Turn Back the Clock

Martial Arts

Fist of Fury

Distributed by Golden Harvest

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I loved martial arts films as a kid and find that I still do, but itís the films of old that really capture my interest.  In my opinion, the older films were the best and one of my favorite martial artists of all time is Bruce Lee.  Itís a shame to me that he died so young.  His amazing control over his body and explosive fighting style made him fun to watchÖand, hey, letís face it, he was quite easy on the eyes to boot.  In his movies, he was always the perfect hero - a flawed, but courageous handsome man, unwilling to watch others suffer when he could help.  His movies were what turned me on to martial arts and Fist of Fury was one of the first martial arts films I ever saw.

            In Fist of Fury, also known as The Chinese Connection, Bruce Lee is Chen Zhen has returned to Shanghai to ask Jingwu student Yuan (Nora Miao) to marry him.  Unfortunately, he arrives to discover that his teacher, Huo Yuanjia, has died.  When Chen Zhen is told that his teacher died of pneumonia, he doesnít believe it knowing Huo Yuanjia to have been of a strong, healthy disposition.  He is even more disbelieving when members of the Bushido School interrupt his teacherís memorial to challenge Jingwu School

            As Chen Zhen investigates, he reveals a Japanese infiltration into the Chinese Jingwu School, ending in the poisoning of his beloved teacher.  Chen Zhen vows revenge against his teacherís killers, hunting them down one by one with an inhuman vengeance.  But when Jingwu Schoolís students receive retribution for his actions, Chen Zhen is forced to make some difficult decisions.

            As one of the first martial arts film I ever saw, I was amazed by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury and I loved trying to copy his moves in this film, even down to the crazy noises he makes while fighting.  This is the first time we hear those signature sounds and I wonder as to their origin.  There is no doubt that they distract the opposition, but are they real, or a ploy to make the fight scenes more interesting to the audience.  In The Big Boss, Bruce Lee makes no such noises and the fight scenes are no less enjoyable, but who knows what filmmakers back then would do to enhance a scene.

            In my opinion, the side story of Chen Zhenís romance with Yuan is not explored enough and I would have liked to see some flashbacks to explain both the romance and his relationship with his beloved teacher.  It would have served to enhance the drama in the film.  That being said, there is enough of a storyline there to show off Bruce Leeís skill as an actor, allowing him to express anguish, despair, love, regret and anger through his facial expressions, vocal delivery and posture.  Bruce Lee has always been more than just an amazing martial artist - he was quite a credible actor as well.

            And, oh, the action scenes - brilliantly choreographed to show the power and control of the martial arts master at his best.  Moments of quite interrupted by explosive action make this movie a great deal of fun for movie-goers.  When Bruce Lee fights, it is always awesome to see, but this film adds nunchucks to the mix and it is amazing to see Bruce Leeís mastery of the weapon.  I know many of fan of this film who have played at nunchucks but never came close to duplicating Bruce Leeís prowess with that particular weapon in this movie.

            The DVD version of Fist of Fury that I purchased recently contains some extras, including a still gallery, slide show and movie trailers, but it was the interview with Yuen Wah that I found most interesting.  Yuen Wah worked as a stuntman in a couple of Bruce Leeís films and he talks about the experience as well as his training and more.  It was interesting to learn that Yuen Wah is in agreement with me about the martial arts films of today versus those made in Bruce Leeís time.  He believes that the newer films are not in the same league of the older ones and goes on to explain the differences in todayís martial arts training that account for this belief.  Iím in complete agreement with him.

            Fist of Fury is a definite must see for any martial arts movie fan and one of Bruce Leeís most influential films, its popularity spurring on a new style of martial arts filming.  Movies prior to Fist of Fury often featured weapons, mainly swords, but after Fists of Fury came the Golden Age of Kung Fu Cinema in which the focus was more on empty-handed fighting rather than good swordsmanship.  So far, this DVD set of Bruce Lee movies has proven to be an excellent purchase.  I canít wait to watch the rest.


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