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The Big Boss (1971) Poster

(1971)

Trivia

If you pay attention through the movie, you can tell when or not Cheng will kill in a fight. When it's just a "fun" fight, he would wear either brown or blue pants with a t-shirt and a blue sash. But in a serious fight, he'd wear a long sleeve shirt with black pants and a white sash. This may be because in Chinese culture, white is a symbol of death.
In 1971, this was the highest grossing film of all time in Hong Kong, beating out American productions The Sound of Music (1965) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).
The Thai brothel featured in the film was actually a genuine and functioning brothel. The extras who feature in these scenes (excluding Malalene's character) were actual prostitutes who were paid more by Golden Harvest than they would normally receive in a day by their clients so that they could appear in the film.
Bruce Lee was originally against two of director Wei Lo's ideas used in the film. First, was when one of the foremen was to be punched through a wooden wall. Wei wanted to leave the villain's outline in the wall, similar to something in a cartoon. Lee tried his best to change it, but somehow Wei got the upper hand. The second, and the most famous scene of the film, is the climactic "jump kick joust" between Lee and villain Han Yin-Chieh. Lee, once again, didn't like the idea due to its separation from realism. However, he gave in, and the shot was done.
While not mentioned in the film, a few books released in the '70s at the time of the film's release mentioned that Cheng Chao An was forced to make his promise to his mother after his father was killed in a fight. In order to continue the family name, Cheng's mother wanted to make sure he would not fall to the same fate and that he'd live to raise his own family. Film historian Bey Logan even mentions this in an audio commentary.
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The film was based on the true story of Cheng Chiu-on who fought the tyrants in Thailand. Cheng lived at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 20th century. A memorial statue of him was erected in a garden in the Bangkok more than 80 years ago.
The original director was Ng Gar Seung, however, he was replaced by Wei Lo a few weeks into production. The original star was also James Tien, who plays Hsiu Chien, while Bruce Lee was to be a co-star. However, when directors changed, the stars switched, giving Lee top billing. This may also be part of the reason why Lee does not fight until halfway through the film.
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The mansion of the film's villain was, and still is, a Thai mausoleum. Usually, due to Chinese superstition, another location would be chosen to avoid a movie from being cursed. However, whether it was time restraints or the appearance of the location, it was not made public that it was a mausoleum until the film was completed.
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The infamous saw scene (mentioned in the alternate versions section) apparently was shown only once to an open public and that was the film's original premiere in the fall of 1971 in Hong Kong. Co-star Maria Yi herself said it was present in the film but didn't look very realistic. Ironically, this was part of the rumor for years as to why the scene was never shown again.
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There have been at least three publicity photos in which Bruce Lee is shown attacking stuntman Peter Ho-Sun Chan (he is shown as the man wearing a tucked in blue t-shirt and blue jeans) with a flying side kick during the fight with The Boss's remaining henchmen in the finale. However, Chan's character was not present in this fight whatsoever in the final film. One of these photos is most widely seen on the back of the original CBS-FOX VHS release of the film... and is also horizontally reversed.
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Despite being credited for the music score in every release of the film, Hui-Ling Wang actually only composed music for the original Mandarin version. Peter Thomas composed the score for the English dubbed versions while Joseph Koo composed new tracks and chose stock music (including music from Don Peake's score for The Hills Have Eyes (1977)) for the Cantonese dubbed version in the early 80s.
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The international (English) title of this film was "The Big Boss". In the United States the English dubbed version was originally to be released under the title "The Chinese Connection", a play on the title of the highly popular film The French Connection (1971). For some reason the title was changed to "Fists of Fury". As a result, to avoid confusion with Bruce Lee's following film The Chinese Connection (1972) (known elsewhere in the world as "Fist of Fury"), the latter film's title for its U.S. release became first "The Iron Hand" and then "The Chinese Connection".
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Not once in the film does Hsiao Mi (The "Big Boss") actually leave the area of his mansion.
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In the first week of filming, Bruce Lee was increasingly annoyed by the haphazard production. The equipment used for filming was old and in bad repair and the script consisted of a few basic ideas scribbled on scraps of paper.
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Wei Lo was a compulsive gambler and was far more concerned with what was going on at the racetrack than what was happening on the film set. Because sound was not recorded at the same time as the action was filmed, he arranged to have the commentary of the horse races booming across the set while the actors were attempting to rehearse a scene. Bruce Lee was incensed by his lack of involvement in the film.
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Bruce Lee sprained his ankle badly while landing awkwardly from a jump. He couldn't move properly and was also racked with aches and fever and was having difficulty keeping food down. Even so, filming continued. His twisted ankle meant that he had to drag his injured leg, so in several scenes he had to be filmed in closeup. He also broke a glass in his hand, resulting in a gash that required ten stitches. While at the hospital in Bangkok, he caught flu and rapidly lost ten pounds.
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Although Ying-Chieh Han was the official fight coordinator, Bruce Lee took control of his own fight scenes almost immediately. When there was some dispute, he would disrupt filming by some little strategy such as 'losing' one of his contact lenses while filming in the ice-cutting factory where there were thousands of tiny ice chips on the floor.
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When the film was first screened in Hong Kong, a stunned silence followed it for a few seconds that was followed by complete uproar. Bruce Lee was mobbed as he tried to leave the theatre.
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Scenes cut from the film:

. 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.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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