Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China (also known as John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China) is a 1986 American action comedy, directed by John Carpenter. It stars Kurt Russell as truck driver Jack Burton, who helps his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) rescue Wang’s green-eyed girlfriend (Suzee Pai) from bandits in San Francisco’s Chinatown. They go into the mysterious underworld beneath Chinatown, where they face an ancient sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong).

Although the film was originally envisioned as a Western set in the 1880s, screenwriter W. D. Richter was hired to rewrite the script extensively and modernize everything. The studio hired Carpenter to direct the film and rushed Big Trouble in Little China into production so that it would be released before a similarly themed Eddie Murphy film, The Golden Child, which was slated to come out around the same time. The project fulfilled Carpenter’s long-standing desire to make a martial arts film. The film was a commercial failure, grossing $11.1┬ámillion in North America and well below its estimated $25┬ámillion budget. It received critically mixed reviews that left Carpenter disillusioned with Hollywood and influenced his decision to return to independent film-making. The film has since gone on to become a cult film due in large part to its success on home video.


The ending song is written and sung by The Coupe De Ville. A band formed with: John Carpenter, Nick Castle and Tommy Lee Wallace (second unit director on this picture).

The Chinese characters in the main title translate to “Evil Spirits Make a Big Scene in Little Spiritual State”.


The characters on the front of “Egg” Shen’s bus say, “Uncle Egg’s Tours Guarantee a Good Time”.


Although Kurt Russell was John Carpenter’s only choice for the lead role the studio suggested Jack Nicholson or Clint Eastwood. Once they proved unavailable, Carpenter was able to cast Russell.


Body count: 46.


According to director John Carpenter, the post production process on this movie was merely four months.


In the wedding Scene where LoPan is putting the Needle of Love in Miao Yin, James Hong actually jabbed Suzee Pai too hard. You can even see her jump as he puts it in her.


According to John Carpenter and Kurt Russell in the DVD Commentary, the story was originally written as a western but Carpenter decided to set it during modern times. They even mention that instead of Jack Burton’s truck being stolen, it was originally his horse.


Kurt Russell suffered a bad case of the flu during shooting so the sweat on his body is real, caused by the fever.


According to John Carpenter in the DVD Commentary, Carter Wong, who plays Thunder, actually worked as a martial arts instructor with the Hong Kong Police.


The Brides of Lo Pan must have green eyes. Yet both Kim Cattrall and Suzee Pai had brown eyes in real life. Both wore green contacts for the movie. This is very obvious in the hi-def version of the movie.


The rivalry between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong Tongs is analogous to the famous rivalry between the Hip Sing and On Leong Tongs (even the names rhyme) in early 20th century New York.


The short knives wielded by the “Three Storms” warriors, that Thunder calls “Hui Huan Dou” (Soul-Returning Blades) are in fact Nepalese Kukri. These knives were made famous for their usage by the Gurkhas in the British Indian Army.


The name of the murdered gang leader, Lem Lee, is probably a reference to Tom Lee, the leader of the On Leong Tong, a crime syndicate in New York’s Chinatown in the early 20th Century that fronted itself as a merchant association.


The Truck Driven by Jack (Kurt Russell) – the “Pork Chop Express” – is a Freightliner FLC 120


This the last studio film that John Carpenter worked on at the end of the 1980’s due to the problems he’d received during the production of the film with then studio head Lawrence Gordon, who practically interfered with the film up until it’s release date. Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988) would be made independently through Alive Films without any studio interference and distributed by Universal Pictures.


According to John Carpenter on the audio commentary that the opening of the film with Egg Shen (Victor Wong) in the lawyer’s office was added in as a request from 20th Century Fox because to make Kurt Russell’s character Jack Burton to be more heroic. If the scene was not added in, the film would have started with Jack driving to San Francisco.


Both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell explain on the audio commentary that the test screening was so overwhelming positive that both of them expected it to be a big hit. However, 20th Century Fox put little into promoting the movie and it ended up being a box office bomb. However, it went on to be a huge cult hit through home video. Carpenter and Russell explained that the reason the studio did little to promote the film was because they didn’t know how to.


Filed under: Fantasy

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