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Bruce Lee: The Lost Interviews

featuring: Bruce Lee, Pierre Burton, Grandmaster Cheung, Ted Thomas, and Alex Bloack

150 minutes (E) 1971
Firefly DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Steve Lee
Trends come and go thus they are trends. Lists-o-mania may be counted among the recent and ongoing within my generational peer group, from the best British (BBC) situation comedy to the worst films ever made, so if we counted down the top hundred most written or talked about people on Earth, along with Elvis, Hitler, Shakespeare, Kennedy and Jesus would be movie star martial arts guru the legendary Bruce Lee.

Just when you thought every aspect of the little dragon's life had been laid bare and scrutinised to the extreme, somebody discovers one more item of never-seen-before exclusive film footage or insider take on how and why Bruce lived and died. So it was with some scepticism that I reviewed the latest offering to the fans of the kung fu king. This half-hour interview by veteran broadcaster and Canadian icon Pierre Burton was the feature of the DVD release that also includes other radio interviews and still pictures.

Burton, who was previously unknown to me, had an Alan Wicker style of show, trotting round the globe interviewing VIPs wherever he found them, and in Hong Kong during 1971 the man of the moment was Bruce Lee, who appears cool and relaxed during his 30-minutes of personal incitement. Lee soaks up the usual repetitive questions regarding his stardom, beliefs and history.

He interviews well with only the odd awkward moment of misunderstanding guided along by a real pro of Parkinson standards, as Burton allowed Lee to talk (a key ingredient that most modern interviewers often skimp on) so he could fully explain why he disbelieves in god in favour of the human spirit, allowing for self expression rather than enforced belief or religious doctrines. This may be best represented in how Lee attempts to build bridges in America without burning them in China.

Burton asks of Lee all of the name dropping questions of old about the martial artists schooling of megastars Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and of which was the better fighter and why yet Lee skilfully managed to return to the philosophical nature of self-awareness, control and inner peace. We still get to witness some fancy moves and stunning hand-speed though. Any snippet of footage featuring Bruce Lee is always of interest to me and I found both men entertaining and enjoyable as the passion for culture especially in film is explored. Lee was many things and being an actor was on his CV too, not great but he was acting! And Burton touched on his legacy unknowingly just how short Lee had to live.

The extra features on this disc are two radio interviews with a montage of stills to accompany the dialogue and an overly long interview with Grandmaster Cheung who claimed to be Bruce's best friend and tutor of Wing Chun at the school of Lee's mentor, Yip Man. This is a sound journalistic interview with no holds barred questions about Bruce's conduct and lifestyle, right up to his mysterious death. However, it is overlong and self-indulgent. Ted Thomas' radio interview from 1971 was better, though and I found myself wishing it were longer. Candid still photos from all aspects of Lee's career faded in then melted away without necessarily fitting the conversation or limiting themselves to that period of his life. They go right up to Enter The Dragon and, whether posed or action snaps, they are quite a collection. Towards the end of this rather odd feature there is some silent footage of Lee at work in the dojo demonstrating Wing Chun techniques to a large audience and it's a shame there is no sound to this part, except the conclusion of the interview. Alex Block, the second radio interviewer, does not come off too good, mainly because he conducts it over the phone but also because he writes for and read Lee's articles in Black Belt magazine and constantly refers to the challenges received by Bruce Lee.

How many different ways can one answer the same question? Lee promotes that Karate and Judo simply have too many fixed moves where as Kung Fu flows, yes, just like water, and more... The same stills are re-shown again as a visual backdrop and this is to disc's detriment as there must be dozens of others images they could have used. Jeet Kune Do is the fighting style Lee developed from his studies and it challenged the centuries of tradition in the east whilst capturing the imagination of the west and yet fear remained on both sides. Lee was trying to talk about his film Way Of The Dragon from which he was on a lunch break interestingly he kept calling it Enter The Dragon, yet that was to come later.

Other odd features are some letters written by Lee, some unfinished but all too small to read unless you sit and watch TV like when you were ten. The contents were not always legible but he did write neatly and although a bit of a waste unless you're a complete anorak. Be mindful that from these alone one would not know the author was a Chinese American, and that says it all.

One special little extra of note was the showing of Lee's first American screen test, aged 24. I have seen bits before in documentary The Path Of The Dragon (1998), and again in his life story Bruce Lee: The Man The Myth (2000), but this was the entire thing, warts and all - a must for all Lee fans or collectors. Don't miss this; lost interviews found!
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