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Laramie Movie Scope: Fist of Fury
(The Chinese Connection)

One of Bruce Lee's best films

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 11, 2002 -- Bruce Lee's film "Fist of Fury," also known as "The Chinese Connection" or "Fists of Fury," (the original title is Jing wu men) is considered one of his best movies. While it has great fight scenes, the acting is poor and the story is very flimsy (common martial arts story line: kung-fu fighter seeks revenge for ___ fill in the blank). I saw this film on DVD, and unfortunately the version I saw was plagued by very bad English dubbing and poor sound and image quality.

The version of the film I have is distributed by GoodTimes DVD it appears to be an uncut version at one hour and 43 minutes. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The single-layer DVD has a mono soundtrack. For $5 (at K-Mart) it is not a bad buy, but if you are a serious collector or devoted Bruce Lee fan, you will want the Hong Kong Legends version of this film with its surround soundtrack, enhanced musical score, better video quality and English subtitles freshly translated from the original Cantonese. Unfortunately, you may need an all-region DVD player to play it, at least in the states, since it doesn't seem to be available in a region one format. It is reportedly available only in region 0 and region 2 formats.

The horrible dubbing on this DVD made it very hard to follow what little plot there is. Much is lost in the translation, literally. The story has Bruce Lee playing Bruce Chen Zhen, a student returning to his martial arts school in Shanghai to find his old teacher murdered by the Japanese. He vows revenge. There is a somewhat clumsy love story as well. Set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai around 1937, the film plays heavily on Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment. There are no dimensions to the bad guys. They are just plain bad guys (the Japanese reportedly committed 100,000 murders and a like number of rapes during their occupation of just one Chinese city during this period).

While the early fight scenes in the film are not overly impressive, the fights get more intense as the film goes on to its brutal climax. The fights near the end of the film are very dynamic and well-staged, really top-notch. This film was made near the end of Bruce Lee's career. It was released in 1972 and Lee's untimely death occurred in 1973, nearly 30 years ago. He was at the height of his skills and had all of his well-known fighting mannerisms down to an art, the strange noises, the swagger, the hand gestures, the scowl, the smirk, the enraged quivering, the triumphant pose. He was a dynamic and charismatic figure on the screen, transcending his genre. He seriously overacts in this film, however. He's more of a caricature, than a character. The film rates a C+ but this DVD desperately needs subtitles and the original Cantonese soundtrack instead of bad dubbing. The DVD, which has no extra features, rates a D.

This film is sometimes confused with "The Big Boss," (also known as "Fists of Fury;" the original title is Tang shan da xiong) which was released in 1971. That film also starred Bruce Lee and it was directed by Lo Wei, who also directed "Fist of Fury." Chen Ching Chu was the cinematographer of both films. So we've got two films, both sharing the alternate title of "Fists of Fury" and both directed by the same person and both starring Bruce Lee and at least nine other actors who appeared in both films. Both films were made within a year of each other. Confusing. "Fist of Fury" was released in the U.S. under the name "The Chinese Connection," (which is a name much better suited to "The Big Boss" because of its drug-dealing storyline) but its real name (in English anyway) is "Fist of Fury." The film is also known as "The Iron Hand" and "Fists of Fury."

You might well ask why these films have so many alternate titles. Maybe the distributors like to confuse people and try to get them to buy more than one copy of the same movie. By the way, future action star Jackie Chan also appears as a stunt player in both of these films. Robert Baker, who plays the Russian character Petrov in "Fist of Fury," also appears in both films. Other actors appearing in both films include Nora Miao, Yin-Chieh Han, James Tien, Maria Yi, San Chin, Tony Liu and Ching-Ying Lam. "Fist of Fury" was remade as "Fist of Legend" starring Jet Li, in 1994. It seemed to me the remake was better than the original, but maybe that was because the remake had a better soundtrack, better story, better cinematography and better dubbing (the DVD I saw had subtitles as well). Maybe the original would seem superior if I had seen it on a better DVD with subtitles, a better image and soundtrack. For my money, I still think Bruce Lee's best film is "Enter the Dragon."

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)