The American Martial Arts Film


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About the Book

Martial arts have appeared in American movies since the days of Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan, but English-language martial arts films as a genre did not develop until the 1970s, with the breakthrough success of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. They’ve since proliferated enormously, encompassing every level of filmmaking quality, employing every martial arts system known, and spawning a cadre of action superstars known for their ability to kick butt more than for their talent as actors. Low budgets, straight-to-video releases, and a lack of critical respect have not lessened their influence, and they remain hugely popular and continue to inform the work of the leading lights of American cinema, from Coppola to Stone to Tarantino.

This history of American martial arts films, from major features to direct-to-video releases, examines English-language martial arts films in terms of both their historical development and their critical relevance. The first section describes the most common martial arts techniques, the history of martial arts in America, and gives a global overview of the history of martial arts films. Heavily illustrated chapters discuss early trend-setting movies, the first appearances of martial arts in American movies; the influence of Chinese kung fu film imports; martial arts on television and the films’ proliferation; the explosive growth of the genre in the 80s; and recent releases, trends, and the direction of English-language martial arts movies. There is a selected filmography of 300 movies.

About the Author(s)

The late M. Ray Lott was a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years. He held degrees in film, electronic media, and mass communication. He lived in Southern California.

Bibliographic Details

M. Ray Lott

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 55 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [2004]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6102-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. Lights…Camera…ACTION!      3
2. The Trendsetters: Enter the Dragon and The Yakuza      9
3. The Early Days: Martial Arts in American Film      20
4. The 1960s: A Time of Transition      28
5. The 1970s: Martial Arts and American Cinema      37
6. The 1980s: The Reagan Years and the Ascent of Martial Arts Cinema      69
7. The 1990s: DTVs—Martial Art Films Find a New Outlet      145
8. 2000 and Beyond      200

Selected Martial Arts Filmography      211
Notes      231
Bibliography      235
Index      237

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Detailed history of the genre’s highlights and performers”—C&RL News
  • “Quite comprehensive”—Burlington County Times