I was fortunate enough to talk to Bey Logan who authored the book Hong Kong Action Cinema and is the publisher of the British Action magazine Impact. Logan has worked on both JACKIE CHAN: MY STORY and JACKIE and CHAN: MY STUNTS and provided the commentary for the FISTS OF FURY DVD.
JOHN: Tell us what you went through to make the FIST OF FURY SPECIAL EDITION DVD?
BEY: Well I’ll give you a quick background on it. At one stage there was some discussion that Media Asia through Mega Star was going to release all of Bruce Lee’s movies. Then a deal was done by the previous distribution administration. This was before anyone knew what DVD was going to be worth. The company (that was releasing the Bruce Lee films) was not really interested in doing anything special with their releases. But if you look most of if not all the other Hong Kong DVD releases they basically put the film on it and add some trailers and that’s it. No one has ever done anything special with a film before. And for various reasons FISTS OF FURY wasn’t part of that deal so we still retained the rights. I campaigned it here telling everyone here that people want something different because this film has been around for so long. And even in America, Goodtimes has an illegal version of the film on DVD. So we decided to make it different and set it apart from all the others. So what we did was do an audio commentary throughout the film which has never been done before in Hong Kong. I did the English commentary. And since it was a local release we needed a Cantonese track so I got Donnie Yen to do it. We put on all his trailers and we re-edited some of the unseen GAME OF DEATH footage. We wanted to make it something different and special, something akin to what Warner Brothers did with ENTER THE DRAGON.
JOHN: What about the production notes? How did you get the research for that?
BEY: It was done from the research I have done in the past. I have been researching and collecting things on Bruce Lee for my magazine articles and the book I wrote over the years. One good thing about living and working in the film industry here in Hong Kong is that if I need to find out information about FISTS OF FURY, even now I can pick up the phone and talk to people who actually worked on the film. That helps a lot. People in the West who have written books maybe never even came to Hong Kong, or don’t speak Cantonese even to the level I do, and maybe don’t have access to the people who can translate as I have to for people who don’t speak English. With that in mind I can get first hand information. Many people have asked me why didn’t we get someone who physically worked on the film to do the narration. You have to understand the Hong Kong Chinese mentality. People openly would not do that because they would feel that it would be perceived that they were riding on the bandwagon of Bruce Lee or a film that was made 27 years ago. The perfect person that would have been good was Robert Baker, but he sadly passed away. The other thing was we were under a limited budget because no one thought this would really work. So I decided to do it for free and read out what I know. I got my brother in arms Donnie Yen, who played Chen Jun on TV here and is a big Bruce Lee fan, who was an obvious choice to do the Cantonese commentary. The other aspect that was really exciting was going back to our GAME OF DEATH footage and editing it together. And this has never been done in 26 years.
JOHN: Are you ever going to release the unseen footage of GAME OF DEATH?
BEY: That’s the zillion dollar question (laughs)! Actually we’re talking about it again now. There’s a feeling (and I feel it’s justified) among some of my senior colleagues here that there’s been too many Bruce Lee documentaries already and GAME OF DEATH (the 1978 Golden Harvest version) as a vehicle has already been widely distributed. In terms of how much money you would spend to do it right and in terms of how we could get the distributors (where we make our money) to pay big bucks for this property…apart from Japan it’s kind of a hard sell. It’s difficult to see how you can make a 60 minute feature out of 25 minutes of edited material and maybe another 20 minutes of outtakes of the same material.
I’m not letting out any secrets. There are not any lengthy outtake sequences of Bruce Lee choreographing, demonstrating, or teaching. I wish there were. But film was still expensive then. You’ve got little snips in-between the action, some of what we’ve used in BRUCE LEE THE LEGEND. But I would really like to do something with it. We’re talking about doing a 70mm documentary, which would incorporate some of the footage…so that’s in the cards. I think DVD would be perfect for it. Had we retained the rights to GAME OF DEATH it would have been relatively easy. All we would say is fine we’re doing our GAME OF DEATH DVD, which would be available worldwide with the extra footage. But after Universe took the rights we approached them and asked if they would like to collaborate and they were not interested. They figured out (probably rightfully) that they would make exactly the same money if they’d release it as is. But having said that when FISTS OF FURY shipped out it was our biggest ship out ever in Hong Kong, and it was matched only by JACKIE CHAN: MY STUNTS, which was nice because I actually worked on both of them. And they are both doing well here in Hong Kong.