Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Big Boss (4½ Stars)

I remember when and where I first saw this film. That's how significant it was to me. It was 1977. I can't remember the month, but it must have been in the late summer. My friend Mick Cooksey suggested that we should go to see the film in Sutton Coldfield, and I jumped at the chance. I'd already seen a few martial arts films, some Chinese, some Japanese. At the time I couldn't tell them apart. I'd heard about Bruce Lee, and I wanted to see him. Supposedly he was the best kung fu fighter who had ever lived. Or rather he had been the best, because in 1977 he was already dead.

The film started off well, and I was greatly enjoying it. But it wasn't until the 44 minute mark, almost halfway through the film, that Bruce began to fight. From the very first punches I knew that he was a class above everyone else in fighting films. His delay was explained by the plot, that he had promised his mother he wouldn't fight while working away from home. However, as I later discovered there was another reason for the delay. At the time the film was made Bruce was still relatively unknown. The film's main actor was James Tien, and it was him who fought most of the battles. Of course, this was the film that made Bruce Lee famous, and by the time it was released in England it was Bruce's name at the top of the credits. Although when I look at the Chinese poster above I have to ask if it's really Bruce Lee leaping through the air. I wouldn't have recognised him. My guess is that originally it was James Tien, but later the picture was touched up to make it look like Bruce.

The film is a masterpiece in itself. I've only deducted half a star because the music is so awful. Particularly annoying is the melody played every time Bruce touches the pendant his mother gave him to remind him not to fight.

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