The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jing wu men aka Fist of Fury aka The Chinese Connection (1972)

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This is one I remember growing up. I had it on VHS and my friends and I would watch it fairly frequently. Bruce Lee is just the man, there's no two ways about it. I figured it would make a great first post on our Wild Card look at Hong Kong films.

The Chinese Connection has Lee as a great martial artist returning home to ask the woman he loves to marry him, only to find out his master died shortly before. He's suspicious, and he's right to be so, as a Japanese school in Shanghai shows up to threaten Lee's school so they can take it over. After Lee pays the Japanese school a visit, then kicks everyone's ass, all hell breaks loose. The Japanese want his head, and the local police chief has to oblige them due to all the clout the Japanese have in Shanghai. That drives Lee into hiding, as he investigates his master's death. As the proof he needs mounts, the Japanese plot their revenge as well. It's a collision course to wackiness.

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This is an excellent film. Sure, it's slow in parts, but who cares? It's got Bruce Lee, the greatest action star ever. Among the great scenes, there's the one where Lee kills a guy pulling him forward by the neck, so the guy's katana that had been flown in the air, impaled the guy in the back. Amazing. Then there's his fight with The Stash. Simply fantastic. Even better than all this, was the cultural and ethnic elements-- Japanese control over China, and Chinese resentment of said control, with a hero like Bruce Lee who stands up to them. Sound familiar? How about almost every Blaxploitation movie ever. The Chinese Connection is the best singular argument for why it was better we examined Hong Kong cinema here before Blaxploitation, for we wouldn't have one without the other.

Bruce Lee is a very unique star, in that he can make a movie just by being in it. He's even awesome just putting on a jacket. Very few film stars ever have had that kind of impact. We're talking about Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn level. I can't think of any actor today with that kind of power. Maybe Al Pacino, but not quite to that degree. You can go through and list any action star you want, but none of them make every scene there in, just by being in them, the way Bruce Lee does. Without Lee as the extreme charismatic figure that he was, Hong Kong cinema wouldn't have exploded the way it did.

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I seldom comment on the transfers of the movies we review, but I wouldn't be doing my job here if I didn't at least say something. Madacy really dropped the ball. I got this on Netflix as part of a two pack, with Fist of Fury on the other half, and both films were in such horrible condition. I'm all for scratches and wear and tear on the film, but a poor, cheap transfer is unacceptable. Don't get ripped off, the movie is great, but not Madacy's version.

Also of note, the Madacy version does not allow for the original soundtrack with English subtitles. I know with 70s Kung Fu films, bad dubbing is supposed to enhance the experience, but I'd at least like the option. I'm not sure when it happened in my life, but somewhere along the line I switched from dubbing to subtitles, and now I can't stand dubbed movies. Maybe it's a foreign film thing, or a Criterion Collection thing, but that's just how I am.

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People reading this may call me to the carpet for all the times I called movies to the carpet for having too much downtime in their films, after The Chinese Connection was guilty of just such an offense. Simply put, if a movie has Bruce Lee, it can get away with it. Gary Daniels is no Bruce Lee. Olivier Gruner is no Bruce Lee. Steve Seagal is no Bruce Lee. Dolph Lundgren is no Bruce Lee. Arnold Schwarzenegger is no Bruce Lee. Do you see the point I'm making here?

Like the comic book series, I think recommendations are superfluous, because it should be obvious. What I will say is, the Madacy transfer is an abomination. 20th Century Fox released one in 2002 that was much better, but hopefully with the technology we have today, a fully restored high quality version will emerge-- maybe even with the original sound track.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068767/

10 comments:

  1. Like I sent you in my e-mail, there is a subtitled one that is there. Also there is a decent CBS Fox DVD which at least clears up the picture but offers nothing else. It's at least presentable. Speaking of Bruce Lee, just having him in the movie for 15 minutes is enough to make the movie worthwhile as Game Of Death is okay kung fu stuff, but once you see Lee it becomes epic greatness. Also that such contains his best fight sequences (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Danny Insanto etc) Also Game Of Death would've been by far his best movie had he lived to complete it. He had Sonny Chiba and George Lazenby to co-star but when Chiba landed in Hong Kong Lee had died.

    Now that would've been sweet movie.

    I'm not sure where to go with this movie, it's probably my least favorite of Bruce's because it is slow but on the other hand Lee could recite the phonebook and I'd be enthused.

    I'm also curious how you'll take The Big Boss because this was downbeat in a Pray For Death sort of way.

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  2. Would you like to guess? I can give you a hint, the movie does have Bruce Lee, doesn't it?

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  3. Personally I like both dubbing and subtitles(the former actually works better with most of Jackie Chan's films IMO) and I like watch foreign films both ways in order to compare them and see which way works better for me.

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  4. My favorite Lee film. He is so fierce and intense on this one, so vengeful and violent and out of control. No one can do intensity like Lee did. "Why did you kill my master? Why? Why? Why!?" I love that scene.

    Jet Li portrayed the same character in a more thoughtful way in Fist of Legend.

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  5. By the way, the "Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection Boxed SEt" has a good cut of the film, plus it has a couple other Bruce Lee films that are awesome, like The Big Boss, which is just an awesome movie. Highly recommend it, I place it second after Chinese Connection.

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  6. The deciding factor between dubbing and subtitling for me is the actor's voice. As in Avatar, where I felt we were missing something by only having that actor's voice, with dubbing, we're only getting his or her actions. I know in either case, we're experiencing the dialog through a filter-- that of the translator-- but at least with subtitles we're getting as much of the actor's original performance as possible.

    I think the DVD cover I used is from that boxed set, but I'm not too sure.

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  7. Nah, the box set I have is blue, and has an image of Bruce Lee from the last scenes of Game of Death, with the yellow suit.

    By the way, dont even bother watching game of death, it so dissapointing! Lee is on it for the last fifteen minutes, the rest of the film is a guy acting as Lee.

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  8. Hey don't you dare say anything bad about Game Of Death. Yes it's sort of like a Bruce Li film for the first hour or so, but it's still enjoyable, and then when Bruce Lee takes on Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Danny Insanto (I can't spell his name) and well the Bruce Lee footage more than makes up for any flaw.

    All Bruce Lee movies are worth seeing. Period.

    Speaking of which Matt is gonna face an ultimate challenge when he reviews Fist Of Fear Touch Of Death. That movie is one of my rare 0 Star write ups and you'll see why if you see it.

    Bruce Lee probably turns in his grave everytime someone watches that crap.

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  9. I have to agree with Kenner on Game of Death, if only because Lee didn't live to complete it. Also, as a Celtics fan, it's always good to see Kareem get taken down by Bruce Lee.

    I can understand not liking it as much because it had so little Bruce Lee in it, but we can't blame anyone for that. Bruce Lee left us way too soon.

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  10. This was probably my favorite Lee film, and his most balanced. His personality probably came through best on Way of the Dragon, but here he's possibly @ his most charismatic and shows why he's always been in a whole other class of his own in the action pantheon.

    I have to admit that I always loved 'Game of Death's cheese factor- the bad Lee double with those huge sunglasses, awful bike chases, Sammo Hung actually in shape; one of my favorite guilty pleasures growing up where those Bruce Li/Le/Lei exploitation schlock fests. But had Lee lived to complete it, it seems to me it would've been one of his best.

    And I second Film Connoisseur's endorsement of how awesome the Lee Ultimate Collection set is, well worth checking out, subs and everything.

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