“When Five Fingers of Death opened in a Times Square movie theater on March 21, 1973, only a handful of Americans knew the difference between an Iron Fist and an Eagle’s Claw. Within weeks, that had changed forever.”
These Fists Break Bricks is more than just an exploration of how kung fu movies infiltrated America. It breaks down — pardon the pun — how martial arts themselves first came to the U.S. as far back as a man named Professor Yamashita being hired by President Teddy Roosevelt to be the White House’s judo instructor. It takes you from the days when Asians were often portrayed as either fools, sinister villains or just Americans in yellowface. And then explains how martial arts films — often about the slums of China and Hing Kong — found their way to the modern grindhouses in America’s inner cities, reaching not just the expected audience, but finding a home in the hearts of African-Americans and Latino audiences.
From the astoundingly insightful intro by the RZA — who paints a picture of being in the audience of NYC karate grindhouses, saying “Inside that theater, away from the noise, cold, and business of outside, I found myself in an audience of like-minded fans allowing ourselves to be transported from the slums of NYC to the hillsides of China and Japan; from the modern-day cityscape to the feudal towns and temples of the martial world.” — to the hit every corner of the martial arts trend nature of this book — comic books, TV, the VHS boom, martial arts schools, the clones of Bruce Lee and so much more — These Fists Break Bricks is essential whether you’re a student of the Shaolin or have a blindspot for these movies.
New York Times bestselling author, Grady Hendrix is celebrated around these parts for his book Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the horror paperback boom of the Seventies and Eighties and now, with film historian Chris Poggiali (Temple of Schlock), they’ve made a book that effortlessly solves the challenge of explaining not only the how and what of kung fu cinema, but the why.
Beyond the insightful writing, this book is packed with gorgeous poster and ad art that will delight and inspire anyone who loves — or wants to get into — these movies. As for myself, I have an entire new list of films to seek out. And that’s the highest compliment that I can pay to a book about movies.