This classic Cantonese film may have a simplistic story with a moral lesson. However, the notoriety of this film is the star of the film. Before he became the legendary Dragon, a nine-year old Bruce Lee takes center stage in this comedy/drama.
The city’s top man, Chairman Hung, has heard complaints about some of the underprivileged kids in the area living a life of crime. He decides he wants to build a school for these kids to improve on education. However, there poses one little problem. The Chairman cannot afford to build the school. He operates a clothing factory and business isn’t exactly doing great.
Ah Chang is a young kid who works a newspaper stall just outside of the apartment building he lives in. His parents have died and he is forced to live with his uncle, Teacher Ho and his two children. One day, Chang sees a bully beat up on some kids. Coming to the rescue is local gangster “Flying Dagger” Lee. Chang, impressed with the gangster’s knife throwing methods, begins to befriend him, much to the objection of his uncle.
When Lee steals $10,000 and a gold chain from Chairman Fung, Lee hides out in Ah Chang’s apartment. Chang lets Lee escape yet the gold chain is found in the apartment. When Ho brings the gold chain back to Chairman Fung, Fung rewards Chang with the ability to go to school. However, Chang ends up being suspended on his first day for beating up his classmates. Fung decides to give Chang an apprentice position at the clothing factory. When that doesn’t hold up, Chang finds himself working for Lee. He learns to throw knives like his new mentor and begins to act like a gangster. However, when Fung and his son Charles decide to fake a robbery after the workers strike due to their mistreatment at work, Chang realizes he must make a decision about doing the right thing.
If this film were to star anyone else, it would be just a run of the mill story with a moral lesson. However, because of the fact that this starred a young Bruce Lee, it gives the film some notoriety as to what he did before he became a pioneer of the martial arts industry. A nine-year old Lee, credited as simply “Lee Lung”, plays the titular character of Ah-Chang, a young worker who tries his hand at many goals before ultimately settling on wanting to be a tough kid. Lee mugs for the camera and even gets in doing some cartwheels and streetfighting. What is more interesting is that this all came before he even began his martial arts training under Yip Man.
Playing Chairman Fung is Lee Hoi-Chuen, Bruce Lee’s father. This would be the only film where the two appeared on-screen together. The elder Lee plays Fung as somewhat of a corrupt man who announces to create a school yet cannot afford it. However, corrupt official aside, the elder Lee provides comic relief as he tends to be constantly forgetful when it comes to important matters. Yee Chau-Sui does well as Uncle Ho, the guardian to Chang who tends to be the angelic side of Chang’s conscience while veteran Fung Fung , the father of Hong Kong kung fu actor Fung Hark-On and HK’s “Shirley Temple” Petrina Fung, is the devilish side as mentor and gangster “Flying Dagger” Lee.
There is a subplot that features Fung’s son Charles, played by Yuen Biu-Wan. Charles, a well known womanizer, attempting to date a worker at the factory, Siu May, played by Tong Yuen. Siu May, however, constantly rejects his advances, forcing Charles to conspire more with factory manager Joe. Played by Chow Chi-Sing, Joe is truly a villain of the film as he goes as far as firing Siu May in order for Charles to relent the firing.
My Son A-Chang is truly a classic and perhaps the most well known of pre-kung fu Bruce Lee’s films. He delivers a great performance and is supported well by a veteran cast. Those looking for a film with a moral lesson will definitely enjoy this 76-minute film.
WFG RATING: A+
A Datong Film Company/Xingguang Film Company Production. Director: Fung Fung. Producer: Leung Biu. Writer: Cho Kei. Cinematography: Yuen Chang-Sam. Editing: Maang Lung.
Cast: Bruce Lee, Yee Chau-Sui, Lee Hoi-Chuen, Fung Fung, Chan Wai-Yue, Yuen Biu-Wan, Ko Lo-Chuen, Tong Yuen.