John Walsh On Monday: Has Fu Manchu got it in for Hull City?

MY GOODNESS, those wily Orientals. Did your jaw drop as you read the details of the "powerful and wealthy syndicates based in the Far East", "the shadowy overseas syndicate" and the "major underworld betting ring, based in Hong Kong" who've been conspiring to pull the plug on the stadium floodlights during British football matches?

Did it not amaze you to think that, thousands of miles from Des Lynam's studio and the chatty pubs around Highbury, the fate of a Wimbledon v Arsenal match is currently being decided by a consortium of Triad bosses, sitting round a boardroom table in Shanghai or Kuala Lumpur, wearing sunglasses and discussing the current form of Michael Owen? Who, as Butch Cassidy once inquired of the Sundance Kid, who are these guys?

The answer is, we don't know. All the talk of "syndicates" is pure Fourth Estate sensationalism. It could be the Yakuza, the Triads, an Indonesian business consortium, the Hong Kong police or just a gang of disaffected lighting-rig experts located in a walk-up flatlet between two air-dried pork emporia in London's Chinatown. The men responsible for bribing the dim-witted security guard at Charlton Athletic FC to let them come in and monkey with the floodlights were from Malaysia, where the footballing scene is legendarily corrupt and the players routinely take a dive for money. But a third saboteur, Wai Yuen Lui, was from Hong Kong, and all we know about him is that he's "a convicted fraudster" with, you guessed it, "links to the fearsome Triad underworld ...".

I suspect that, if you listened for long enough to the police officers involved in Operation Oceanlake (the ones who nailed the sabotage attempt) talking about it in the Rat and Ferret, the name of Dr Fu Manchu would eventually surface. Sax Rohmer's master criminal, with his droopy moustache and long fingernails, dates back to 1911, and established the idea of the Yellow Peril in the British mind.

In the 1920s and again in the 1960s, there were a dozen movies to fix the image of Mandarin venality in the rogues' gallery of British fantasy. (Round the Horne, the vintage 1960s radio comedy, even supplied a Jewish- Chinese variant in the shadowy Chou-En Ginsberg).

However sophisticated we become, we're all still susceptible to panic about the Threat from the east. When it comes to believing that anything is possible with the slit-eyed devils, we're all potential Dukes of Edinburgh.

Somehow I just know that the nation's pubs will soon be filled with speculation about the Triad influence on the fortunes of the football league. Do the names of Ri Enn Gix and Aln Shi Rha suggest some infiltration of the top rank of strikers? Does the fact that Tranmere Rovers have yet to have a game mysteriously plunged into darkness mean that the fearsome game- fixers of Shanghai and Hong Kong had some trouble pronouncing the club's name?

WHICH BRINGS us to the wiliest oriental of them all, Bruce Lee, the newly resurrected martial arts maestro who started life as Lee Yenn Kam (brother of the less famous Worcester sauce mogul, Lee Yenn Perrins); because his name meant "Little Dragon", his films were saddled thereafter with draconian titles.

I sat glued to Channel 4's weekend tribute to the fistic ballerina, gawping once more at his bizarrely staccato technique - the elbow-in-a-villain's- ribs routine followed, after a moment's thought, by the priapic fist-in- someone-else's-face stratagem. I revelled in the soundtrack noises, which suggested that every blow he struck, even when thumping someone on the shoulder, produced a report like a plank striking a concrete pillar. I marvelled at the poultry sounds he made while fighting - high seagull cries interspersed with a broody, Buff Orpington burble.

I remembered the guilty pleasure of going to see Enter The Dragon in a break from university exams, and noting the evidence of Lee's famous on-set rows with the screenwriter, who sought revenge on the star by filling Bruce's English dialogue with lines awkwardly full of R-sounds: "More Earl Grey, Mr Braithwaite?" is the one audiences remember best: it came out as "Mawa-gaaaii, Missah Bayway?"; but it wasn't really essential to the plot.

All that was essential was Bruce. Standing there, four-square in attitude, 5ft 7in in height and six-packed in the abdominal region, taking on divisions of idiot soldiery, who, surprisingly, queued up like sheep to have a crack at the whirling chopstick, and, equally surprisingly, never seemed to think of the simple option of shooting the little bastard in the head.

The cheesiness of Bruce's early movies outdid even the contemporaneous late-1960s blaxploitation epics, in their Dalek dialogue, plotting-by- numbers and atrocious acting. The Way of the Dragon (which I watched on Saturday night - how sad is that?) featured Lee as New Territories hayseed, just arrived in Rome to save his Uncle Wang's Chinese restaurant from being wokked by local villains, led by a hairy Italian bank manager and his creepy Chinese sidekick, a gurning faggot in a pink tie. The level of stereotyping was positively Fu-Manchunian, but you could see that they'd already spotted Bruce's star potential in the way the camera zoomed lovingly in on his face's left profile, alert as a gundog that's just spotted a woodcock.

Some revivals are too tiresome to bother with (like the vogue for 1950s rock'n'roll that seems to have taken over West End musicals). Some are more welcome and deserved (like the revival of interest in Blondie, Beckett and Hitchcock). Bruce Lee is a problematic choice somewhere in between. No hip 1990s cultural smart-alec wants to be heard debating the superiority of The Big Boss to the later Fists of Fury.

But conclusive proof of Bruce Lee's hold on the modern zeitgeist is at hand in a new collection of stories by the brilliant Patrick McCabe, whose novel The Butcher Boy was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and filmed by Neil Jordan. Mondo Desperado, out next week from Picador, has a story called "My Friend Bruce Lee" about a small-town Irish dreamer who is convinced that he once had dinner with the Kung Fu dynamo and not, as all the evidence suggests, with a waiter from the local Red Lotus Temple takeaway restaurant.

It's a study of focused and galloping fandom, and it reveals a subterranean level of knowledge and learning about Lee's career that does Mr McCabe credit. The fact that the story is deeply ironic, and the hero an inadequate pillock, is irrelevant. The point about Bruce Lee, for chaps of a certain age, is that he briefly flushed out the inadequate pillock in all of us.

NEXT WEEK at the Edinburgh Festival, a committee of TV executives, including the controllers of BBC1 and BBC2, will announce their choices of the "greatest moments" in television history. A shortlist of 30 programmes - 10 each for drama, comedy and, er, real-life stuff - has been offered, and a pretty peculiar list it is too.

Under "drama" we're asked to believe that bits of prime stock from Dallas, Coronation Street, Brookside and EastEnders are the "classic" dramatic moments on the box since the 1950s. In the "factual" section, we get the Moon landings, the fall of Nixon, the 1966 World Cup and Nelson Mandela being let out of jail - namely, the filming of big historical moments. There's no suggestion that what is being celebrated is the medium being used in any groundbreaking way, beyond pointing a camera lens at an event. In the "comedy" slot, well, you just shut your eyes and reel them off, don't you? And yes, everyone has voted for the Parrot Sketch, Hancock's armful of blood and Basil Fawlty's Hitler impersonation.

Oh please. I hate to disagree with television controllers about anything, but they've all got the wrong end of the stick about this. What television drama does best (real drama, that is) is crime and its finest hour was the climax of the third Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren. What factual television does best is push the documentary form to its limits, and no finer documentary moment exists than when David Attenborough was discovered sitting on a grassy knoll in Uganda whispering sweet nothings to a troop of mountain gorillas, who sat quietly around him, stern-faced and deeply earnest like a simian Jedi Council.

And what intelligent television comedy does best is make you laugh like a fool, which is why my own nomination for classic status is the scene from Sergeant Bilko when Doberman discovers he actually has an angelic, world-class singing voice.

That's class for you. That's television history. That's more worthy of celebration than re-running Emu's attack on Michael Parkinson's barnet as if it were scripted by Noel Coward.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

    Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before