Bruce Lee’s ‘Demonic Whirlwind’ Quality Proved Crucial to the Success of His Iconic Film in 1971

Bruce Lee’s ‘Demonic Whirlwind’ Quality Proved Crucial to the Success of His Iconic Film in 1971

As Terry Pratchett asks, ‘Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?’ The name that flashes in many of our minds is Bruce Lee. From child actor to martial arts legend, Bruce Lee’s journey as a movie actor was phenomenal. The film that made Bruce Lee’s name a Hollywood sensation was ‘The Big Boss’. The film became a massive success, and Bruce Lee was hailed for his performance bringing him much-needed fandom in 1971. Snippets from Matthew Polly’s Biography, Bruce Lee: A Life, reveal Lo Wei, the director of the film, taking on the film’s success. Lo Wei considered Bruce Lee’s fight sequences were the cornerstone of the film’s popularity.
Per Lo Wei, Lee took utmost care while filming action sequences for the film. Let us see how.

Bruce Lee’s strategy of extra-long shots
Most action sequences in the movies are shot after months of training and practice by the stars. But in the case of ‘The Big Boss’, the hero, Bruce Lee, was himself a martial arts pro. The director says in a 1988 interview, ” Everyone else in The Big Boss looks like they are playing patty-cake, while Bruce is a demonic whirlwind.”

It wasn’t easy for the director-actor duo, Lo Wei and Bruce Lee, to film the action sequences considering the audience of their film. The Hongkongers were well-versed in Kung Fu and could easily decipher any photographic gimmick. So, to ensure that the fight scenes are well-captured by the camera without causing any suspicion in the minds of the audience, Lee and Wei developed a strategy.
They resorted to extra-long takes, with a few as long as 20 seconds or more. ” What Lee would do was choreograph a fight and let the camera run so you knew it wasn’t phony,” tells Michale Kaye. “ Remember, Lee was dealing with a local audience who knew Kung Fu and they would have been able to tell if it is phony,” he adds. Michale Kaye is one of the Golden Harvest (the company behind Hong Kong’s top martial arts stars, including Lee) directors.

In the end, they were in a frenzyBruce, his wife Linda, and his children landed in Hong Kong for the premier screening of ‘The Big Boss’. They were some apprehensions in the minds of makers before the release, but fate proved otherwise. In the words of Bruce Lee, as quoted in the book, ” As the movie progressed we kept looking at the reaction of the fans, they hardly made any noise at the beginning.“
The end, however, made Bruce Lee let out a sigh of relief. ” But at the end, they were in frenzy and began clapping and clamoring,” he added. And that was the night that introduced the star of the century, Bruce Lee to the world.

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