Essential Viewing for fans of ‘The Raid: Redemption’ – 15 Classic Martial Arts Films
Not long ago, Sound on Sight’s editor Ricky D emailed myself and fellow contributor Michael Ryan for the purpose of compiling some of our individual favourite martial arts pictures to celebrate The Raid‘s theatrical release across North American this Easter weekend. I would never consider myself to be a scholar of the genre, but it is true that I do tend to go back to martial arts films on a consistent basis when I have I craving for high-octane action. I think it has to do with the fact that what the performers pull off actually can be done if one practices long and hard enough. You can round-house kick someone in the face or brutally beat up a group of thugs with nunchucks but you could never levitate off the ground on bend metal with your mind, fun as it may be to watch movies in which characters perform those acts. I will never round-house kick someone in the face because I am too lazy to learn how, but it’s fun to think that I could…
1- The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury)
Directed by Lo Wei
Hong Kong, 1971
For whatever reason, when people think about Bruce Lee, the first film which springs to mind is Enter the Dragon. I have no idea why since that movie is a sham. The second obvious pick is Fist of Fury, (not Fists) eventually remade in the early 90s as Fist of Legend, the latter which starred Jet Li. That is a great movie, make no mistake about it, but it is The Big Boss, the movie that shot Bruce Lee into stardom which seems to win my heart the easiest. It’s a bit cheaper, a bit rougher around the edges and a bit more on the exploitation side of the spectrum of film genres.
Lee stars as a poor young man from mainland China who, at the behest of his uncle’s council, moves to another town for work in an ice block carving factory. Unbeknownst to them at the start of the film, their boss is using the factory as a front for his drug smuggling operations. Lee gets to know some of his cousins and make new friends who also work at the same plant, but when they start suspecting something is amiss, a few of them die (surprise!). Of course, it is up to Lee to save the remainder of his family and stop the ‘big boss’ from getting away with his scheme.
This movie is amazing, but amazing in that ‘wow, this movie is kind of on the cheap scale but still manages to be brilliant in a early 70s kung fu style sort of way’. You know what I mean, right? It is perhaps the Lee film (among his major films at least) which features the least amount of action, but it is there and it is pretty cool What’s more, The Big Boss is what started the entire running joke about Bruce Lee growling like a dog joke and yelling ‘Whhoooooaaaahhhhh!’ whenever beating the living daylights out of opponents. The first ever appearance of the legendary sound effects occurs about halfway through. Lee is staring off against another man. Slowly, they circle one another, their glares burning. Suddenly, Lee shifts his head ever so slightly (presumably to unsettle his opposite) and the soundtrack booms with ‘Oooah!’, only to be followed with ‘Ggggrrrrrrrr…’ When the kicks and punches start flying, Lee is the quickest of the bunch, a formula 1 car in the shape of a martial artists next to everybody’s ordinary Nissan.