The Big Boss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"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
Han Ying-chieh
Tony Liu
Music by Wang Fu-ling
Cinematography Chan Ching-kui
Edited by Sung Ming
Distributed by Golden Harvest
Release dates
  • 3 October 1971 (1971-10-03)
Running time
110 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Mandarin
Cantonese
Box office HK$3,197,417
US$2,800,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Big Boss (Chinese: 唐山大兄) 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. Lee's first major film, it was written for James Tien. However, when the film's original director, Ng Kar-seung, was replaced by Lo, Lee was given the leading role instead.[2] Lee's strong performance overshadowed Tien, already a star in Hong Kong, and made Bruce Lee famous across Asia.

Plot[edit]

Cheng Chao-an (Bruce Lee) is a Chinese man from mainland China who moves to Thailand to live with his cousins and work in an ice factory. He meets his cousin Hsu Chien (James Tien) and Hsu's younger brother by accident when Hsu Chien stands up to local street thugs - Cheng Chao-an had largely stayed out of the fracas as he swore to his mother he would resist participating in any fighting.

Cheng begins work at the ice factory. When a block of ice is accidentally broken, a bag of white powder falls out. Two of Cheng's cousins pick up the bag, and 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 Cheng's cousins refuse to cooperate, they are killed and their bodies disposed of.

Hsu Chien and another cousin go to Hsiao's compound to find out what happened to the two cousins. Hsu doubts Hsiao's claims he does not know what happened to them and threatens to go to the police. Hsiao has the duo killed before they can leave. When the workers at the ice factory learn that Hsu is missing as well, they start to riot. To ease tensions, Hsiao makes Cheng a foreman, providing him with alcohol and prostitutes.

Cheng gets drunk at Hsiao's dinner party and is seduced by Sun Wuman one of the prostitutes. She later warns Cheng that his life is in danger if he goes after Hsiao, and that Hsiao is running a drug trafficking operation. Immediately after Cheng leaves, Hsiao's son, Hsiao Chiun, sneaks in and kills Sun by throwing a knife at her heart. Sun's body is disposed of in the ice factory, just as Cheng's cousins were. Cheng breaks into the factory and finds the bodies, and is discovered by the gangsters.

Cheng fights his way out, killing Hsiao Chiun and many gangsters in the process. He returns home to find that almost all of his family have been murdered, while Chiao Mei has gone missing. Cheng exacts revenge by killing Hsiao Mi in a final fight. Once he knows that Chiao Mei is safe, he surrenders to the Thai police when they arrive at Hsiao's house.

Cast[edit]

  • Bruce Lee as Cheng Chao-an (Chinese: 鄭潮安; Cantonese Yale: Zeng Ciu-On), a young man who, along with his uncle, travels from China to Pak Chong, Thailand to stay with his cousins.
  • Maria Yi as Chiao Mei, a typical "damsel in distress". She is Cheng's only female cousin.
  • James Tien as Cousin Hsu Chien, a martial artist who gets into fights with the local gangs.
  • Han Ying-chieh as Hsiao Mi ("The Big Boss") owner of an ice factory which is really a front for his drug dealing.
  • Lee Kwan as Cousin Kun
  • Tony Liu as Hsiao Chiun, Hsiao Mi's son.
  • Chih Chen: Sheng, the ice factory's foreman.
  • Chia Ching-tu as Uncle Lu, Cheng's uncle.
  • Kam San as Cousin Shan
  • Billy Chan Wui-ngai as Cousin Pei
  • Lam Ching-ying as Cousin Yen (also Assistant Action Director of the film)
  • Peter Yang as Cousin Chen
  • Nora Miao as a local cold drinks vendor.
  • Peter Chan as Hsiao Mi's henchman
  • Marilyn Bautista as Miss Sun Wuman
  • Rhoma Irama as Xin Chang

Original Mandarin cut[edit]

When the film was released in 1971 in Hong Kong, it included scenes that were later removed from all the mainstream versions. This was a result of the "1972 Hong Kong movie censorship crackdown", when martial arts films were censored for extreme violence and explicit content. When these cuts were asked to be made, editors also took the opportunity to cut out full sequences, most likely to increase the pacing of the film. These were the scenes that were cut:[3]

  • Longer fight between Cheng Chao-An/Hsiu Chien against the gambling den bouncers, in which the bouncers try to run the two over with a burning cart.
  • A scene of dialog with Hsiu bragging about the aforementioned fight to the other cousins and their uncle once they've returned home.
  • A scene of dialog with Chiao Mei, Cheng and their uncle before going back to the ferry dock.
  • A scene of dialog between Cheng and the drink stand girl (Nora Miao) after Bruce sees his uncle off at the ferry docks.
  • Longer and more graphic scene of the first two cousins' deaths via large circular saws.
  • Longer fight between Hsiu and Hsiao Chiun featuring a shot of Hsiu with blood literally squirting out of his head due to a knife attack.
  • A cut from the banquet scene where Cheng gets drunk. While his vision blurs, he hallucinates and sees Sun Wuman topless, and it quickly changes to an image of Chiao Mei.
  • More bodies shown in the ice blocks when Cheng is investigating at the ice factory.
  • The infamous "saw in the head" scene in which Cheng slams a handsaw into a villain's head
  • Slightly extended scene with Cheng finding his cousins murdered.
  • An entirely deleted sequence of Cheng returning to the brothel prior to the final fight. He picks a prostitute in a red sweater (who is actually visible in the background the previous time Cheng visits the brothel), and they go to her room. They both completely strip down, and they proceed to make love in bed. Cheng subsequently takes out all his remaining money, and lays it down on the prostitute's stomach while she's sleeping. He also then sees a bag of prawn crackers and decides to take them as a "last meal". This explains why he has the crackers when he shows up at the boss' mansion.
  • A second "blood tasting" shot, in which Cheng tastes the blood from his stomach when he's been cut with a knife by The Boss.

Most of these presumably-lost scenes were present in a print shown in London in 1979 as part of a Bruce Lee film festival, with the exception of the "saw-in-the-head" shot. Nowadays, the deleted shots and scenes exist in the eyes of the public only as still photos or quick snippets of footage in trailers, though there are supposedly collectors who possess copies of the footage, but such reports have yet to be confirmed as of 2016.

In 2004, special version with unknown features was announced on DVD by budget DVD company Video Asia entitled The Big Boss: The Version You've Never Seen!. It raised high hopes but the DVD never came out. Presumably due to copyright issues, it remains unknown when the original version will see a release in home media.

Alternative title confusion[edit]

When The Big Boss was being prepared for American distribution, the U.S. release was to be re-titled The Chinese Connection, a play on the popular The French Connection, since both dealt with drug trafficking. The U.S. title of Lee's second film, Fist of Fury was to be kept nearly the same, except for being Fists of Fury plural. However, the titles were accidentally reversed. The Big Boss was released as Fists of Fury and Fist of Fury became The Chinese Connection.[4] Film purists refer to the films by their original titles. Recent American TV showings and the official US DVD release from 20th Century Fox have restored the original titles of all Bruce Lee films.

Original Title Year Mistaken Release Title (A.K.A.[a]) Intended Release Title
The Big Boss 1971 Fists of Fury The Chinese Connection
Fist of Fury 1972 The Chinese Connection Fists of Fury

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 was also used in the English export version, in addition to the theatrical French and Turkish versions. It similar to other martial arts film 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. At least one cue from Japanese composer Akira Ifukube's scores for the Daimajin trilogy of films was also utilized as stock music.

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 Thomas 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 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. 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 distributed The Big Boss on television & streaming (Hulu & Netflix) along with Bruce Lee The Legend (1977), Game of Death, Way of the Dragon, and Fist of Fury.

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

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Also Known As (AKA)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973". Variety: 19. 9 January 1974. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Michael Ewins (2012-07-04). "In Review: The Big Boss on DVD". New Empress Magazine. Retrieved 2015-11-27. 
  3. ^ "Bruce Lee". Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  4. ^ "Alternate title confusion - The Big Boss (1972) - Chinese Kungfu Kaleidoscope". Cultural China. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 

External links[edit]