Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chinese Confusion

There was a time when I actually believed Jackie Chan movies were English. Well, as a matter of fact we watched them in English, but never knew they were dubbed versions of Chinese. As kids, for us Jackie Chan and JetLi movies were as authentic English as Arnold Schwarzeneggar's or Van Damme's. So it came as a surprise when I read an article about Chan's entry into Hollywood through WhoAm I? and Jet Li's as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4. Wait... These guys were never in Hollywood?

Bruce Lee was a childhood icon though the first Bruce Lee movie that I watched was Big Boss when I was in 7th standard. I never used to watch many English (?) movies then. I remember The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to be my favorite English movie for a while. Then again a surprising factoid claimed that it was originally filmed in Italian and dubbed in English.

The confusion about Chinese- English moviesstarted with my first Jackie Chan movie, continued with first Jet Li movie and still goes on whenever they show them on TV. My first Jackie Chan movie was titled Drugbusters. I went with expectation of heavy action. But the movie was about a bunch of funny guys doing nonsense for an hour and half. Jackie Chan comes in just two action scenes. That was actually a Lucky Starsmovie with Jackie Chan doing a cameo.

My first Jet Li movie was called Shaolin Temple and that was an undeniably great flick. Next week in the same movie house came another Jet Li movie titled Stuntmaster. I rushed to watch it only to find out it was same Shaolin Temple movie that I watched the last week. Later I realised that it is a common practice to re release movies with different titles just to mislead the audience. So we have Police Story 3 renamed as Super Cop, Crime Story renamed as Police Story 4, Wheels on meals reappearing as Spanish Connection and so on.

Bruce Lee movies are a bigger mess. As I toldearlier, Big Boss was my first Bruce Lee movie. Years later I watched the same movie as Fist of Fury. Another movie titled Chinese Connection reappeared in a DVD with the title... Fist of Fury! Two movies with same title. Way of the Dragon is also released as Return of the Dragon. Years after watching Game of Death, an ugly fact comes out that it has only 11 minutes of actual Bruce Lee footage in it. Remaining is a look alike with fake beard and mustache.

The topic of look alike takes us to an interesting phenomenon called Bruceploitation. Sudden and unexpected demise of the Dragon left a void in Hong Kong cinema. To cover it and make some fastbuck, production houses made movies with Bruce Lee look alikes. (Jackie Chan started his career that way.) I first noticed it in an advertisement of Fist of Fury which cautions audience about a movie released asFist of Fury 2 starring Bruce Li, a look alike. A few years later I was a victim when I watched Chaku Master starring Bruce Le, another imitator. But the best Bruceploitation flick that I watched is titled The Dragon Lives Again, in which a dead Bruce Lee confronts and wins against many other movie characters like James Bond, Dracula, Clinton Eastwood and others with the help of... Oh, you will never guess it... Popeye! It cannot get confusing than this.

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