The Big Boss (1971, Lo Wei)

This is the second movie I’ve watched this year after Cold Weather that partly takes place at an ice factory. In this one, incompetent drug dealers are hiding packets of heroin inside blocks of ice… which are transparent. When a couple of employees find the nondescript packets, the baddies tell them there’s heroin inside, then murder the entire workforce. Strange logic abounds, but this is also a movie that was partly written during filming – per Matthew Polly in the extras, the first half was Bruce Lee’s screen test, and it was decided during filming that James Tien would get killed off and Lee take over the movie.

James, far right, wondering if he’s doomed:

A good, violent movie, though it was touch-and-go during that first half. Mostly low-rent and effective, badly dubbed with a bit of style (aka whip-pans). Even in the modern Criterion HD remaster the music sounds like it’s being played on a faulty tape machine. All the movie’s precision comes in the form of Bruce. Said to have been a dancer who fights with a cha-cha tempo, his first action scene makes the flailing clumsiness of the movie’s first half disappear.

Bodies in the ice:

The drug dealers are led by Big Boss Ying-Chieh Han – before Bruce kicks his ass, he frees the Boss’s pet parakeet as a power move. To get to this confrontation, every single person Bruce knows has to be murdered, so the movie’s death toll is high. Some weird humor in here too – Bruce apparently doesn’t know how liquor works and downs a half-bottle of cognac while out with his boss. Later he’s making growling monkeywolf noises as he Wile-E-Coyotes a guy through a wooden wall.

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