Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
***The following is a piece I wrote to introduce Big Trouble in Little China at a screening at UC Santa Cruz. I’ve slightly re-edited it for LoveHKFilm.com Hope you enjoy it. ***
The film I’d like to talk about today is the very epitome of a cult classic. John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China may have flamed out at the box office in 1986, but it eventually rose like a phoenix from the ashes on home video, cable, and DVD, garnering a fervent cult following. Twenty-three years later, there are a number of theories as to why it didn’t click with audiences at the time. Maybe it was bad publicity, maybe no publicity, or, as I would like to think, maybe it was simply a few light years ahead of everything else out there.
Even so, I think, in some respects, the movie could be considered a bit old-fashioned – and not just because it boasts the kind of rapid-fire line delivery you’d see in such Howard Hawks films as Bringing up Baby and His Girl Friday. No, it’s the genre. Big Trouble’s resemblance to a Western is neither accidental nor merely symptomatic of Carpenter’s own filmmaking tastes. Before Buckeroo Banzai director W.D. Richter was brought in for rewrites, the original screenplay by Gary Goldman and David Weinstein set the events of the film in the Old West. The original plot centered on a cowboy who drifts into San Francisco’s Chinatown, gets his beloved horse stolen, and finds himself fighting for his life in a mystical Chinatown underworld.