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    PCR #495  (Vol. 10, No. 38)  This edition is for the week of September 14--20, 2009.

MOVIE REVIEW
"The Informant!"  by Mike Smith
RETRORAMA
The Fabulous Thunderbird  by ED Tucker
THE ASIAN APERTURE
Jackie Chan Retrospective  by Jason Fetters
STATE OF THE NATION
Joe Wilson The Hero .... Blame It On Racism .... .... Renewed Strength .... .... .... .... by Brandon Jones
MIKE'S RANT
Slow Down! .... Patrick Swayze .... Larry Gelbart .... This Just In .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
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Jackie Chan Retrospective

I first got interested in kung fu movies one weekend, back when I was 14, (mid-'80s for me) and I decided to rent Return of the Dragon at Blockbusters.

When I first saw Bruce Lee, I was totally amazed and started watching all the kung fu movies that I could find. That led me to USA Network's Blackbelt Theatre that showed old kung fu movies from the '70s and early '80s. Ironically, the first Jackie Chan movie that I watched called The Protector was such a let-down that I almost gave up on Chan. I was at a Blockbusters with my dad and there was this huge cardboard display of Jackie Chan for The Protector. At that time my dad would always rent action/war movies and I would always rent horror movies. So we watched The Protector together and didn't think much of it. My dad vowed never to rent another Chan movie again. A couple of years later, a Korean friend of the family gave me a martial arts movie magazine that had an article on Jackie Chan to promote The Big Brawl. That movie wasn't that great either and I have since realized that every time Hollywood tried to work with Chan in the '80s the results were bad. In The Protector, Chan was told to act like Clint Eastwood which Jackie isn't anything like. The Big Brawl was just a hyped-up Hollywood production that didn't really show off what Jackie Chan could do. I read the rest of the article and it mentioned that Chan was outselling Bruce Lee in Hong Kong and I remember thinking how could this be? After watching two movies that were really bad, where were his good movies? The problem was, I was watching the Hollywood films and not the Hong Kong films. When I made the switch, that's when I saw some really great moments in action cinema.

Jackie Chan was abandoned by his parents and sold to the Peking Opera School at a young age. He learned kung fu, gymnastics, and how to perform. His was part of a group of children that would perform together as the Seven Little Fortunes. It was at the Peking Opera School that he was severely bullied by an older student named Sammo Hung, the two who go on to make great movies in the future.

After the school, when Jackie Chan was about 17, he started working as a stuntman and living frugally in a cheap apartment. It was during this time that he got a job working as a stuntman for Bruce Lee's Fists of Fury released in the US as The Chinese Connection. Chan doubled for the Japanese villian, Mr. Suzuki. As Bruce Lee flies through the air to kick Mr. Suzuki, Chan steps in and a wire is tied around him. Several stuntmen pull him and send Chan flying backwards 18 feet and landing hard on his back. He hit the ground so hard that Bruce Lee ran over to see if he was OK. Lee took good care of his stuntmen on all his films.

The other stunt work that he did with Bruce Lee can be seen in the Opium den fight scene from Enter the Dragon where Bruce Lee snaps Jackie Chan's neck. Chan got hurt again but earned Lee's respect by not allowing the pain to bother him.

After Bruce Lee died, all over Hong Kong, directors were trying to make Chinese stars look like Bruce Lee.

This led to Jackie Chan's role in New Fists of Fury that was a bad movie by a young Chan.

In fact, the early Chan movies didn't do that well at all, until he was allowed to perform kung fu comedy and step out of the role of trying to be the new Bruce Lee. This film was Snake in the Eagle's Shadow that prepared the way for the bigger hits to follow.

When Jackie Chan did his Animal House version of the popular character Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master, he was on his way to being the star he would become. Drunken Master took a popular character that the Chinese looked at with reverence and Chan transformed that character into a frat-boy with fart jokes and really amazing action scenes.

That film along with Young Master convinced me that Jackie Chan was worth a second look. Both those films represent the classic period films of Chan.

It wasn't until Police Story that he brought his kung fu comedy into the modern age and the film that saw Chan performing jawbreaking stunts.

Since I started collecting Jackie Chan movies on VHS and now DVD, here are a few that I really enjoy and that I think show how good he really is.

  1. Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, a great film that first showcased kung fu comedy.

  2. Drunken Master, great use of the fighting styles of the 8 Drunken Gods.

  3. Young Master, interesting movie with beautifully filmed gymnastics combined with kung fu scenes and the best lion dance ever filmed for the opening.

  4. Project A. Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung fighting pirates and trying to save the world. Great stunt work involving a clock.

  5. Project A II, more fun from Chan and Hung

  6. Police Story, a very funny action-packed movie that has to go down as one of the most fun films to watch of all time.

  7. Police Story II. The fight sequence in the kid's playground is breathtaking.

  8. The Armour of God, Jackie's take on Indiana Jones.

  9. Operation Condor: Armour of God II, released in the US as Operation Condor. The US DVD is OK but missing 15 minutes of comedy from the HK DVD.

  10. City Hunter, based on a popular Japanese manga, and here filmed with great slapstick and colors.

  11. Drunken Master II, released in the US as The Legend of Drunken Master. Another fun movie to watch and just as good as the first one.

  12. Dragon's Forever, a great twist on Chan's usual character. Here he plays a womanizing lawyer who would fit right in at the Playboy mansion. Awesome fight with Benny the Jet at the end. One of the best fights from any Jackie Chan movie is this fight between him and Benny the Jet.


"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.