Turn Back the Clock

Martial Arts

The Big Boss

Distributed by Golden Harvest

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I really enjoy watching martial arts films, especially the ones I used to see on Black Belt Theatre when I was a kid.  Yes, some of the movies are cheesy, but most are incredibly entertaining featuring some amazingly talented martial artists.  My favorite martial arts movie actor of all time is Bruce Lee.  His fighting style was so explosive, yet so controlled - I used to marvel over his moves and that show of concentrated power and strength.  After every Bruce Lee movie I watched, I tried (rather disastrously) to perform his moves and just mimicking him made me feel so incredibly powerful.  I have all of his movies on VHS, but decided to get a hold of them on DVD for better movie quality and in order to save space.  And of course, each DVD had to be tested to make sure they worked - so I bring you a Turn Back the Clock review of The Big Boss.

            Also known as Fists of Fury, The Big Boss stars Bruce Lee as Cheng Chao-an, a Chinese man who has traveled to Thailand with his uncle to start a new life.  He leaves Guangdong with a heavy heart and a promise to his mother to stay out of trouble and not to fight, a promise reinforced by his motherís jade pendant that he wears around his neck.  As soon as he arrives in Pak Chong, Thailand with his uncle, Cheng realizes that this land is not any different from his own.  Bullies abound and, thanks to his promise, Cheng is helpless to aide the victims of these thugs.

            Luckily, his cousin Hsu Chien (James Tien) is bound by no such promise.  A highly respected individual in the community and no slouch in the fighting department, Hsu is a champion of his people, taking on the fight for the hapless victims of the local bullies.  Hsu introduces Cheng to his extended family and then gets him a job at the local ice factory.  It doesn't take long to realize that something very strange is happening at the ice factory.  There are secrets being kept there and factory workers have begun to disappear without a trace.

            When two of Cheng's cousins disappear, Hsu Chien and another cousin visit the Big Boss to get answers.  Unfortunately, the answers they receive are rather fatal.  With the disappearance of Hsu and his brother, Cheng's cousin Chiao Mei (Maria Yi) is at her wits end and the remaining cousins are angry, willing to strike to get answers.  Cheng takes on the foreman at the ice factory and is promoted to foreman himself.  The supervisor of the plant tries to deflect Cheng from his quest for answers, plying him with food, drink and women.  Unfortunately, this puts Cheng in an unfavorable light with his family as they begin to believe he has betrayed them.

            When Cheng returns to his original path of attempting to find out answers about his missing cousins, he is met with resistance of a most deadly kind.  Can Cheng discover the secret behind the ice factory and why the Big Boss and his thugs are so willing to make some of his best factory workers disappear to protect it?

            The Big Boss is one of those rare movies with an excellent storyline and a workable plot.  Bruce Lee is so incredibly charismatic an actor - utterly handsome and awesome to behold when engaged in battle - that the plot could have been non-existent and I would have loved the film anyway.  That's a plus, as there were some cheesy moments in the film that bore overlooking when compared to Bruce Lee's fighting prowess, like the scene in which Bruce Lee knocks one of Big Boss' thugs through a wall.  I had to laugh at that one - after all, how often does someone get knocked through a wall and leave a perfect cutout of himself in that wall?  And the blood - so unrealistic as to be laughable.  It looked like a sticky paste or perhaps that vampire's blood you squirt out of a tube on Halloween

            And yet, the choreography of the fight scenes and Bruce Lee's explosive fighting style are worth the moments of silly film trickery.  We don't get to see Bruce fight until the middle of the film, but when we do, it is awesome to behold.  This film was made in 1972 and doesn't feature all of the crazy, disconcerting Bruce Lee battle cries of later movies, allowing us to focus on his sheer power and mastery as a martial artist.  Just watching him in action, you can imagine him breaking enemies like so many twigs.  He's just so much fun to watch.

            I can't get enough of this film and found that I remembered quite a bit of it despite not having watched it in quite a while.  That's the impression Bruce Lee films can make on a martial arts movie fan.  The DVD version of The Big Boss that I purchased came complete with extras including a Bruce Lee Slideshow, a Stills Gallery, Movie Trailers and an Interview with Tung Wai.  I most appreciated this interview with Tung Wai in which another martial arts movie actor discusses his first meeting with Bruce Lee and the impression he made on Tung Wai's life.  One could tell simply from the interview just how impressed with Bruce Lee's abilities Tung Wai really was.

            In my opinion, no self respecting martial arts movie fan would ever miss an opportunity to watch Bruce Lee in action.  Of all the movie actors and martial artists out there today, there is only one I wish I could have had a chance to sit down and chat with - Bruce Lee.  I loved watching The Big Boss again and can't wait to re-watch all of the other Bruce Lee films I purchased.  Bruce Lee died entirely too young and the world is a lesser place having missed out on all he still had to offer.


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