Fist of Fury (1972)

 
Fist of Fury (also known as The Chinese Connection) is a 1972 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Lo Wei, starring Bruce Lee in his second major role after The Big Boss (1971). Lee plays Chen Zhen, a student of Huo Yuanjia, who fights to defend the honor of the Chinese in the face of foreign aggression, and to bring to justice those responsible for his master’s death.

Running time 106 minutes


Version 2

 

Plot

In early 20th century Shanghai, Chen Zhen returns to Jingwu School to marry his fiancée. However, he learns that his master Huo Yuanjia has died, apparently from illness, which devastates Chen. During the funeral, people from a Japanese dojo in Hongkou District arrive to taunt the Jingwu students. Wu En, translator and advisor for the Japanese dojo’s grandmaster Hiroshi Suzuki (the villain of the film), taunts Chen by slapping him on the cheek several times, and dares him to fight one of Suzuki’s protégés. They present a sign to Jingwu School, bearing the words “Sick Man of East Asia”, seemingly to insult Huo Yuanjia, describing the Chinese as “weaklings” in comparison to the Japanese. The protégé taunts the Jingwu students to fight him and promises, “I’ll eat those words if any Chinese here dare to fight and defeat me”. Chen Zhen wants to retaliate, but is prevented from doing so by Fan Junxia, the most senior student in the school.

Shortly afterwards, Chen Zhen goes to the Hongkou dojo alone to return the sign. He winds up fighting the Japanese students, defeating all of them, including their sensei, single-handedly. He smashes the glass on the sign and makes the students who taunted him earlier chew up the paper bearing the derogatory words, so as to make them literally “eat their words”.

Later, Chen takes a stroll to a park. A Sikh guard refuses him entry, due to a posted sign that forbids dogs and Chinese in the park. After the guard allows a foreigner to bring her pet dog into the park, a Japanese man approaches Chen and tells him that if he behaves like a dog, he will be allowed to go in. Chen beats up the man and his friends in anger. After the fight, Chen breaks the sign. The guard blows his whistle to alert the police, but the citizens who watched the whole fight help Chen to escape the park.

The Japanese students and their master retaliate by attacking Jingwu School on Suzuki’s orders. After causing severe damage, the Japanese students leave. Wu, accompanying the Japanese students, warns Jingwu School to hand over Chen. Chen returns and realises that he has caused big trouble. His fellow students are reluctant to hand him over to the Japanese, so they make plans to help him escape from Shanghai.

That night, Chen discovers that Master Huo had all along been poisoned by Tian, the cook. Chen then sees Tian and Feng Guishi, the caretaker, talking. Chen kills Tian, followed by Feng while trying to determine why they killed Master Huo. Chen hangs Tian and Feng’s bodies from a lamp post. Chen’s fiancée, Yuan Li’er, finds him hiding near Huo’s grave, and they share a passionate moment together. Meanwhile, Suzuki forces the local police inspector, Inspector Lo, to arrest Chen, but he eludes them. Then, while Suzuki is entertaining his visiting friend Petrov, Chen kills Wu and hangs his body from the lamp post as well.

The angry Suzuki heads to the Japanese Consulate and reports Chen, then sends his men to Jingwu School to kill everyone inside. That same night, Chen barges into the dojo to take his revenge, killing the students’ master, Yoshida, Petrov, and Suzuki. Chen returns to Jingwu School and finds most from Jingwu School and the Hongkou dojo dead. However, a few Jingwu students – among them Yuan, Fan Junxia, and Xu – remain, as they had also been searching for Chen at the grave site, acting on a tip from Yuan. Inspector Lo arrives at Jingwu to arrest Chen, who agrees to surrender himself to Lo to protect his master’s legacy. Lo tells Chen that he can always trust him since he is Chinese. As they exit the school, Chen faces a line of armed Japanese soldiers and officials at the outer gate, all pointing their weapons at him. Furious, Chen charges the line and makes a flying kick as gunshots sound.

Cast

Bruce Lee as Chen Zhen
Nora Miao as Yuan Li’er (Yuan Le-erh), Chen Zhen’s fiancée. The character’s name is never mentioned in the film.
Riki Hashimoto as Hiroshi Suzuki, the master of the Hongkou dojo
Robert Baker as Petrov, a Russian gang boss and Suzuki’s friend
Tien Feng as Fan Junxia (Fan Chun-hsia), the eldest student in Jing Wu School
Paul Wei as Wu En, Suzuki’s translator
Fung Ngai as Yoshida, the head instructor in the Hongkou dojo
Lo Wei as Inspector Lo, the police inspector
Huang Tsung Hsing as Tian, the cook in Jing Wu School
Han Ying-chieh as Feng Guishi (Feng Kwai-sher), the caretaker in Jing Wu School
James Tien as Fan Jiaqi (Fan Chia-chi), a Jing Wu student
Maria Yi as Yen, a female Jing Wu student
Lee Kwan as Xu, a Jing Wu student
Jackie Chan as a Jing Wu Student (Special Appearance)

Robert Baker was a student and friend of Bruce Lee’s and was recommended for the role by Lee. His voice was dubbed in the Cantonese and Mandarin versions by Lee as well.

Title

Fist of Fury was accidentally released in the U.S. under the title The Chinese Connection. That title was a means of tapping the popularity of another film, The French Connection (starring Gene Hackman), released in the U.S. in 1971. That title was intended to be used for the U.S. release of another Bruce Lee film, The Big Boss, which also involved drug smuggling. However, the U.S. titles for Fist of Fury and The Big Boss were accidentally switched, resulting in Fist of Fury being released in the U.S. under the title The Chinese Connection until 2005, while The Big Boss was released as Fists of Fury.

Recent television screenings and the current official DVD release (by 20th Century Fox, originally available in The Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection box set) in the U.S. have restored the original titles of all the films starring Bruce Lee. Fist of Fury is now officially known as Fist of Fury in the U.S.. The current DVD version also has a subtitle that says “A.K.A. The Chinese Connection” when the Fist of Fury title appears on screen, as the source material is the Fortune Star digital remasters.

Original Title Year Mistaken Release Title Intended Release Title
The Big Boss 1971 Fists of Fury The Chinese Connection
Fist of Fury 1972 The Chinese Connection Fist of Fury

Box office

Fist of Fury grossed HK$4,431,423 in its Hong Kong release, beating the previous box office record set by Lee’s The Big Boss in the previous year. Its Hong Kong gross was equivalent to US$790,000. In the United States and Canada, the film earned US$3.4 million in box office rentals.

Despite the film having Japanese antagonists, the film was a success when it released in Japan on 20 July 1974, becoming the year’s seventh highest-grossing film with ¥600 million (US$5.43 million) in distribution income. In France, it became the 12th highest-grossing film of 1974 (below two other Lee films in the top ten, Enter the Dragon and Way of the Dragon), with 3,013,676 box office admissions. At an average ticket price of 12.22 F, it grossed approximately 36.83 million F (US$7.66 million) in France. Combined, the film grossed a total worldwide box office revenue of approximately US$17.2 million, equivalent to about US$116 million adjusted for inflation in 2017.

Dubbing

Sync sound was not widely used in Hong Kong cinema for a long time so the voices (even on the original Cantonese track) for the film were dubbed. The voice of the Russian fighter Petrov on the original Mandarin track was dubbed by Bruce Lee, with added reverb.

This film marks one of the few times that a DVD has an alternative new commentary. Media Asia UK distributor Hong Kong Legends has released this film as a “Special Collector’s Edition” and a “Platinum Edition”. Bey Logan recorded two alternative commentaries for both releases. The usual process with re-releases on DVD is that the commentary is passed on to the next release. Logan decided to re-record his second commentary as he wanted to give it a new light, being an avid fan of this film. The re-dubbed theme song was played by Mike Remedios. Bey Logan had previously done a commentary track for the Media Asia Megastar DVD release, which is almost word for word the same as the commentary he did for Hong Kong Legends’ years later. Donnie Yen did the Cantonese language commentary on the same ‘Megastar’ DVD.

Sequels and remakes

The film spawned three sequels: New Fist of Fury (1976), starring Jackie Chan, followed by Fist of Fury II (1977) and Fist of Fury III (1979). The film also spawned a remake, Fist of Legend (1994), starring Jet Li. The Film also spawned a television series of Fist of Fury in 2009 starred Donnie Yen as Chen Zhen, in 2010 Donnie Yen reprised his role as Chen Zhen in Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The movie acts as the sequel to Fist of Fury.

Release

The film was released on 22 March 1972 in Hong Kong by Golden Harvest, and first released in the United States on 7 November 1972 in New York before Lee’s first major film, The Big Boss, was released there.

The film was originally distributed in the U.S. by National General Pictures beginning in 1973, shortly before the release of Enter the Dragon. Columbia Pictures acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film, after the demise of National General Pictures, in 1980 and re-released it, along with The Big Boss, as a studio-sanctioned double feature with the tagline “What’s better than a Bruce Lee movie? Two Bruce Lee Movies!”

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