I recently took a drive out to Monterey Park, which is 15 minutes east of downtown Los Angeles. Largely an Asian area, it houses dozens of great restaurants and a spectacular dvd shop called Five Star Laser. I used to go in there all the time, during the rise of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li. Once major studios like Sony and Miramax started carrying a lot of the original Hong Kong flicks, there wasn't much of a reason for me to continue to drive out there.
Since it had been a long time and I didn't have anything in particular to do, I rolled out to see if anything would catch my eye. I wound up finding a couple of current HK flicks, "The Detective" and "Invisible Target", as well as a Japanese flick (The Beast to Die), starring the late Yusaku Matsuda, best known in the U.S. for his role as the stylish henchman in Ridley Scott's "Black Rain" starring Michael Douglas. Matsuda died of cancer at the age of 39 shortly before "Black Rain" was released. In Japan, he shares the rarified air of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen, iconic superstars gone much too soon.
The last film I bought was an old 1972 Kung Fu flick called "The Duel", starring Ti Lung and David Chiang. This was the first martial arts film I ever saw, way back in the day at the Hippodrome theater in Cleveland, Ohio. Totally shot on a studio lot, it's a typical revenge flick, with great martial arts and gallons of red paint doubling as blood.
I was surprised how well the film held up. However, it made me realize that it had been quite awhile since I watched the ultimate Kung Fu flick, Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon".
Tonight I popped in the hi definition BluRay version of the film and was immediately taken back to the Scrumpy Dump (real name!) movie theater in Cleveland on Euclid near E. 105th street. The power and charisma of Bruce Lee still burns through the screen.
It's been over 30 years since Lee died of a brain enema (July 20, 1973), but his legend has only grown with the passage of time, culminating with Time magazine naming him one of the most important people of the past 100 years. Aside from his physical ability, Lee was a very progressive thinker in the area of human rights, individual expression and philosophy.
Nice to know that some things just get better with time.