The Big Boss / Fists of Fury / Tang shan da xiong (1970)
Chein is a city boy who moves with his cousins to work at a ice factory. He does this with a family promise never to get involved in any fight. However, when members of his family begin disappearing after meeting the management of the factor, the resulting mystery and pressures forces him to break that vow and take on the villainy of the Big Boss.
Bruce Lee ... Cheng Chao-an
Maria Yi ... Chow Mei
James Tien ... Hsiu Chien
Yin-Chieh Han ... Hsiao Mi (The Boss)
Malalene ... Mrs.Wuman
Tony Liu ... Hsiao Chiun (Mi's son)
Kun Li ... Ah Kun (as Quin Lee)
Nora Miao ... Drinkstand owner
San Chin ... Hua Sze
Chao Chen ... Foreman
Chia Ching Tu ... Uncle
Director: Wei Lo
Codecs: XVid / MP3
Audio: Mandarin / Cantonese
Subtitles: English hard encoded
After trying to make a name in Hollywood with the TV series "Green Hornet" with mixed results, young actor and martial artist Bruce Lee traveled back to Hong Kong where his popularity as Kato was very high, there met Raymond Chow and received the chance to star a film about martial arts. "Tang Shan Da Xiong", or "The Big Boss" (known in the U.S. as "Fists of Fury"), was the final result and the movie that started Lee's career and his way to becoming a legend of celluloid.
"The Big Boss" is about a young Chinese man named Cheng Chao-an (Bruce Lee) who travels to Thailand looking for a job. Living with his distant cousins, he finds a job in the ice factory where his cousins work and soon he finds a family in them, developing a close friendship with Hsiu Chien (James Tien) and a big affection for Chow Mei (Maria Yi). Although he is a skilled fighter Cheng sworn an Oath of non-violence to his mother, promising that he would not be a get in fights. However, things get complicated when two of his cousins disappear and is discovered that the ice factory has a dark secret. Cheng will have to break his Oath in order to unveil the mystery behind the disappearance of his new family.
Directed by Wei Lo (who would also discover Jackie Chan), "The Big Boss" was a breath of fresh air to martial arts films as it showed a flawed hero in a modern setting. The story (by Wei Lo and Bruce Lee) is very well developed and filled with suspense and action, and in a bold move for an action film, the main character remains almost inactive for the first half as Cheng must avoid violence due to his oath. The film not only launched Lee's career to stratosphere, it influenced his own film-making's style and the way future martial arts movies were done.
Wei Lo's usually restrained style was also influenced by his young actor's abilities, "The Big Boss" can be seen as his transition to a more explosive way of film-making that would be completed in his next Lee's film ("Fist of Fury") and the subsequent Jackie Chan's films. The natural and raw look of the film added to the high dose of graphic violence (it is probably the goriest film in Lee's career) give the movie a harsh, gritty realism that adds to its charm.
As many have already said (and will continue saying without a doubt), Lee was a very charming actor whose presence filled the screen and owned it completely. That statement is proved here as we see him not as a killing machine, but as a common man who just wants to live peacefully, giving us many scenes of Cheng enjoying his new found family and struggling with his own vices. Lee's performance is very natural although one could say that he was basically playing himself. The rest of the cast ranges from average to OK, with James Tien, Quin Lee and Malalene being the best among them. However, it's fair to notice that the poor dubbing, typical of movies of the era makes a bit difficult to judge them fairly.
"The Big Boss" is considered among the weakest of Lee's films and not without a reason. Those accustomed to constant action scenes will feel it is slow due to the film's pacing and the way the story is built. The acting, as written above, is not very good and only Lee and Tien's performances are of constantly quality. And finally, Wei Lo's inclusion of some silly comedic effects feels terribly out of pace in an otherwise dark and gritty action film.
To summarize, "Tang Shan Da Xiong", or "The Big Boss", is a terrific film on its own right, and together with "Fist of Fury" ("The Chinese Connection") and "Enter the Dragon", a basic film to understand Lee's career and the development of martial arts films during the 70s. It may not be a classic as the films mentioned, but this was just the beginning of the legendary Bruce Lee.
* If you pay attention through the movie, you can tell when or not Cheng will kill in a fight. When it's just a "fun" fight, he would wear either brown or blue pants with a t-shirt and a blue sash. But in a serious fight, he'd wear a long sleeve shirt with black pants and a white sash. This may be because in Chinese culture, white is a symbol of death.
* In 1971, this was the highest grossing film of all time in Hong Kong, beating out American productions The Sound of Music (1965) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).
* While not mentioned in the film, a few books released in the '70s at the time of the film's release mentioned that Cheng Chao An was forced to make his promise to his mother after his father was killed in a fight. In order to continue the family name, Cheng's mother wanted to make sure he would not fall to the same fate and that he'd live to raise his own family. Film historian Bey Logan even mentions this in an audio commentary.
* The mansion of the film's villain was, and still is, a Thai mausoleum. Usually, due to Chinese superstition, another location would be chosen to avoid a movie from being cursed. However, whether it was time restraints or the appearance of the location, it was not made public that it was a mausoleum until the film was completed.
* The Thai brothel featured in the film was actually a genuine and functioning brothel. The extras who feature in these scenes (excluding Malalene's character) were actual prostitutes who were paid more by Golden Harvest than they would normally receive in a day by their clients so that they could appear in the film.
* The infamous saw scene (mentioned in the alternate versions section) apparently was shown only once to an open public and that was the film's original premiere in the fall of 1971 in Hong Kong. Co-star Maria Yi herself said it was present in the film but didn't look very realistic. Ironically, this was part of the rumor for years as to why the scene was never shown again.
* The international (English) title of this film was "The Big Boss". In the United States the English dubbed version was originally to be released under the title "The Chinese Connection", a play on the title of the highly popular film The French Connection (1971). For some reason the title was changed to "Fists of Fury". As a result, to avoid confusion with Bruce Lee's following film Jing wu men (1972) (known elsewhere in the world as "Fist of Fury"), the latter film's title for its U.S. release became first "The Iron Hand" and then "The Chinese Connection".
* This is the only Bruce Lee film (excluding his childhood films and Green Hornet re-edit films) missing his use of the nunchucks. They were not used by Lee until Jing wu men (1972). The only Lee trademark present in this film is his triple kick attack (Lee Sam Geuk - Three Legs Lee). Also, this is the only Lee film to be censored in its original country due to graphic violence.
* Bruce Lee was originally against two of director Wei Lo's ideas used in the film. First, was when one of the foremen was to be punched through a wooden wall. Wei wanted to leave the villain's outline in the wall, similar to something in a cartoon. Lee tried his best to change it, but somehow Wei got the upper hand. The second, and the most famous scene of the film, is the climactic "jump kick joust" between Lee and villain Yin-Chieh Han. Lee, once again, didn't like the idea due to its separation from realism. However, he gave in, and the shot was done.
* There have been at least three publicity photos in which Bruce Lee is shown attacking stuntman Peter Chan (he is shown as the man wearing a tucked in blue t-shirt and blue jeans) with a flying side kick during the fight with The Boss's remaining henchmen in the finale. However, Peter Chan's character was not present in this fight whatsoever in the final film. One of these photos is most widely seen on the back of the original CBS-FOX VHS release of the film... and is also horizontally reversed.
* Despite being credited for the music score in every release of the film, Wang Fu-Ling actually only composed music for the original Mandarin version. Peter Thomas composed the score for the English dubbed versions while Joseph Koo composed new tracks and chose stock music (including music from Don Peake's score for the original The Hills Have Eyes) for the Cantonese dubbed version in the early 80s.
* The film was based on the true story of Cheng Chiu-on who fought the tyrants in Thailand. Cheng lived at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 20th century. A memorial statue of him was erected in a garden in the Bangkok more than 80 years ago.
* Not once in the film does Hsiao Mi (The "Big Boss") actually leave the area of his mansion.
* The original director was Ng Gar Seung, however, he was replaced by Lo Wei a few weeks into production. The original star was also James Tien, who plays Hsiu Chien, while Bruce Lee was to be a co-star. However, when directors changed, the stars switched, giving Lee top billing. This may also be part of the reason why Lee does not fight until halfway through the film.