Bruce Lee 30th Anniversary Box Set. The Bog Boss Review

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The Big Boss: Bruce takes on the scumbags that turned the ice-packing plant where he works into a front for heroin smuggling. Fist of Fury: Bruce exacts vengeance on the rival kung-fu school who murdered his teacher. Way of the Dragon: Bruce sorts out extortionists in a Chinese restaurant in Rome. Game of Death: Bruce plays a HK film star who fakes his own death in order to take out a crime syndicate.


Bruce Lee Lives! Well, not really, but given the almost overwhelming quantity of conspiracy theories surrounding the king of martial arts and his untimely death exactly 30 years ago, it's a tabloid headline itching to be written sooner or later.

So, although the man-myth does live on in a very real sense through his movies, the knotty issue of unravelling the star from the legends - let alone separating out the films - is a perpetual headache. One that often fogs the true brilliance of Lee's performances and his feline prowess as a martial artist.

Part of the complexity of the Lee legacy results from the sheer volume of films that seemed to flood the market after his death, confusion further compounded by the myriad of names by which they are known. The Big Boss also surfaces under the names Fists Of Fury and Fists Of Glory, whilst the film we normally know as Fist Of Fury also goes by the title The Chinese Connection (but The Iron Hand and School For Chivalry are also bandied about.)

And what about those "Dragon" movies? Well, Way Of The Dragon sometimes goes by the name Return Of The Dragon although it was widely released before Enter The Dragon. Got that?

Fist Of Fury is unique amongst Lee's work for two reasons: firstly because it is a historical drama and secondly because its plot - a basic murder/revenge premise - is heavily dressed in political occupational overtones. Although it is the closest that Lee comes to a "statement movie", that doesn't stop it containing some of his finest fight set pieces.

On show are incredible nunchaku routines, numerous examples of Lee's multiple opponent conflicts and a final showdown that features unusual camera trickery that creates a "tracer-effect" on his flaying arms - a stylistic flourish later borrowed wholesale by the Wachowski Brothers for The Matrix.

The true story that inspired Fist Of Fury was filmed in 1982 as Legend Of A Fighter, directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, who would later choreograph the action on all three Matrix films, Ang Lee's art-house crossover Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Tarantino's post-modern homage, Kill Bill.

Although Enter The Dragon is the most parodied of Lee's films, the basic plot device that drives The Big Boss is the most reworked. Here Lee is all suppressed anger, having promised his dear old uncle he would stay out of trouble (bless!).

Inevitably he is forced into action, accompanied by audience cheers, shades of which can be seen in dozens of subsequent films - Next Of Kin, Road House, The Karate Kid, Shanghai Affairs.

The latter was directed by and starred Blade II's Donnie Yen, who was also responsible for the stunning, but unrelated 1997 film New Big Boss. There is absolutely no pandering to western audiences in The Big Boss, no international element, just rural settings and kick-ass action, making it the purest of all Lee's films.

Game Of Death, on the other hand, is simply a curio. Lee abandoned filming in favour of working on Enter The Dragon, with the intention of returning to it at a later date. Five years after his death, additional footage was shot, including stand-ins for Lee, and a film was pieced together. The fight action is, of course, top notch, but there is such a feeling of scissors and sellotape that it is often hard to see beyond that.

Twenty years later, the same resurrection trick was performed on Lee's son Brandon when he died during filming of The Crow - a tragedy that only fuelled further ridiculous "Curse of the Dragon" theories.

A must for Lee fans.