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... more » 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. Lee returned the next year in The Chinese Connection. --Sean Axmaker« less
Want the best version on DVD ? Then just keep reading !
P. Ferrigno | Melbourne, Victoria Australia | 04/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back in 1970, Bruce Lee was a keen martial artist with three Jeet Kune Do studios, he had a fledgling TV/movie career in the United States appearing in movies such as "Marlowe" and TV series such as "Longstreet", and he was charging major Hollywood stars up to $250 an hour for personal martial arts tuition. However, Bruce Lee was somewhat unsatisfied with his life, and he had headed back to Hong Kong for a break and arrived to an unexpected welcome from many young Chinese TV fans, who had seen him as "Kato" on the cult TV series "The Green Hornet". Also around this time, HK film producer Raymond Chow had left Run Run Shaw and started "Golden Harvest" productions, and spied the athletic Bruce as a potential lead actor for the action film genre. After some negotiations, Chow managed to secure Bruce's signature to star in a low budget martial arts film titled "Tang shan da xiong", or as it was eventually released in Western film markets, "The Big Boss" aka "Fists of Fury".
Filming was completed around Pak Chang in Thailand, and by all reports it wasn't the most pleasant of places, and the cast and crew survived on terrible meals and poor accomodation. The plot line is simple enough....a young Bruce Lee plays Cheng Chao-an, who has come to the big city to work with his cousins in the local ice factory. His father's departing words of wisdom to Bruce are to remember his promise not to get into any fights, and as a reminder Bruce wears a jade pendant around his neck. However, trouble seems to follow Cheng around and before long he is drawn into violence, as the truth is uncovered that the ice factory is merely a front for a heroin smuggling operation. "The Big Boss" aka "Fists of Fury" certainly has it's shortcomings, however in 1971 it was the springboard that really launched the legend of Bruce Lee, and it remains forever a key film in the evolution of the martial arts / action genre. Lee was a capable enough actor to demonstrate a broad range of emotion and feelings beyond just anger.....he's an eager and willing worker for his first day at the ice factory, he's wooden and uncomfortable when he first meets his city cousins, and he's clumsy and embarassed around the pretty Nora Maio. However, Lee was at his most charismatic and thrilling to film audiences when he explodes against the villains who butcher his friends, and the film's fight sequences featuring Lee are violent, uncompromising and fast paced. Lee could also capably mix in humour with his brooding menace, such as in the scene when Bruce is munching on a bag of chips, he kicks two knife wielding thugs in the groin, and then continues to finish his chips ! As the body count escalates, the film moves towards a showdown between Bruce Lee and the sinister owner of the ice factory (played by the wonderful Yin-Chieh Han, who also appeared as a trecherous cook in Lee's next film "Fist of Fury" )The film received a rapturous welcome from Chinese film fans, who just loved watching this rugged & handsome Chinese actor and his flailing fists, and the movie broke many box office records in Hong Kong.
Now to which version on DVD you should buy ! The DVD version of this film on Amazon.com with the red tinted cover is the Region 1 CBS/FOX release, and it's not true widescreen, it's only the dubbed English version, and only presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
However, my suggestion is that you log onto the Amazon UK website and buy yourself the Hong Kong Legends Special Collectors Edition DVD of "The Big Boss", as it is the finest quality presentation available of this movie on DVD. The special release DVD's long list of goodies includes the following : a digitally remastered crystal clear and UNCUT 16:9 Anamorphic widescreen presentation, plus the soundtrack is selectable between the dubbed English version, or the original Cantonese version both in Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio ! On top of that there is a sensational audio commentary track from film commentator / Bruce Lee fanatic Bey Logan, plus original theatrical trailers and interviews with cast members. The disc is Region 2, but hey that's why they invented multi-region DVD players. I've owned many versions of this film on DVD from all over the world, however hands down the HK Legends DVD is the best one yet and it rates 5 stars and more. If you are a Bruce Lee fan, this DVD belongs on your shelf."
Worst Transfer of All Time
P. Ferrigno | 09/17/1999
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I was very anxious to buy this DVD cause Bruce Lee was one of my childhood heroes, but the image and sound quality is so bad that I might as well just use it for a coaster. It's like watching one of those old 8mm films.I hope that the owners of the film get smart and restore it. I'll be willing to buy it again if it was cleaned up."
ALWAYS stay with ORIGINAL
P. Ferrigno | 02/23/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Why American production make HK movies look so cheap? First of all, they cut off so much scene, second of all ruin it by making look acting so dumb by English Dubb. For ANY of HK movies, ALWAYS stick with ORIGINAL LICENSED HK RELEASE. Be careful with cheap imports, boots though."
Not all versions of the Bruce Lee films are the same
P. Ferrigno | 08/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Top notch Martial Arts Action. Don't let it bother you that this is his first big film, theres tons of time on screen with Bruce, and even in his quiet moments his presence is great. The US version on DVD is a great improvement from the VHS versions all of us have had to live with for years, but it you see the Chinese versions, you will find the movies to be better in every way. Thanks to Thomas Ong for his very good advice that made me aware of this (see Listmania) , also read Dragon Man X's reviews, his reviews are great. he goes into this same topic in depth. I have about three versions of this movie, and the US version cut out the scene where he goes to the brothel (needless US censorship- including a priceless few seconds of Bruce behind a Chair ready to go .. why would they cut that out. oh yeah, the brothel. they seem to frown on showing that stuff now. They sure didn't mind that stuff before 1990 ) We have so few films of Bruce that it's a crime to withhold any footage from us. Also cut out is the scene at the end (if you see the US version from fox, you can sense there is something missing) (Note that the scene with the saw in the icehouse is missing from all versions, I guess that is removed from all the versions). Also, the scale of the widescreen, while good in the US version is still cropped more than the Chinese Versions side to side and a bit from the top and bottom. And the sound is stereo in the Chinese versions! The subtitling is off in the US versions also. I compared the traslations, and the Chinese versions have what I believe to be the more accurate versions of the translations. this is true of all the US tranlations of the BL films, it's more fun and meaningful to read the actual translation.. in the US version , they had to voiceover and watch the actors as they mouthed the words so sometimes the meaning is completely different. And the Chinese versions have an actual photo of Bruce, not glazed over in red? who made that decision?"
Unwatchable dvd transfer from VHS tape
James I. Miyake | San Jose, Ca. | 02/10/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This dvd is terrible quality, it has lots of terrible analog flaws, like the vhs tape that it was copied from kept losing tracking wiping out the main fight scenes, and the whole movie is squashed horizontally, and distorted. The color is way off like the vhs tape was rented for years before being copied onto the dvd. It is unwatchable! Do not buy this tape or any tape from this Candian company."