Zen philosophy or Bruce poignantly asking "why doesn't someone just pull a .45 and settle it?" Incidentally, this is the uncut version of the movie with some extra scenes not included in the theatrical release - basically Bruce talking quasi-philosophy (well, actually, it's someone else dubbing in Bruce's voice) with his Shaolin elder that he later recalls in the final fight sequence.
Of course, few people who buy this DVD don't know all this already, so what's new? Well, there is a commentary track by producers Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub - there's some interesting tidbits, but overall it's disappointingly uninspired. Then there's "Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon" - a newly produced documentary short that includes some rare and new footage - a clip from Bruce's Hong Kong TV appearance in which he breaks 4 dangling boards; an interview with John Saxon, Lalo Schifrin, and the kid who gets smacked on the head by Bruce in the movie (now apparently a well-known Hong Kong director); and several minutes of on-location footage shot with Ahna Capri's handheld Super 8 camera that has never been seen before (it's short of amazing, but it's new and therefore gold to diehard fans). On disc 1 there's also a soporific Linda Lee (Cadwell) interview, another "making of" featurette with on-location footage shot by the AD, John Little's short "In His Own Words" featuring most of the Pierre Burton interview, and some old black and white movies (with sound) of Bruce kicking his buddies and hitting his heavy bag in his Los Angeles backyard - though these have all been previously available in one place or another (including the 25th Anniversary ETD DVD).
Disc 2 includes all of the TV and theatrical trailers for the movie (somewhat repetitive) and two previously released Warner Brothers documentaries - Warrior's Journey, which captures and knits together the lost Game of Death footage (GOD) in its available entirety, and Curse of the Dragon, a George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek fame) narrated documentary released around the time of Brandon Lee's death. These are both decent films, with Warrior's Journey a real gem with the GOD footage - the definitive way to watch Bruce in widescreen duel nunchakus with Dan Inosanto and try to deconstruct Kareem Abdul Jabbar's fighting style while sporting the iconic yellow and black tracksuit revived by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 1. Curse of the Dragon is interview heavy (Kareem, Taky Kimura, Paul Heller, James Coburn, etc.) but also includes clips from Bruce's childhood movies, his Green Hornet screen test, his appearance at Ed Parker's Long Beach Karate touurnament, and some backyard work-out footage with Coburn. But once again, these films have already been released before on their own, so while decent, they're less than revelatory.
And so, what we have here is by far the best available version of ETD that now exists and probably ever will, complete with a lot of nice extras, most of which have been available elsewhere. It's nice to have it all in one package (there's no apparent need to sell Warrior's Journey as a standalone product anymore) at a reasonable price. On the other hand, Lee worshippers will no doubt wish that there was more - why not include the complete Green Hornet screen test, or a Jim Kelly or Jackie Chan interview or commentary track, the complete James Coburn training session footage, all of the Ahna Capri film, more ETD outtakes, or maybe even "Kentucky Fried Movie," a parody of ETD released many years ago... but what can you do - Bruce died 31 years ago and this is the legacy he left behind.
Game of Death 1978
Most Bruce Lee fans HATE this movie. They (or I should say "we", since I'm a Bruce Lee fan) note the use of very transparent doubling by Kim Tai Chung & others, the drastic change of plot from Lee's original story-line, & the use of footage from Lee's actual funeral in the film.
I understand why these fans dislike "Game of Death" so much & I respect their beliefs. However, I think these fans are reacting a bit too strongly.
There are some good points to this movie:
1. The high production values. Remember, this is 1978. Hong-Kong movies from THIS time period weren't what they are today. Jackie Chan was just starting to find his way with "Snake In The Eagle's Shadow" & with the exception of the Shaw Brothers, most Hong-Kong films from this time period were cheap, exploitation flicks. We're still a few years away from John Woo, Tsui Hark, or Ang Lee.
2. The John Barry musical score. Remember him? He's the one behind "The James Bond Theme."
3. The opening title credits by John Christopher Strong the Third. The floating games of chance, combined with John Barry's musical score give the film a "classy" action-movie feel, like a Bond film, quality-wise, that is.
4. The major American stars Dean Jagger, Hugh O'Brien, Gig Young, & Colleen Camp. Okay, this is supposed to be Hong-Kong & one reviewer pointed out that in real-life, the heads of Hong-Kong's papers & crime-syndicates would be Chinese. But again, this is 1978. Lee did want to break out onto the mainstream by working with major "American" actors. (Lee himself, of course was an American, since Lee was born in San Francisco, but raised in Hong-Kong.) "Enter The Dragon", while being an obvious James Bond swipe, was successful, not only because of Lee's great talent & charisma, but also because that film featured American stars at the time. (If you can consider John Saxon a "star", that is.)
5. The locker-room fight. No, that's not Bruce Lee fighting Bob Wall, it's doubles Kim Tai Chung & Chen Yao Po. But it still is impressive & for this scene, at least, the cutting in of clips from "Way of The Dragon" (or "Return of The Dragon") actually works.
6. The plot. Okay, some people don't like the story, but it's obviouse that writer Jan Spears based the story on the rumors surrounding Lee's death. (In truth, he died of an allergic reaction to the pain-pill Equagesic, causing his brain to swell with an edema. However, there were rumors, and that's all they were, just rumors, that he was killed by the Triads for refusing to give them a piece of his successful film-company.) The character of "Billy Lo", faking his death after an attempted murder, so that he can do battle with the syndicate, is based on the Bruce Lee MYTH. (Kind of like the way the 1957 Elvis vehicle "Loving You" is based on the Elvis Presley myth.)
I'm not arguing with the fans who hate this movie. They are fans of a true innovative genius of the martial-arts & so I can't say that they are wrong. However, the REAL script & missing additional footage from Lee's original "Game of Death" wasn't uncovered until the mid-1990's. I'm not saying Raymond Chow & Robert Clouse weren't thinking of money when they "finished" "Game of Death." (After all, the film industry is a business.) But I don't see an exploitation picture when I watch "Game of Death." Instead, I see a well-intentioned (if somewhat misguided) tribute to the genius of Bruce Lee.
P.S. To see what Bruce Lee intended for his original version of "Game of Death", watch "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey." This documentary has a detailed rendering of Lee's script outline, as well as over 30 minutes of completed footage for the film's finale.
A Warriors Journey - Documentary on Bruce Lee 2001
Bruce Lee's life, philosophy, and final film are examined in this reverent documentary, which traces the master's path through the development of his own style, his battles with mainstream Hollywood and martial arts traditionalists, and his emergence as the world's top box-office draw. Just as interesting as Lee's life is the chance to see lost footage from The Game of Death, Lee's final, unfinished film.
Outtakes offer the opportunity to see Lee's perfectionism in action, and the reconstructed storyline reveals how Lee's personal martial arts philosophy shaped the film. And yes, there is a spectacular nunchakau fight. Interviews with Lee and those close to him highlight his energy, intelligence, and remarkable charisma.
Fans of Lee will welcome this new insight into his filmmaking, and those unfamiliar with his life and work will come away with a new respect. The DVD includes a Lee filmography, the theatrical trailer for The Game of Death, and audio commentary by the director. --Ali Davis
Bruce Lee was an enigmatic, legendary figure at the time of his death in 1973. His popularity has never waned and this 2001 documentary on the black belt movie star attempts to explain some of his magnetic appeal. Included in this biographical film is footage of The Game of Death, the film that Lee was involved in at the time of his death. Pieced together by Lee aficionado John Little, the film's finale is a flurry of images of the master in action for over 30 minutes.
The real gem of this documentary comes at the end. For the first time. The full thirty minutes of Bruce's lost footage for the Game of Death is revealed and let me tell you it's glorious to behold. These thiry minutes featuring some of the greatest martial arts I've ever seen on film. If there ever was any reason to think that Bruce Lee was the master it's proven in this footage. Had he lived to finish the film it could of possibly been his masterpiece.
Game of Death II 1981
Like most kung-fu movies, it is known by another name: Goodbye Bruce Lee. But here it has been edited and changed around. Goodbye Bruce Lee was a psuedo-documentary in which Bruce Li was introduced as the man who would complete Bruce Lee's unfinished movie Game of Death. There was even a short interview with Kareem Abdul Jabbar at the beginning, as well as some shots of Li working the high-bar, giving us a peek at his acrobatic skills. Then, mid-course through this documentary, a "movie" began, in which Li fought some crooks and eventually rescues his fiancee, who is held in a martial artist-filled pagoda.
This edit of Goodbye Bruce Lee features all of that, save for the Jabbar interview and the original narration, which have both been removed. Now it is made to resemble just a regular movie, and not a documentary at all. However the editing has left it very odd. For example, it still begins with Li working the high-bar. But instead of narration explaining who this man is, the theme music (a very Blaxploitation sounding song called "King of Kung Fu") plays relentlessly, and there is no dialog.
Then Li is taken to a producer's office, where he's told that he's been chosen to complete Bruce Lee's movie Game of Death. Li agrees, and the producers have him and his girlfriend sit down in a projection room, so they can show him "the portion of the movie that Bruce finished." The projectionist starts the movie and from there on we're into the New Game of Death. There is no more mention of Bruce Li and his girlfriend in the projection room. Sound confusing? It is.
As for the movie itself, it's confusing too - and I think this is mostly due to the English dubbing. Back when this was released, I think US distributors just tried to get the dialog to match the movements of the actors' mouths - they weren't so worried about accurately-translated dialog. And that really shows in this movie. Several times it's very obvious that the dialog has nothing to do with what's going on.
And as for the fighting, well it isn't that great. Bruce Li was no Bruce Lee. As if you didn't already know that.
There are some saving graces, though: the pagoda guardians are fairly interesting in a campy way, and Li does the best with what he's been given in this film. Two scenes that had me laughing: Li's brother discovers that his apartment has been trashed as the opening chords of the James Bond theme blast on the soundtrack. And two, Li walks into his trashed home, steps into a room, and steps back out in the black and yellow tracksuit that the real Bruce Lee wore in his Game of Death.
Game of Death II (aka Tower of Death) is a dichotomy of a film. It is a Bruceploitation film (though it is one of the better ones) and it is an exiting revenge flick. Raymond Chow had apparently not made enough money off of the insipid Game of Death and was slowly leaking "newly found" footage of Bruce so it was bound that he would create another film with spliced in footage, redubbed dialog and, of course, Bruce's namesake.
The first act of the movie is the least interesting and worst part of the film. Bruce Lee stars (posthumously edited in) as Billy Lo (Bruce Lee) who visits his friend Chin Ku (Hwang Jang Lee) who is currently beating up an under-classed challenger. After an reestablishment of friendship between the two (never a good sign in a Kung Fu film), he visits an abbot (Roy Chiao revisiting his role from Enter the Dragon so they can reuse and redub footage) to discuss about his contumacious brother Bobby Lo (Tong Lung who also starred in Game of Death).
Of course, the scenes that compromise the first act are not only exploitative of Bruce Lee they are also poorly done. The most obvious is that the backgrounds do not match between Bruce's footage and the new footage. Also check out the sculpted back muscles of Bruce and compare them to his double. It is not even close. The fight scenes with Bruce (and his double) do not flow well. However, anytime you see a fight scene and that Bruce (or his double) does a difficult move such as a flip you will notice that it is the incomparable Yuen Biao (he even has a small role toward the beginning.)
Bruce later visits the funeral of his friend Chin Ku and he is prevented from examining the body (this must mean something to the plot.) When the ceremony takes place a helicopter comes by and snags the coffin. For some strange reason, well to dispose of the fake Bruce character, he jumps on the coffin as it is flying away and is hit with a dart and falls to his death. This is absolutely absurd. Though this is not as bad as the 70s clothes at the funeral or the tacky real funeral footage of Bruce Lee that would come next.
Now the movie gets more interesting and less exploitative. Bobby learns of his brother's death from his father who tells him to meet Sherman Lan. Sherman tells him to go to the Palace of Death. Now this is an interesting place. It is owned by Lewis, played by Roy Horan who has been an executive at Seasonal, an actor who also acted in Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, a student of Hwang Jang Lee and currently a lecturer at HK Polytechnic University; obviously his life is more interesting than this film. Bobby suspects Lewis as the culprit behind his brother's death. Lewis likes to eat raw meat, is surrounded by lions (who are fed the fighters that he defeats), Killer Peacocks and a one-armed valet (oh my). The one-armed assistant, a monk from the Fan Yu temple) does not seem that he could be of great use to Lewis, but Lewis says that he is faithful and he has known him for a long time (do not dwell on this fact because the absurdity of what happens later is quite hilarious). I really do not trust one-armed people in Hong Kong films unless they are played by Jimmy Wang Yu.
Lewis tells Bobby of a tower built by abbot Hung Kuang. However, it cannot be found above ground. The abbot had it built underground (this is a nice twist until you see how much they spent on the set design and how many levels there actually are). Obviously there is going to be a show down there with Bobby fighting however is behind all of this madness. I will not give it away (or tell what happens at the Palace of Death) but it is fairly obvious who it will be.
The final act of the film leads to some good fighting scenes, obviously with the help of action director Yuen Wo-Ping, as Bobby makes his way down the tower (try to see how many times Yuen Biao is used as a stunt double; hint check every other move Bobby makes). Most of the film is entertaining (not counting the irritating and unnecessary flashbacks). There is always going to be tackiness involved anytime you invoke Bruce Lee's inimitable name; but once the movie gets past that it is fun to watch. In fact it is the best Bruceploitation film out there -- though that does not necessarily mean that much.
China Daily 18/12/2010
The Bruce Lee legend never fades but it might surprise some to learn that among his legion of fans was Chairman Mao, who called him a hero.
Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and Bruce Lee the martial arts legend (1940-1973) both declared - in their unique ways - that the Chinese people had "stood up".
Mao made this proclamation on the founding of the People's Republic of China, on Oct 1, 1949, Lee said it in a cinematic way that needed no translation when he kicked and smashed a wooden panel bearing the words: "Chinese and dogs not allowed", one of the iconic scenes steeped in fiery nationalism from Fist of Fury.
The words are supposedly from notices at the entrance of public parks in colonial Shanghai, and have come to symbolize the country's humiliation.
It turns out the Great Helmsman was a huge fan of the kungfu legend.
The man who was Mao's hero
By 1974, Mao was diagnosed with a cataract and was advised by his doctors to refrain from reading. Thus he turned to movies. After a heavy dose of foreign biopics, such as those on Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon, he moved on to Hong Kong fare.
The task of collecting these films fell to Liu Qingtang, then deputy minister of the Ministry of Culture, a ballet dancer who shot to prominence by affiliating himself with Jiang Qing (Madame Mao) and starring in her "model repertory".
At that time there were no cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland. Liu flew down to Guangdong and sought the help of the local authority, but it had no recourse either. Finally, the Hong Kong bureau chief of Xinhua News Agency was summoned. He knew an attorney who was a friend of Sir Run Run Shaw, Hong Kong's movie mogul at the time.
Shaw was reluctant at first, it was said, fearing his films would be the target of mainland political campaigns. He relented, however, without knowing exactly who would be watching the movies. Among the prints on loan were three films starring Lee, then totally unknown to most mainlanders due to China's self-imposed isolation.
Reeve Wong, a noted film critic from Hong Kong, who shared the details with me, says there is one inaccuracy in the above account: Lee's main body of work was by Golden Harvest, a competitor of Shaw's studio. Wong says even so, Liu Qingtang insisted it was Shaw who loaned the movies. Here, Wong reasons that it could be a slip of the tongue, or Shaw's name stood for all the people who loaned films, because he had the biggest name.
Liu, who sat with Mao during the screenings, said he watched The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon. Mao would burst into eulogies when he got excited.
While watching Fist of Fury for the first time, Mao dissolved in tears, Liu recalled, and said "Bruce Lee is a hero!" Mao watched the film twice more. Liu said he did not know of any other movie that Mao viewed three times.
When it came time to ship the prints back to Hong Kong, nobody dared do so lest Mao got another urge to watch them. Only after he was terminally ill were two of the movies returned.
Think of it, had Mao publicized his approbation, Lee would have instantly become an exalted figure like Lei Feng, the good Samaritan every Chinese student was encouraged to imitate.
But Lee did not need Mao's help. He became more than just a national hero, transcending geopolitical boundaries. As Mao correctly observed, Lee's movies portray the fight between good and evil and Lee invariably embodied the good. That's something everyone can relate to.
A few years ago I was asked by a film magazine to name the biggest Chinese film star of all time. After a long period of deliberation, I picked Lee. Agreed, he was not the best thespian, nor the best looking, and he had a very limited oeuvre. Yes, he was a brilliant kungfu fighter, but we trained them by the busloads in martial arts schools or opera academies, didn't we? But Lee had an appeal that went beyond the screen, or kungfu for that matter. He personified an aesthetic that shattered the stereotype of the Asian male.
It is very difficult for an Asian man to take the center stage in Hollywood productions, which shape public consciousness on a global scale. In the early years, Asian male roles were portrayed by non-Asians who resorted to painting their face yellow, slanting their eyes and adding buckteeth. Asian females had a relatively easier time of it compared with their male counterparts. Although their roles were highly restricted, they at least got to impart exotic beauty. Men were relegated to nerds, axiom-spewing sages or bad guys.
Even if you take into account the accomplishments of Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun-fat, the situation is not much better. They are niche players with obvious limitations. And none of them project such a robust image of the Asian male as Lee did. (Japan's Toshiro Mifune, an Akira Kurosawa regular, had an opportunity to do so, but he rarely strayed from period dramas, which were too overblown to be a role model for contemporaries.)
Lee combined dexterity with a virility that busted the hoary stigmas of the Asian male. Alas his reign was too short-lived.
There is a new biopic of Lee in his youthful days, Bruce Lee, My Brother. Interestingly, the filmmakers dug out details of his life that contradicted his public persona. For example, he suffered from severe myopia. (Can you imagine Bruce Lee wearing a pair of thick glasses?) As a teenager, he was sometimes shy and would rather dance with his brother than ask the girl he had set his eyes on. Of course, tales of his street fighting are even more legendary.
Lee's screen debut was in 1950 with The Kid. I saw the movie and he was so good it is no exaggeration to say he was a child star on a par with the best in the world. In 1957, he played the idealistic younger brother in Thunderstorm, adapted from the classic play, still the stepping-stone for many a young thespian hoping for a breakthrough. It is not easy to catch snippets of Lee's early movies, but they show Lee with multi-faceted talents. Given proper guidance, he could have become Hong Kong's king of drama.
I was also surprised when I heard Lee speak English - in documentaries of course. Sure, he was born in San Francisco, but he was 3 months old when he headed to Hong Kong and only returned to the United States when he was 18. I can only say he was a quick learner.
In terms of cinematic charisma, Lee was in a league of his own. His best-known work was made in Hong Kong but gained an unprecedented following worldwide. He did something nobody had done before and nobody in Chinese cinema has surpassed since. The Chairman was spot on when he declared Lee "a hero".