The reason why I wrote this article is because of a Hong Kong stuntman named Vincent Kwok Wing-Sing. After his film career ended in 1974, he was not seen again by Kung Fu movie fans until he was interviewed by Toby Russell. Vincent was interviewed alongside the Chan stuntman brothers: Peter Chan Lung and Billy Chan Wui-Ngai. Vincent was then interviewed for a 2004 documentary titled Dragon Since 1973. In both instances, he wore glasses. I don’t usually see retired H.K. stuntmen wear glasses. His life after Al Adamson’s The Dynamite Brothers (1974) is a mystery. We don’t even know the series of events that led to his H.K. film career, which signalled the beginning and end of Bruce Lee’s comeback to H.K. cinema. Vincent’s first movie was Bruce’s second martial arts movie, Fist of Fury (1972) whereas he appeared in Bruce’s final overall movie, Enter the Dragon (1973). We can’t say that Vincent was too saddened by Bruce’s death to continue doing movies unless he was blackmailed into appearing in The Dynamite Brothers.
The August 6, 1973 issue of Box Office Magazine reported that it began filming on that day (a Monday). Bruce died on July 20, he had a major funeral in H.K. on July 25 where stuntmen acted as security guards, and his corpse was transported to Seattle in time for the final funeral on July 30. Vincent had no problem moving on quickly, neither did most of the core members in Bruce’s stunt team: Peter Chan, Billy Chan and Lam Ching-Ying. Yuen Wah, Bruce’s only stunt double, didn’t appear in The Dynamite Brothers. Perhaps he was too offended. The star, Alan Tang Kwon-Wing, is a gangster whose father was also a gangster. One of Alan’s mentors is Lau Wing-Kui, who formed the Tung Lok Triad in the 1940s. Their power was enabled by a corrupt police inspector named Lui Lok whose boss was Lau’s uncle: Lau Fook. Alan’s nickname was Prince of the Underworld. Actor Eric Tsang had Triad privilege because his father collected money for Lui Lok. After Lui retired in 1973, Eric’s father had fled to Taiwan.
Tomorrow will be the 49th anniversary of when Enter the Dragon was released in U.S. cinemas. In Chapter One of his underrated 1988 biography, director Robert Clouse deftly addressed the issue of Bruce being murdered by the Triads (the Chinese mafia who are known formerly as the Three Harmonies Association). Robert establishes that a school teacher had a story about Bruce getting into trouble with them, but then Robert gives a minor history lesson as to what the Triads are all about. In this context, Clouse didn’t have to bring up their involvement in the film industry (such as collecting fees from extras), but Clouse did so because it was a way to help put into perspective what was previously established about Bruce as an underage actor and what he would be coming up against in his thirties. Repetition in storytelling can be crucial because it helps to draw attention to a seemingly minor detail. In Chapter One, Clouse mentions that the Triads control most of the stuntmen. In Chapter Thirteen, he mentions that the stuntmen belonged to the Triads.
Any other storyteller would have just had that info stated in the later chapter, especially since Bruce didn’t work with stuntmen when he was a kid. However, Clouse immediately follows the Chapter One inclusion by stating that one of the rumours about Bruce’s death is that he was killed by the Triads for an “obscure and ill-defined” reason. He then follows this up by mentioning that a person who is inducted into the Triads is sworn a blood oath where death will befall them if they break their word. In Chapter Thirteen, Clouse mentions that Bruce’s stuntmen were loyal to him and protective of him. He would even give some of them loans. It’s especially indicative of Clouse’s intention that he never addresses the Triad killing in Chapter Eighteen, which is titled Who Killed Him?, but he carefully lets you know that he’s aware of the situation. He goes out of his way to use bold font to drop a hint as he typed: “Is it possible that Bruce was murdered, as so many claimed at the time and still believe? The answer, based on everything which can be learned to date, is yes.”
Back to Vincent Kwok, he can be seen in the documentary that was immediately filmed after Bruce’s death: Golden Harvest’s Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend. In the above photo depicting Bruce’s H.K. funeral, he is on the far right. On the far left is actor Kenneth Tsang. The central figure is actress Nancy Kwan. After Bruce died, his widow Linda realized that it would be pointless to move his Marcy Circuit Trainer machine back to California, so she donated it to La Salle College in Kowloon. She could have donated it to Golden Harvest so that they can train their stuntmen and martial arts actors instead of a Catholic secondary school that Bruce was expelled from. Even more ironic is that February 28, 1973 was when he showed up at Saint Francis Xavier College to present the Sports Day prizes. I think that Linda chose La Salle because Brother Henry Pang once helped a 14-year-old Bruce escape Triads who wanted to decimate him for picking a fight with the son of a Triad chief.
Bruce ordered the exercise machine in November 1972 when he was in America with Golden Harvest’s founder, Raymond Chow. They went to sign the Warner Brothers deal to co-produce Bruce’s first American movie. While in America, Bruce wrote a letter to regular co-star Unicorn Chan where he told him that music made him realize that rhythm is the source of martial arts, martial arts films and life. The three elements become one and they inspire the other. On November 22 in Hong Kong, Bruce wrote a letter to Bob Baker where he disclosed that he might consider no longer doing business with Raymond since he lacks the right dedication. There is something that Jackie Chan and Anders Nelsson have said about how Bruce might have blurred the line between who he was on both sides of the camera. Bruce tricked himself into thinking he was superhuman. While he proved the American doctors wrong in 1970 about a sex-inflicted back injury preventing him from being able to kick again, Bruce couldn’t really prove them wrong in 1973 about not being able to take drugs again.
In terms of drug-addicted Kung Fu stars, Donnie Yen was the next reported one to indulge in cocaine. In terms of sex, Li Yi-Min was the next such star to engage in philandering. Robert Tai told Toby Russell about getting into fights on Li’s behalf because he loved to sleep with other men’s wives. In a 2001 BBC documentary called I Love Kung Fu, producer Fred Weintraub claimed that Bruce was a womanizer “to a degree” when the subject of his death came up. Robert Clouse alluded to knowing about Bruce’s drug problem and sex addiction in the most subtlest of ways. In his biography’s foreword, he wrote: “My perceptions of Lee were dented and bent from what I knew about him; others were destroyed. There are individuals who have a particular axe to grind, or wish to bury an episode that might prove embarrassing, or someone who feels protective of a public image. Piecing together the portrait is imprecise, but the attempt goes on.”
Linda Lee has always been protective of his image. They married on August 17, 1964, and their marriage ended when he was declared dead on July 20, 1973. That they were together for almost nine years is fascinating because they lived in an area of H.K. called Kowloon Tong, which means nine dragons pond. In 1977, a Kung Fu movie came out called The Hero Tattoo with Nine Dragons. It’s a folklore adaptation about a rich man’s son who is angry, rude and violent. The September 1973 issue of Black Belt revealed that the release date of Enter the Dragon was originally scheduled to be August 15. For his book about the making of the film, Robert Clouse interviewed Bolo Yeung. It’s difficult to imagine that Rob wouldn’t have known about Bruce’s plan to poach twenty stuntmen since Bolo was one of them. Bolo revealed in the February 1990 issue of Black Belt that arrangements had been made but they fell through when Bruce died.
The other stuntmen were Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Peter Chan, Billy Chan, Lam Ching-Ying, Yuen Wah, Vincent Kwok, Mars Cheung Wing-Fat, Phillip Ko Fei, Cheung Wing-Hon, Lee King-Chu, Robert Chan Law-Bat, Steve Lee Ka-Ting, Chung Fat, Zebra Pan Yung-Sheng, Wilson Tong, Ng Ming-Choi, Brandy Yuen Jan-Yeung and Wu Ngan (a.k.a. Ngan Jai i.e. Ngan kid). Triad boss Alan Tang knew about this plan. The Dynamite Brothers features six of these men: Peter, Billy, Lam, Vincent, Mars and Lee King-Chu. When I saw the movie, I noticed a trio of stuntmen who weren’t credited – Yuen Miu, Hon Kwok-Choi and Bruce Tong Yim-Chan. There’s a scene that takes place in a graveyard where the tombstone in the centre gets the attention because of the inscribed name: Lee Lung On. Bruce Lee’s Chinese name was Lee Siu-Lung i.e. little dragon Lee. One of Bruce’s childhood friends had a similar name: Siu Kei-Lun, which means little unicorn. He’s also known as Unicorn Chan because Chan Ling-Chung is one of his alternate names since there are so many dialects in the Chinese language.
Unicorn was in five films with Alan Tang, most notably Love and Blood (1972) and Back Street (1973). These featured a gangster named Michael Chan Wai-Man. While Alan was a decent martial artist, Michael was a professional fighter who won the Southeast Asia Fighting Championship for two consecutive years (1970 and 1971). Michael was a friend of Unicorn, whose failure to become a movie star was bound to result in journalists saying that Little Unicorn is smaller than Little Dragon. Michael became a Triad at 17, but his ascent to gang leader status began with a stretch in prison as a correctional officer. He helped so many convicts that they owed him favours. After two years and eight months, he became a policeman. After four years, he was fired when his superiors found out about his Triad lifestyle. Michael then became an actor at the age of 25. His first film was Love and Blood. It was released two days after his 26th birthday. Despite being kicked off the force, he was untouchable as a criminal. In an interview, he said: “Back then, you couldn’t call the police. Because when I collected your protection fee, the police get a cut too.”
From left to right, that’s Chieh Yuen (who was in Bruce’s The Game of Death), Michael, Chen Sing, San Kuai, Bolo Yeung and Fong Yau. Chen Sing stands out because he had more star power. After Bruce died, Chen appeared in a film called Black Panther. Released in late September of 1973, the film is significant because Bruce had been in talks to make a film with a similar title. In early July, director Walter Chung Chang-Hwa had completed a script called Big Battle with the Black Panther. Bruce was very satisfied with it, but his death stopped him from making the movie. Twenty years later, Alan Tang starred in a film called The Black Panther Warriors. Chen Sing’s 1973 movie is notable for how it inspired a scene in Police Story (1985) where Jackie Chan escapes from a police station by taking a superintendent hostage. There’s even a scene in Black Panther which inspired Police Story Part II (1988) by having Jackie cornered in an alley by a car before he turns around to kick the windshield.
The three worlds of Triads, film and police really came into full force when Jackie made Police Story. Jackie had been working for the Golden Harvest film company for half a decade by the time that he started his company – Golden Way. This was a subsidiary of Golden Harvest in the same way that Bruce’s Concord was. Perhaps Jackie knew that he could be guaranteed protection from Triads if he became a poster boy for the police. It certainly worked for an actor named Danny Lee, who played Bruce in a Shaw Brothers biopic called Bruce Lee and I. Golden Harvest founder Raymond Chow had a connection to the police in the form of a voice actor named Ted Thomas. From Raymond’s perspective, Ted could be used as a spy since he was moonlighting as a dubbing artist for G.H. and S.B. On the night that Bruce died, Ted was having dinner with the commissioner of the H.K. police.
According to his LinkedIn page, Ted was the director of public relations for the H.K. police from March 1971 to June 1973. Ted’s departure is suspicious because early June was when Chief Superintendent Peter Godber retired after the anti-corruption branch wanted to know how he accumulated so much money in his bank account. Peter also served as Deputy District Commander of Kowloon. He left H.K. on June 8 – the day before Bruce returned to H.K. from the U.S. where he went to receive intensive medical analysis after deadly cannabis intoxication. Here is another example of suspicious timing – Sergeant Lui Lok retired from the police in the period between Bruce’s death in July and October when H.K. Governor Murray MacLehose made a proposal for there to be an independent commission against corruption. The inquest into Bruce’s death happened in September, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption was formed in February 1974.
The above man is Lee Ka-Ting. He confirmed that Bruce was going to take some of the finest H.K. stuntmen with him for his Hollywood career. Lee Ka-Ting was looking forward to it so much that he not only purchased a house in America, but he came up with an anglicized name for himself: Steve Lee. When you look at the H.K. stuntmen who Alan Tang borrowed for The Dynamite Brothers, they didn’t bother with anglicizing their names with the exception of the man who would be known as Peter Chan Lung. In Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend, he can be seen escorting Bruce’s son, Brandon, out of the Lee home during the departure of the surviving Lee relatives from their home. When escorting Brandon, Peter gently places his hand on Brandon’s back. For some reason, Peter grabs Brandon’s right arm like an authority figure would with a miscreant. As they near the gate, Brandon makes a sweeping gesture with his right arm as if to say: “Hands off.”
Steve Lee was part of the same social circle that Bolo Yeung belonged to. During the making of Enter the Dragon, Bolo spoke of a martial artist named Lau Tai-Chuen: “This fellow was the Asian boxing champion and had loudly protested Bruce Lee’s status in the martial arts world. Bruce ignored the comments for months but eventually decided enough was enough. He contacted a police chief in Hong Kong and said, I will fight this guy if you can guarantee me that nobody else will know about it because I don’t want to give this guy publicity. Otherwise, this will never stop. The police chief agreed. Bruce and this other martial artist were contacted as to the time and place. The whole bout lasted less than 30 seconds. Bruce then pulled out his check book and wrote a check out in the fallen boxer’s name in order to pay the hospital expenses necessary to stitch the man back up. Apparently, the police chief didn’t keep the secret very private and soon word of Bruce Lee’s encounter reached me while I was on the set. I asked Bruce if the encounter was true. Bruce nodded grimly in the affirmative and told me, Keep it to yourself.”
Lau Tai-Chuen didn’t have much of a film career i.e. four movies from 1972 to 1974. Half of those movies, The Thunder Kick and Bloody Ring, were 1973 productions starring a Karateka who trained the police: Larry Lee Gam-Kwan. If word of Bruce’s challenge match with Lau had reached Bolo then it was bound to have reached the ears of his ex-cop buddy, Michael Chan. A journalist named To Wai-Tun said: “In the colonial era of Hong Kong, the power of the police was very great. The detective of the plain-clothes police is called Deng Sheng (鄧生). He has another title, that is, the chairman of the Chinese Martial Arts Association in Hong Kong. He was very interested in what would happen if Lau Tai-Chuen’s Western boxing went against Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Because he has a lot of power, and he is also a friend of Bruce, he said to him – Lau Tai-Chuen wants to challenge you, how about a secret fight? Bruce said it’s okay but don’t make it public. So the two fighters fought one match at a secret location in the New Territories.”
Police instructor Larry Lee had personally witnessed Bruce’s televised martial arts demonstration in H.K. circa 1970. This was when Bruce tried to get a deal with the Shaw Brothers movie company before he signed with Golden Harvest in July 1971. Larry’s interest in witnessing Bruce’s power in person is suspect. I suspect that Larry was called upon by the police to see if Bruce was up to his own tricks since he left H.K. as a teenager under incriminating circumstances. Teenage Bruce was told that staying in H.K. would result in him being slaughtered by vengeful Triads or being arrested if he got into any more fights. Bloody Ring was Larry’s second movie but Vincent Kwok’s third and final H.K. movie. This is why it’s possible that Vincent (in the middle of the above photo) could have been an undercover cop whose job was to spy on Bruce and find out which stuntmen were Triads. This makes sense since Vincent couldn’t be a spy during the making of The Big Boss (1971) because that was made in Thailand, so his very presence would have raised alarm bells.
Fist of Fury was not only made in H.K. but Bruce was coming hot off the record-breaking success of The Big Boss, so Vincent would have blended in with the many stuntmen hoping to get their literal 15 seconds of glory. No red flags. The Way of the Dragon (1972) took place in Italy, so there wasn’t much room for casting. Even with the limited Chinese roles on offer, Bruce chose to cast people who were either famous or friends. As for The Game of Death (1972), Bruce filmed footage that was intended to be shown in a projector reel during one of the scenes. In the footage, the below stuntmen are used as crash test dummies to display different masters of martial arts. From left to right in the below photo that was taken in Hong Kong’s New Territories, that’s Billy Chan, Yuen Wah, Bruce, Lam Ching-Ying and Wu Ngan (Bruce’s butler filling in for Peter Chan). Bruce intended to film a scene with twenty stuntmen outside a pagoda in South Korea. The idea was to poach the stuntmen in transit without anyone in H.K. being any the wiser.
Jackie Chan did something similar during post-production of The Young Master in November 1979. Things got so tense with the Triads that he had to edit the movie in America but only after tricking them into thinking he was visiting his parents in Australia. This was during pre-production of Robert Clouse’s Battle Creek Brawl. If Jackie died then maybe Clouse would have written a book about him too! All kidding aside, it’s weird that some film critics give director Al Adamson credit for hiring the Chinese stuntmen who worked on The Dynamite Brothers. That’s like giving Clouse credit for Jackie bringing over two of his stunt guys for what became known as The Big Brawl. Coincidentally, one of the stuntmen who Jackie brought over had worked on The Dynamite Brothers – Bruce Tong. If Adamson was that perceptive, he would have known that he was working with some of Bruce Lee’s stunt guys. We would have got behind-the-scenes footage and production photos.
Despite it being Alan Tang’s first American movie, there were no special TV reports by Chinese news crews. There was no Chinese magazine coverage with exclusive photos like there would later be with The Big Brawl. There have been no Chinese-themed interviews about it in the internet era. Not to mention Alan, Peter Chan Lung and Lam Ching-Ying are dead. The movie was also released under the following titles: East Meets Watts, Stud Brown and Killing of a Chinese Bookie. The original title was Black Belt Brothers, as reported in the following magazines: Box Office (August 1973), Fighting Stars (April 1974) and Black Belt (ditto). In the latter, Howard Jackson was interviewed. He was a Karateka. He’s not credited in the final film, neither is Emil Farkas. Howard’s friend, Steve Fisher, is credited. Howard didn’t talk much about the movie, and I can’t interview him because he’s dead, too. He was a favourite of Chuck Norris since he worked on Code of Silence, The Delta Force, Walker: Texas Ranger, Missing in Action III and Invasion U.S.A.
It speaks volumes about how Howard was so talented that he was cast in a 1979 H.K. movie called The Magnificent 3. Yasuaki Kurata is one of the titular trio. Kurata belonged to the same social circle as Bolo, Chen Sing, Michael Chan and Steve Lee. He can be seen alongside Bruce Lee in BTS photos and footage of Unicorn Chan’s The Unicorn Palm. The common denominator in this social circle is a H.K. movie mogul named Ng See-Yuen. He was a producer, director and writer who used to work for Shaw Brothers until they refused to give Bruce what he wanted. Unicorn was the one who tried to help Bruce get signed to Shaw. Looking at the below screenshot of Vincent Kwok in Ng See-Yuen’s The Good and the Bad (1972), I can see why Bruce wanted him. Not only could he ride a bicycle, but he could get off it with style. Bruce knew how to ride a bicycle, as can be seen during the making of The Green Hornet. As for Vincent in The Good and the Bad, this was the second H.K. movie that he did during his stint as a stuntman. Yasuaki Kurata was the co-star.
Also in this movie is a stuntman who went on to be a martial arts movie star in his own right: Bruce Leung Siu-Lung. He met the leading lady for the first time and went on to date her. They married in 1975. Her name is Irene Ryder, and she previously auditioned to be in a movie with the other Bruce. I think that she would have been better in The Way of the Dragon than Nora Miao since Irene’s Eurasian identity fits in more with the Italian setting. Unfortunately, dating the less famous Bruce resulted in her career being ruined. What happened was that some thugs threw acid on Irene’s face in January 1979. As such, she retired from films. Leung pulverized those responsible. Irene still does the odd guest slot on TV and concerts, though. Leung studied Gōjū-ryū Karate from police instructor Larry Lee, and they did four films together from 1977 to 1978. After their final film together, Larry quit being an actor. By comparison, Leung did ten films with his classmate: Lee Fat-Yuen (one of Hong Kong’s most prolific stuntmen).
The below photo depicts the H.K. version of Hollywood’s Rat Pack: the Silver Rats. Starting with the guy at the top right: we have Alan Tang, who has his right hand on the shoulder of Willie Chan Chi-Keung. In front of them are two people who had their photos taken with Bruce Lee – Patrick Tse Yin (a gangster) and Lydia Shum Tin-Ha. Next to Patrick is Paul Chang Chung. Seated next to Paul is Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin, and behind Charlie is Steve Chan Ho. Their equivalent to the fifth Beatle was Tina Chin Fei, who also had her photo taken with Bruce (this was during the press conference for The Unicorn Palm). One of the reasons why Sammo Hung’s My Lucky Stars became the highest-grossing H.K. film in 1985 was because of the connections to the Silver Rats. Willie was the manager of Jackie Chan (who has a small role), Paul played one of the bad guys, and Charlie played one of the good guys. Jackie and other stuntmen had worked as security detail when Charlie married Josephine Siao in October 1975. 1985 would have been their 10th anniversary had they not divorced in 1978. In Jackie’s first autobiography, he mentioned that Charlie asked him for martial arts lessons during the making of The Heroine (released in April 1973).
Jackie had to have been a tough guy in real life because Willie complimented him with how he handled Charlie’s wedding, and gave him his business card. Tellingly, despite the wide range of films that Jackie did as a stuntman in the seventies…he never worked on an Alan Tang movie. Believe me, that’s really saying something. There was an interview that Jackie did for a 1980 issue of Kung Fu Monthly where he mentioned that he had worked on a hundred films by the age of 26. He turned that age on April 7, 1980. In late April 1979, Jackie started work on two films for two different companies – Fearless Hyena II for gangster Lo Wei’s self-named company, and The Young Master for Golden Harvest. Jackie was tricked into signing a blank contract with Lo on April 3, and things got so scary with Lo’s vengeful feelings of betrayal during the early days of filming The Young Master that Jackie had to flee to his parents in Australia for almost three weeks until Triad actor Jimmy Wang Yu talked him into coming back. Bruce did something similar with Enter the Dragon – it was going to be his first U.S. movie but his final movie for Raymond Chow. Bruce didn’t show up for almost three weeks following the start of principal photography.
April 1979 was an interesting time for Willie Chan because he shut down his film company, Summit Film Productions, on the second day of that month. As someone who worked for Lo Wei Motion Picture Co. Ltd. along with being Jackie’s manager, he didn’t want Lo to think that there would be a conflict of interest. After all, Raymond Chow left Shaw Brothers and poached from them to form Golden Harvest. Willie had ran Summit since May 1973, so he couldn’t afford to celebrate an anniversary. It was important to close shop on April 2 because it was five days before Jackie’s 25th birthday. Lo didn’t have to worry about any birthday surprises of the saboteur kind. Regardless, even he wasn’t above being threatened by Taiwanese and H.K. Triads who wanted to poach Jackie. This is why Ng See-Yuen thought twice about poaching Jackie from Lo, who previously lent Jackie to Ng’s company (Seasonal Film Corporation) for two 1978 career-making hits: Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. On the topic of poaching, I don’t think that Bruce would have wanted Sammo Hung to be one of his 20 stuntmen.
When Bruce made his decision to poach, this was during the making of The Game of Death. Sammo turned this film down because he was busy working on another film despite Bruce telling him 8 months before filming began. Sammo had supposedly been in Korea for one month by the time that Bruce got down to filming his pet project. They fell out, and Bruce didn’t bother casting him in Enter the Dragon until the film was in the can. After the Americans went home, Bruce decided that the film needed a stronger opening. Or so the official story goes. The reality was that, in early April 1973, John Saxon wanted to reshoot his opening fight scene upon seeing the high quality of every other fight. By filming a sparring match with Sammo, Bruce would come out on top. Also, he intended the fight to be a passing of the torch in terms of who leads the following stunt guys hereafter: Peter Chan, Billy Chan, Lam Ching-Ying and Yuen Wah. During the first two weeks of April, Bruce shot extra footage of himself and Shek Kin in the mirror labyrinth. These were pick-up shots that helped elevate the finale, according to a Golden Harvest executive named Andre Morgan. Somewhere during this time, Bruce had found out about Saxon’s desire to have a stronger intro.
By mid-April, Sammo was leading the aforementioned quartet on a film that was being shot in Bangkok. This was Larry Lee’s Bloody Ring. Besides having fallen out with Bruce, Sammo couldn’t leave Larry’s movie because being a fight director is like being the only director when you’re working on a film where the main director prefers to be lazy. Reasoning and money prevailed, so Sammo gave Bruce two days to shoot their fight. They reconciled after much discussion. According to an interview in a 1990 issue of Martial Arts Illustrated, Sammo returned to H.K. two months later where he saw Bruce again. This would have been after the first week of June when Bruce returned from the United States following his medical retreat. But still, Sammo never said anything about Bruce wanting him to join him for a Stateside coup. Bruce’s death in July resulted in Sammo inheriting the quartet of stuntmen (Peter, Billy, Lam and Yuen). According to Bey Logan’s 2018 book, Bruce Lee and I, Sammo called Bruce’s butler, Wu Ngan, to confirm if it was true that he had died. Wu Ngan’s final H.K. movie, Stoner, began filming in the winter of 1973. Sammo acted in it and choreographed the fights.
Alan Tang being allowed to temporarily borrow three of Sammo’s stuntmen for his U.S. summer trip suggests that there are powers that be who are far greater than a heavy honcho like Sammo or a hefty fellow like Bolo. Like Jackie, Sammo never worked with Alan. Ironically, Sammo wasn’t hired to choreograph The Dynamite Brothers. Surprisingly, the choreographer was Lam Ching-Ying. His only credit for being a choreographer was working as Bruce’s assistant on Enter the Dragon. This wasn’t something that was known in the West. When the film was released in America on August 19, Lam wasn’t credited. None of the stuntmen were. On The Dynamite Brothers, most of them were credited in the opening credit sequence. Lam was credited as Lam Jing Ying. In the opening credits for the H.K. version of Enter the Dragon, Lam is credited as Bruce’s assistant choreographer under the name Lin Cheng-Ying. Like in any society, age plays a big part in H.K. when delegating responsibility and respectability. Bruce was born in 1940, Peter Chan was born in 1942, little brother Billy Chan was born in 1953, Lam was born in 1952, and Yuen Wah was born in 1950.
Peter being older meant that he got to have the one-on-one fight with Alan Tang in the finale of The Dynamite Brothers. Despite his seniority, Peter was never a choreographer during his entire film career. When Bruce’s favourite quartet of stuntmen had worked on Bloody Ring, Billy was credited as first assistant choreographer, and Yuen was credited as second assistant whereas Lam wasn’t credited. Vincent Kwok, Mars and Lee King-Chu appeared in the movie. With the exception of Yuen, all of these stuntmen went on to work on The Dynamite Brothers. Perhaps Sammo didn’t come along with them to the States because he lacked a Visa. Bloody Ring was an attempt to make Larry Lee the next Bruce Lee. Larry’s hairstyle is similar. He does three consecutive kicks with the same leg. He wears a striped tracksuit whose colour matches his nunchaku like Bruce in The Game of Death, albeit red instead of yellow (although Dan Inosanto fought with a red nunchaku in The Game of Death). There’s a projector reel scene like in Enter the Dragon, and the setting is Thailand like The Big Boss. Character actor Li Kun even has a similar comic relief role to the one that he had in the latter.
Nobody in America knew that Enter the Dragon was going to be released in H.K. first, so director Al Adamson couldn’t have known about Lam being Bruce’s assistant choreographer. The H.K. release date was July 26. Robert Clouse mentioned that there were spies on the set who reported back to the Shaw Brothers. Alan Tang, who didn’t work for them, knew more about the movie than most people realize. In May 1973, he began filming a H.K. movie which had some of the people who appeared in Bruce’s first U.S. movie. Iron Bull featured Meng Hoi, Wilson Tong, Hao Li-Jen, Mars and Lam. By the time that Alan began working on his first U.S. movie on August 6, it was established in the Box Office magazine that there would be an editor to work on the movie during the four week shoot. This is intriguing since it wasn’t publicized in the U.S. press yet that the American editor of Enter the Dragon had personally supervised the production so that he could do a stellar job with editing the fights. This information was only relayed in the October 1973 issue of Fighting Stars.
In the April 1974 issue of Fighting Stars, it was reported that 15 martial artists from H.K. were brought over for the making of the movie. Clearly, Alan Tang knew about Bruce’s plan to take 20 stuntmen with him to Hollywood. Minus Alan, 14 H.K. stuntmen seems an awful lot for a low budget U.S. movie, especially when you consider the stuntmen who are used in more than one scene, and there aren’t that many fight scenes…at least in the released version. Only 8 of them are credited in the opening credit sequence, but then there are American stuntmen who are not credited despite having appeared in the final cut: Ed Perry, Kurt Woodlon, Jim Stiebinger and Daniel Spelling (uncle of Tori Spelling). Fighting Stars also reported that The Dynamite Brothers was released in January. Despite being more American and more modern than Enter the Dragon, The Dynamite Brothers failed to make an impact in the U.S. market.
Alan’s English acting was so rough that you can only hear his voice for one scene that was shot in sync-sound i.e. the waterfall scene. Ironically, he worked as an English translator for a H.K. radio station before he became an actor. The common denominator between The Dynamite Brothers and Star Trek is the RKO Forty Acres backlot, which was a pretty big coup for a non-union shoot. Throughout his career, director Al Adamson wasn’t above shooting without permits and doing dodgy dealings with gangsters. The soundtrack for The Dynamite Brothers was recorded in November 1973 and remixed in December of that year. Before Charles Earland was hired to be the composer, the first choice was Eddie Harris. The score was originally going to be handled by Atlantic Records, Eddie’s label, but they dropped out. A month ago, I was reminded of The Dynamite Brothers because there is a scene in Killer Joe (2011) where Juno Temple is watching the finale while attempting to mimic the martial movements.