Big Boss, The | aka Fists of Fury (1971) Review

"The Big Boss" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Big Boss" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Fists of Glory
Director: Lo Wei
Writer: Lo Wei
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Bruce Lee, Maria Yi, James Tien Chun, Han Ying Chieh, Nora Miao, Lee Kwan, Anthony Lau, Lam Ching Ying
Running Time: 115 min.

By James H.

There are movies with low production values and then there are movies with Lo Wei production values. This movie was made for $100,000, and it looks like it was made for $50,000. It is about a country bumpkin (Bruce Lee), who leaves the farm to pursue work in an ice factory. It is then revealed the boss of the factory is a drug lord. As you may have guessed, fights and carnage ensue.

The film itself looks very cheap. The direction is lacking, the editing is choppy and it looks like a home movie. Despite these elements, it’s still a fun, entertaining movie. It is not the groundbreaking film Bruce Lee fanatics make it out to be. The reason it has been touted as the unprecedented event in cinema is because it was so violent. It may have been groundbreaking by HK standards, but North America already witnessed Sam Peckinpah?s “The Wild Bunch”, a film that broke more rules than “The Big Boss”.

The American version is titled “Fists of Fury”, which just happens to be the version I saw. The print looks tired and faded, the music is terrible and the dubbing is about as bad as you can get. But still, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the campiness of it all. Let’s face it, the fights are not that good, and they are incredibly hokey and unbelievable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun movie for a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. It just doesn’t have all the right elements to become a true classic, but it is definitely a cult classic.

James H’s Rating: 6/10


By Tyler

The plot is your basic chop-sockey story line. Cheng Chao An is brought to Thailand by his Uncle. Upon arrival he meets his relatives, and a cute girl (Maria Yi). The next day he starts work at an ice factory where he accidentally breaks a large piece of ice containing a white pouch. The two workers that see the package disappear, killed by a rich womanizing boss. After two other workers disappear the workers refuse to work until the find their friends. This causes a Kung Fu brawl which leads Chenge Chao An (Bruce Lee) to beating the crap out of the thugs. This causes (inadvertainly) his whole family getting killed, and the cute girl getting kidnapped. Cheng Chao An rather then calling the police takes the appropriate action in getting revenge on the Big Boss.

Your basic Kung Fu plot which kinder to downtrodden Cantonese people. For an amateur in working with film, Bruce Lee does well in portraying a strange hero in a different country. He lets humor,confusion, anger, and humility to his fight choreography. His acting is not as up to par as it was in Fist of Fury, but his presence is demanding.

My favorite scene in this film is when Bruce Lee goes to kill the big boss. When Lee meets his henchmen first and resorts to beating them with unparalleled grace. The campiness of the 70’s did take it’s toll on the film, but Bruce obviously had some input in the film. One scene when Bruce sticks his fingers in the main villains stomach, causing him to bleed feverishly is just too laughable. Another weird scene is when Bruce kicks the a knife into a villains chest.

Big Boss was Bruce Lee’s first film, and brought him into the main stream The filmmakers original director Wu Chia Hsiang quit because of the films low budget, which Lo Wei was allowed to finish the film. Big Boss was the second Bruce Lee film I saw. This film is what also got me interested in Bruce Lee. I always loved this film for it’s campiness, and raw ridiculous action. The film reflects a downtrodden Cantonese man who retaliates against his corrupt employer. One of the greatest macho fantasies ever. Beating up your boss.

Tyler’s Rating: 7/10


By Alvin George

Fists of Fury, also known as The Big Boss, is a pretty good martial arts movie. Bruce Lee is awesome, even though he’s dubbed and he doesn’t make all those animal-like fighting sounds he made in Enter the Dragon. Without Bruce Lee, no one would probably have ever of Jackie Chan or Samo Hung, not to mention any of those various fake stand-ins (Bruce Li, Bruce Leung, Bruce Le, etc.) I also liked the Lalo Schifrin-like music score, which made me think that Clint Eastwood was gonna come out any second with his .44 Magnum.

If you need to get an English-dubbed verson, get the Fox Video copy. I bought the film in a two-pack along with The Chinese Connection (aka Fist of Fury), one made by Madacy (I think). The characters in that copy (naturally an EP dub) all look skinny (like Paula Abdul in her Promise of a New Day music video), and it’s not just during the opening credits. (For those of you who don’t know, many of the ’70s films shot using such widescreen formats like Panavision got squished during the opening credits so that the credits could all be on the screen when shown on TV. This was true of the edited-for-TV version of Dirty Harry, among others.)

Alvin George’s Rating: 7/10


By Amir

In October 1971, an actor by the name of Bruce Lee attended the midnight premier of his first film, The Big Boss. When the movie ended, a stunned audience remained perfectly silent for a few seconds. Suddenly the entire theater was filled with thunderous applause. Within three weeks, the film smashed box office records in Hong Kong and later throughout the world. The king of Kung Fu had arrived. Years after its release, The Big Boss remains a powerful cinematic event. Long before Hong Kong Cinema gained respect for its graceful combination of violence and drama, this ultra low budget flick single handedly showcased something new to the world of motion picture: Realistic Violence!!!

The Big Boss did for martial arts/action movies what Elvis Presley did for music, it made it uncensored and wild. For today’s generation, Bruce Lee’s first film is still a remarkable entertaining action film; the fights are violently and beautifully staged, the story is simple and justifies the blood and violence, which is rare to find in any movie. There is also Bruce Lee, who is a wonder to watch. He becomes the character, making each fast punch and flying kick even more real. Produced for a budget of only 100 thousand dollars, The Big Boss delivers more action than anything Hollywood can offer.

The American version contains hilarious dubbing, bad sound effects, and a muddy-color print, but the impact of this unique thriller can still make an audience stand and cheer.

Amir’s Rating: 10/10

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2 Responses to Big Boss, The | aka Fists of Fury (1971) Review

  1. Spirit31 says:

    To Tyler, this was not Bruce”s “first” film,as he starred in many films as a child. This was his first starring role.

    To Alvin, get your titles right. Its The Big Boss, aka Fists of Fury. Show some respect for the film’s original titles.

  2. Doktor Zimba says:

    I agree with Spirit31. On a site devoted to these films use the original English titles, none of this “Fists of Fury” or “The Chinese Connection”.
    Listed as aka-titles, fine, but as main-titles, no!

    For the English dub I would rather recommend the old original Hong Kong dub, not the American dub. It’s a much more old-skool kung-fu flick style dub. More fun.

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