Friday, February 2, 2024

Spaghetti Western Trivia ~ Bruce Lee and the Italian West

 Pop Cult Master

September 1, 2022


All roads lead to Rome

In late May of 1973, Bruce Lee had a long-distance phone call with his mother (Grace Ho) where he told her that he was through with Hong Kong and that his next movie would be in Italy i.e. the deal with producer Carlo Ponti where it was decided that Carlo’s wife, Sophia Loren, was going to co-star. Bruce’s own doctor, Donald Langford, confirmed this in a phone call with Davis Miller that was used for the audio commentary of a 1993 documentary called Death by Misadventure: The Mysterious Life of Bruce Lee. When Bruce decided in early June of 1973 to do a movie for the Shaw Brothers film company in Hong Kong, it could have been a way to incorporate Ponti’s deal so that a Kung Fu Western would be made. This would have been a way for Bruce to surpass the Kung Fu TV series which he had failed to star in. Not only that but two cheques combined would have made him the highest-paid actor of his time.

Kung Fu Brothers in the Wild West

The director of Supermen Against the Orient, Bitto Albertini, later directed a Western called Return of Shanghai Joe (1975). This was a sequel to Mario Caiano’s Shanghai Joe (1973). This makes for an intriguing connection because one of Bruce’s colleagues was a martial artist named Joey Chen. He appeared in a 1973 Italian co-production called Kung Fu Brothers in the Wild West, and he claimed that this was going to be Bruce’s next movie after Enter the Dragon. King Hu was going to be the director whereas Charles Bronson and Ingrid Bergman were going to co-star. Bruce had worked as a fight choreographer for a 1970 film co-starring Ingrid: A Walk in the Spring Rain. King Hu went from being a Shaw Brothers director to a Golden Harvest one in 1972 but he left them in 1973. After Bruce’s death, King left Hong Kong cinema altogether so as to focus on Taiwanese cinema. Bruce’s death made Bronson and Bergman drop out of Kung Fu Brothers in the Wild West. As such, they were replaced by William Berger and Rosemarie Lindt.

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