Back Comments (9) Share:
One of the leading proponents of martial arts in the whole world, Bruce Lee died a tragic death in his thirties with only a handful of movies under his black belt. He left a huge entourage of fans wondering what would have become of him in Hollywood had he lived longer. The films that he did manage to complete were generally very poor in quality, with wafer-thin, almost non-existent plots, terrible scripts (with mostly dubbed dialogue) and simply nothing going for them other than the talents of Mr. Lee. Luckily he had a lot of talent, simply exuding charisma and grabbing audiences’ attentions any moment he was on screen. And his skills seemed unparalleled, with furious speed and devastating power combining to make his fluid moves both deadly and awesome to behold.

The Big Boss: Platinum Edition

Feature


The Big Boss was Bruce Lee’s first movie. The story is basically encapsulated in the title, but for those who want it broken down, Lee plays a pacifist who discovers mysterious deaths are occurring at the ice factory where his cousins work. He investigates, inevitably having to hang up his pacifist shield in order to fight his way to the top of a corrupt food chain and take down the man behind it all—the Big Boss. It is pretty-much as simple as that. The plot is, of course, just a feeble excuse at stringing together a series of fight scenes—with Lee only coming into play after he is pushed right to the limits and all of his friends and family are torn up in battle.

Key sequences include Lee’s warehouse fight, where he uses various tools—including the infamous saw—to eliminate his many foes, and of course the climactic Big Boss sequence at the end, restored to its fully uncut station where Lee has some fun with his opponents ribs. However, this is still not the complete uncut version of the movie that was originally released—as that is apparently in the hands of a private collector who refuses to give it up—but it is nevertheless the best that we are every likely to see.

The Big Boss: Platinum Edition
With all the latest computer wizardry and wire-work techniques, modern-day audiences are spoiled by the martial arts magic that they can behold. But it is mostly trickery and Hollywood gimmick and, in the same way that Bond para-surfing on CGI icebergs will never outdo the opening sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me where a stuntman skis off a precipice and releases a parachute with the Union Jack on it, nobody is likely to ever beat Bruce Lee in terms of authentic martial arts. His physique, his prowess, his awesome, bone-cracking, and lightning-fast moves are—to this day—unparalleled. And The Big Boss was what started it all. It may not stand up in terms of story, acting, dialogue, score, cinematography or any other standards by which we tend to judge modern movies, it transgresses such examination thanks to one key aspect—Bruce Lee. He alone can make the most basic action adventure immensely watchable, and rewatchable in terms of fight sequences, thanks to endless charisma and consummate skill. The end result is an all-time classic, perhaps not Lee’s best but still a milestone in the unforgivably brief lifetime of one of the greatest martial artists the world has ever known.
 
The Big Boss: Platinum Edition

Video


The Big Boss comes presented with a brand spanking new restored 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. In line with the recent Bond Ultimate Editions, the video rendition is superior to all previous efforts, but that still does not fully elevate it away from its thirty year old origins. Detail is as good as it is ever likely to be, with little softness, noticeable grain but edge enhancement kept to a minimum. The colour palette is relatively broad, with that era-specific overly-red blood shown in all its unbelievable glory. The movie is packed with darker, poorly-lit sequences, and generally even these stand up. In comparison with modern productions, it is a terrible transfer, but for its time, this is a good effort at restoration.

Audio


There are no less than three different audio options for this movie (not counting the commentary), but none of them are particularly satisfactory. In essence, the movie was dubbed, whether by the actors themselves, or other vocal contributors, but the end result is that some synch issues are unavoidable. The Cantonese Stereo is probably the best option to go with, marginally better in terms of spatial dynamics than the Mono variation. There is also an English Mono dub, but this should be avoided for obvious reasons. All in all, for a movie over thirty years old and recorded in such a patchy fashion, the presentation is perfectly acceptable, the dialogue slightly tinny, the martial arts blows resoundingly exaggerated (they might as well have had Bap! Pow! come up in blurbs next to them) and the music is very, very dated. But, still, that’s the price you have to pay with some classics.

The Big Boss: Platinum Edition

Extras


In the way of extras, this new Platinum Edition boasts plenty. On the movie disc we get an audio commentary with devout fans Will Johnson and Andrew Staton, who appear to know pretty-much everything you would want to know about Lee. Here they divulge all the trivia you could imagine about The Big Boss and a hell of a lot of background into Lee himself. It is an interesting, fact-packed listen, charting the movie’s history and going into detail over the various cuts out there and the situation with regards to the dubbing. Well worth dipping in and out of.

On the first disc there are also trailers for other Hong Kong Legends releases: Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death, The Legend and the box-set of all his movies.

Then there’s a whole second disc of extra material. Split into sections, we get ‘Dragon Uncovered’, which contains a fourteen-minute featurette on the history of The Big Boss (largely photo-based), an examination of the elusive original uncut print and a Bruce Lee biography. The narrated history is quite informative but clearly the gem here is the discussion on the oft-talked about uncut print. This has mostly text-based information and a few stills from the infamous scene. It notes how the scenes can be glimpsed in the trailers (featured later on) but how the original print is in the hands of a private collector so it cannot be obtained for general release. The scenes are showcased in poor quality still photograph format (or in footage taken from the trailers), which is the best that they can do at the moment. Very interesting stuff.

The Big Boss: Platinum Edition
The ‘Promotional Gallery’ section has several trailers in it: the UK Platinum trailer, the UK promotional trailer, the original theatrical trailer, the Hong Kong promotional trailer, the rare uncut 8mm UK trailer, the original 35mm UK title sequence, the textless 35mm title sequence and a series of the original lobby cards. Most interesting of these is probably the rare uncut UK trailer, some four minutes long and featuring some of the scenes not seen in this cut.

Finally, the ‘Story Continued’ section has three interviews with various crew members. ‘Breaking the West’ is a fifteen-minute interview with Warner Brothers Executive Paul Heller (who produced Enter the Dragon), where he mainly discusses Enter the Dragon as opposed to The Big Boss, but also details how he enlisted Bruce Lee and the ideas that they had for his various movies. ‘A Rising Star’ is a fifteen minute interview with Fred Weintraub (Heller’s fellow Warner Brothers Producer), who also talks about his involvement with Lee and his collaboration with him on Enter the Dragon, which largely came about after they saw his work on The Big Boss. The last interview ‘What Might Have Been’ is with Tom Kuhn, the President of TV at WB during the time that the Kung Fu series was produced, with David Carradine instead of Bruce Lee. Kuhn talks somewhat mournfully about his bad choice and how it largely came down to Lee’s capability with the English language. This is clearly the best of the interviews and, along with the discussion on the original uncut version on the film, marks a highlight of the disc.

The Big Boss: Platinum Edition

Overall


The Big Boss was the start of the legend that is Bruce Lee, the man who forever changed the face of martial arts in the movie industry. Here we have yet another version—the second from Hong Kong Legends alone —but with superior picture quality and a couple of truly compulsory extras, it marks a definitive edition, at least until they manage to convince that elusive private collector to sell his rights to the fully uncut print. Recommended.


Links: