Long after the dragon’s embers

August 1973 – Before the inquest in September (when Raymond Chow had outlined which lies to spew and spit from his mouth), William Cheung (who inducted Bruce Lee in Wing Chun classes) undertook an investigation. He found that there was a murder conspiracy but hasn’t offered a penny for his thoughts to the H.K. public. 40 years later,  Betty Ting-Pei claimed that she didn’t like Bruce that much (despite the time that she threatened to commit suicide if he ended the liaison). 40 years earlier, police were called to investigate a brown paper parcel which has a controversial message concerning her:

“Betty knows the cause of Bruce’s death.”

1974 – Ray produces a movie called Stoner to prove that Lee was going to act in a movie with George Lazenby and Betty. Wu Ngan’s creepiness shows him up for being in his third and last H.K. movie as a gangster who injects Lazenby. Why would Lee’s butler return to H.K. after hightailing it to England?! Stoner contains two consecutive scenes alluding to Lee’s final hours (a gang beating before being dumped on Betty’s bed). Ray’s gallows humour makes it clear that the casting of an ex-Bond was to retaliate against Lee’s interest in being 007’s next sidekick. As mentioned in my article about Game of Death, the movie passed the midway point of filming (as relayed by Lam Ching-Ying). What I will mention here instead of that article is that even Bruce’s son, Brandon, claimed that there wasn’t really that much left to film.

Ray took advantage because Lee kept most of the filming under wraps in the same way that Jackie Chan would later do when Pirate Patrol became known as Project A. Speak of the devil, his workload was severely cut down in 1974. In I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action, he claims that the death of his acquaintance caused such a dry spell in Kung Fu moviedom that his parents wanted him to live with them in Australia. This ignorantly disregards the many movies which were made between the death and his lead role era. This year was the only time that he exclusively worked for Shaw Brothers. He worked on 2 movies for them. He was seeking protection. After all, he did say in said book that S.B. were so stingy with salaries that some actors and stuntmen ended up working as small time muscle for mob operations.

1975 – The first day of the year is when Lo Wei’s last movie for Golden Harvest is released (a horror movie titled The Bedevilled). He started his own production company after he learned that Ray was having an affair with his wife (their marriage only ended when Lo died in 1996). After he left, Jackie returned to G.H. to act in All in the Family. It was released in February. Considering that Lo, a crime figure, has long been held responsible for the death of Bruce, the timing of Jackie’s return is a tad suspicious. There are two kinds of liars – villains and victims. Coincidentally, Sammo Hung wanted Jackie to be the star of The Victim (1980).

Sammo also acted in All in the Family but was serving as moral support if not exactly an outright protector. In 1975, Jackie worked exclusively for G.H. The third-made (yet fourth-released) film was Countdown to Kung Fu (the copyrighted Roman numerals in the title card indicate 1975). Sammo worked on this as an actor and choreographer.

1976 – Jackie is signed to Lo’s company because G.H. wasn’t a haven. If you can’t beat them, join them. He acts in New Fist of Fury, The Killer Meteors and Shaolin Wooden Men (which was made before The Killer Meteors but released afterwards because Jackie didn’t have enough star power). Prior to his signing, he went from working on a G.H. Angela Mao movie to a Taiwanese Mao movie. The Himalayan was made under Sammo’s watchful eye whereas Dance of Death (shelved until 1979) was where Jackie was free from the G.H. studio head and his cronies.

It seems that Sammo fulfilled a similar buffer role to Jimmy Wang Yu (a popular actor who helped sort out Jackie’s Triad problem while he was a refugee in early eighties Hollywood). Before the making of New Fist of Fury, Lo boasts to Jackie that he thinks that it will be a contender for the Cannes film festival. Little did Jackie know that he would end up going to France in a few years time.

1977 – Jackie only works on The 36 Crazy Fists (not a Lo Wei movie or even a movie which he stars in) and To Kill with Intrigue. Like The Killer Meteors, the latter was made in South Korea because it was safer there. Since Jackie was on the run, you have to wonder how much help that Jimmy was during the making of The Killer Meteors, where Jackie played the villain to Jimmy’s hero. Coincidentally, 1977 was the year when G.H. completed Game of Death. Adding to the seediness is that one of the actors from the original Game of Death, Chieh Yuan, died of the same cause (cerebral edema) as Bruce. Even the age is the same – 32 years and 8 months.

Jackie was smart enough not to sue the film company who produced The 36 Crazy Fists for doing the same thing to him that Star Sea did to Bruce. Suspiciously, there was a banner at Bruce’s H.K. funeral service which spookily translated to: A star sinks in a sea of art. Jackie was also smart enough to not behave like a powder keg. For those who are having a hard time swallowing the bitter pill of Jackie fleeing to South Korea, you should remember that his autobiography contained a 1979 anecdote of himself wanting to escape from Lo being the would-be director of Fearless Hyena.

1979 – Like how the 1978 version of Game of Death is a mirror to what was going with Bruce during the filming of Enter the Dragon, Jackie recounted how the filming of The Young Master was hampered with similar things like an arson attempt at the front of the G.H. studio along with a G.H. executive finding the severed head of a dog in his car. Even when being put in the hot seat by having a forced meeting with Lo, Jackie did not behave like a loose cannon. Unlike with Bruce, Ray had an interest in allowing Jackie to escape to Hollywood. The majority of the U.S. press actually believed that Jackie’s journey was entirely to do with having him star in the next cross-pollination hit ala Enter the Dragon.

1986 – Michael Chan Wai-Man succeeds in getting Brandon (李國豪) to star in his first (and final) H.K. movie – Legacy of Rage. It’s too telling that Brandon accepts D&B (which Sammo had co-founded) but not Ray (who Sammo still worked for). Brandon wanted resolution regarding his father’s death, hence spending some time abroad.

March, 1993 – Brandon announced that he was going to have the case reopened and his father’s body exhumed after filming The Crow. Certain people had warned him if he did so. Around this same time, Davis Miller (the author of The Tao of Bruce Lee) was working as a writer on The Curse of the Dragon. His research assistant was on the phone with someone from Carolco Studios (who were producing The Crow) so that time could be set for Miller to drive down to Wilmington, North Carolina for the purpose of interviewing Brandon.

During the conversation on the last day of the month, the Carolco woman came on and said there had just been an accident on the set. She would call back as soon as she could. Brandon was shot during the shooting of a death scene. Bruce’s fans are reminded of a scene in Game of Death (the protagonist dies while filming a scene cribbed from Fist of Fury as seen above). Bruce’s death has drawn comparisons to the death of a teacher in Fist of Fury.

April – Bob Baker dies after liver failure caused by alcohol consumption. Astute observers have taken this as a sign that guilt leads to a glut in the gut.

July, 2011Tea Money (meaning hush money) is released. It is a novel inspired by Lee’s death, except it’s about a singer whose name is inspired by Andy Lau (劉德華). The novelist is Tom Bleecker, who married Lee’s widow. The novel had been his project for over a decade. In 2001, it went through three edits before being sent to an editor for a fourth time. He even streamlined it for a screenplay. Linda told Tom in confidence that she never believed the autopsy and inquest. For good reason. The autopsy was done 3 days after his death instead of within the usual 24 hour period.

Friday, May 13, 2016 – Ngan dies (7 days before my first article about Bruce’s murder was posted). Bleecker described the circumstances of Bruce’s demise as a Gothic horror story. As such, Friday the 13th is a timely ending of the timeline.

The moral of this morbid murder mystery is that Tai Chi should’ve informed Lee about the importance of passive-aggression. You can understand Jackie’s repetitive mantra (ad nauseum) about being the exact opposite to Lee, whose death would make for an efficient case study as part of a critical thinking lesson. For those who would like to have as much knowledge as possible about the Triads (especially within the film world), you can purchase a Chu Yiu-Kong book titled The Triads as Business. He received his PhD in Police Studies from the University of Exeter in 1997. He is a Sociology professor at the H.K. University. He is also one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Juvenile Delinquency Research Society.