The Big Boss

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"Fists of Fury" redirects here. For the 1972 film, see Fist of Fury.
This article is about the film starring Bruce Lee. For other uses, see Big Boss (disambiguation).
The Big Boss
TheBigBossposter.JPG
Hong Kong movie poster
Traditional 唐山大兄
Simplified 唐山大兄
Mandarin Táng Shān Dà Xiōng
Cantonese Tong4 Saan1 Daai6 Hing1
Directed by Lo Wei
Produced by Raymond Chow
Written by Bruce Lee
Lo Wei
Starring Bruce Lee
Maria Yi
James Tien
Yin-chieh Han
Tony Liu
Music by Wang Fu-ling
Cinematography Chan Ching Kui
Edited by Sung Ming
Distributed by Golden Harvest
Release date(s)
  • 3 October 1971 (1971-10-03)
Running time 110 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese
Box office HK $3,197,417
North America:
$2,800,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Big Boss (Chinese: 唐山大兄, also known as Fists Of Fury) is a 1971 Hong Kong martial arts action film written and directed by Lo Wei, with assistance from Bruce Lee. It stars Lee, Maria Yi, James Tien and Tony Liu. Bruce Lee's first major film, it was written for James Tien. However, Lee's strong performance overshadowed Tien, already a star in Hong Kong, and made Bruce Lee famous across Asia.

Plot[edit]

Cheng is a Chinese man from mainland China who moves to Thailand to live with his cousins and works in an ice factory. When a block of ice is accidentally broken, a bag of white powder falls out. Two of Cheng's cousins are asked to see the manager. The factory is really a front for a drug smuggling ring led by Hsiao Mi, also known as the Big Boss. When they refuse to cooperate, they are killed and their bodies disposed of.

Hsu Chien and another cousin is sent to Hsiao Mi's house where he has them killed for asking questions. The men at the factory then riot. To ease tensions, Hsiao Mi now makes Cheng a foreman, providing him with alcohol and prostitutes. One of the prostitutes, named Sun (Sun had sex with Cheng the night he was drunk at Hsiao Mi's party the night before), tells Cheng the truth. However, immediately after Cheng leaves from his talk with Sun, Hsiao Mi's son, Hsiao Chiun, who was assigned by his father to kill Sun (since he knew Sun was going to tell Cheng the truth), sneaks through the door and instantly kills Sun by throwing a knife at her heart. Sun's body is then disposed of in the ice factory, just like Cheng's cousins. The next night, Cheng breaks into the factory and finds his cousins' bodies, and also Sun's body. There, he is discovered by the gangsters.

Cheng fights his way out, killing a lot of gangsters and Hsiao Chiun in the process. When he returns home, he finds that almost all of his family have been murdered, and Chiao Mei has gone missing. Cheng exacts revenge by killing Hsiao Mi in a final fight. After seeing that Chiao Mei is safe, he then surrenders to the Thai police, who arrive shortly after he has disposed of Hsiao Mi.

Cast[edit]

Alternative title confusion[edit]

When The Big Boss was being prepared for American distribution, it was to be retitled The Chinese Connection, a play on the popular The French Connection, since both dealt with drug trafficking. The title of Lee's second film, Fist of Fury, was to be identical, except for being Fists of Fury. However, the titles were accidentally reversed. The Big Boss was released as Fists of Fury and Fist of Fury became The Chinese Connection. Film purists refer to the films by their original titles. Recent American TV showings and the official US DVD release from Twentieth Century-Fox have restored the original titles of all Bruce Lee films.

Alternative music scores[edit]

Unlike other Lee films, The Big Boss is unique in having not only two, but three completely different music scores. Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and Game of Death all only feature one score with minor alterations.

The first music score for it was composed by Wang Fu-ling, who worked on films such as The Chinese Boxer and One-Armed Swordsman. This was made for the Mandarin language version and the first English version. It similar to other martial arts movie scores, especially the Shaw Brothers films. Wang was the only one to receive credit, but it is also believed composer Chen Yung-yu assisted with the score.

The second and most popular of the music scores was by German composer Peter Thomas. This did not become widely known until 2005, when most of the music he composed for the film appeared on iTunes in a Big Boss collection. Thomas's involvement stems from a complete reworking of the English version of the film. The early version featured the British voice actors who worked on all Shaw Brothers films and used Wang Fu-ling's score. It was decided to make a new English version that would stand out from the other martial arts films. New actors were brought in to voice the film in English, and Peter Thomas (composer) re-scored the film, abandoning Wang Fu-ling's music. The German dubbed version features his score, especially in the German title of the film in the iTunes compilation.

The third score is the 1983 Cantonese release score, which primarily features music from Golden Harvest composer Joseph Koo. However, a good portion of Joseph Koo's music in the Cantonese version was originally created in 1974 for the Japanese theatrical release of The Big Boss, which was half Koo's music and half Peter Thomas'. Golden Harvest simply took Koo's music from the Japanese version and added it to the Cantonese version. Aside from this, this version is most infamous for its use of the Pink Floyd music cues "Time" and "Obscured by Clouds", as well as King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two".

Other actors as Bruce Lee playing Cheng Chao-an[edit]

Various Bruce Lee biopics have been filmed over the years, with the two most famous being Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Both of these films feature their respective actors, Bruce Li and Jason Scott Lee, at one point acting as Lee on the set of The Big Boss. Both films feature a variation of the rumor that Lee was challenged on the set by a Thai boxer. In Myth, Lee was challenged on set and was caught in the middle of an ambush later on off the set. In Dragon, Lee is challenged during an actual take during filming of The Big Boss, wearing the trademark rolled up long sleeve white T-shirt, white sash, and black pants. Both of these are highly exaggerated accounts (not to mention that Dragon makes the mistake of saying that filming for The Big Boss began in July 1970 rather than in July 1971), as the story told is that Lee merely discusses martial arts with a Thai fighter on the set. Besides these two examples, a third Bruce Lee biopic, The Legend of Bruce Lee, this time with Danny Chan Kwok Kwan as Lee and filmed in mini-series form, was shown in Hong Kong in 2008 as part of China's hosting of the summer Olympics. Once again, this biopic shown Lee encountering a Thai boxer on the set of The Big Boss, this time with the challenger being played by martial arts film veteran Mark Dacascos. Photos and behind-the-scenes video of this scene have appeared on various websites, including Dacascos's official site.

Release[edit]

  • Upon its release The Big Boss became the highest-grossing film in the history of Hong Kong and remained unsurpassed until Bruce Lee's second film, Fist of Fury.
  • When the film was released in the United States, the death of Hsiao Mi, "The Boss", was cut down to him simply being stabbed in the chest with a knife in order to receive an "R" rating. The original version of his death, which not only shows an explicit close-up of the knife in his chest but Cheng Chao-an's fingers piercing his rib cage and blood flowing from under his shirt, would have given the film an "X" rating. Ironically, the first time this scene was shown in the US was when it played on cable channel AMC in July 2004.
  • Columbia pictures released the film as a re-issue in 1978 and again re-issued it with Fist Of Fury as a studio sanctioned double feature in February 1981.
  • Miramax acquired rights from Golden Harvest to distribute The Big Boss on Television & Streaming it on Hulu & Netflix including Bruce Lee The Legend (1977) & Game Of Death (1978).

VHS releases[edit]

4 Front (United Kingdom)

  • Released: 17 March 1997
  • Classification: 18

4 Front(United Kingdom)

  • Released: 1 October 2001
  • Part of a boxset
  • Classification: 18

20th Century Fox (America)

  • Released: 21 May 2002
  • Named Fists of Fury
  • Classification: R, X (known in some video releases)
  • Color: NTSC
  • Run time: 99 minutes

DVD releases[edit]

Universe (Hong Kong)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) letterboxed
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese
  • Supplements: Trailer, trailers for Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, Game of Death, Legacy of Rage, star files
  • All regions, NTSC

Mega Star (Hong Kong)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:29:1)
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean
  • Supplements: Trailer, synopsis, cast and Crew biographies
  • All regions, NTSC

Fortune Star – Bruce Lee Ultimate DVD Collection (Hong Kong)

  • Released: 29 April 2004
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: Cantonese (DTS 5.1), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Mandarin (DTS 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English
  • Supplements: Original trailer, new trailer, still photos, slideshow of photos, celebrity interviews, unseen footage, Game of Death outtakes, Enter the Dragon alternate opening, 32-page booklet
  • Region 3, NTSC

Fox (America)

  • Released: 21 May 2002
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:27:1) letterboxed
  • Sound: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Supplements: None
  • Region 1, NTSC

Fox – Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection (America)

  • Released: 18 October 2005
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Manadarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Supplements: Original trailer, new trailer, still photos, slideshow of photos, interview with Tung Wai, bonus trailers
  • Region 1, NTSC

Hong Kong Legends – Special Collector's Edition (United Kingdom)

  • Released: 6 November 2000
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Dutch
  • Supplements: Commentary by Bey Logan, production photo gallery, animated biography showcase of Bruce Lee with voice over, original Mandarin trailer, Hong Kong promotional trailer, UK promotional trailer, bonus trailers
  • Region 2, PAL

Hong Kong Legends – Platinum Edition (United Kingdom)

  • Released: 23 October 2006
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono), English (2.0 Dual Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Dutch
  • Supplements: Disc 1: Commentary by Andrew Staton and Will Johnston, bonus trailers; Disc 2: UK platinum trailer, UK promotional trailer, original Mandarin trailer, Hong Kong promotional trailer, rare uncut 8mm UK trailer, original 35mm UK title sequence, textless 35mm title sequence, original lobby cards, "Paul Weller: Breaking the West", "Fred Weintraub: A Rising Star", "Tom Kuhn: What Might Have Been", "The History of The Big Boss: A Photographic Retrospective", "Deleted Scenes Examined: The Story of the Elusive Original Uncut Print", animated biography showcase of Bruce Lee with voice over, DVD credits
  • Region 2, PAL

Blu-ray Disc release[edit]

Kam & Ronson (Hong Kong)

  • Released: 6 August 2009
  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1)
  • Sound: Cantonese (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1), Cantonese (Dolby True HD 7.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital EX 6.1), Thai (Dolby Digital EX 6.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, English, Thai
  • Supplements: Tung Wai interview
  • Region A

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19

External links[edit]