Born into an affluent Chinese family at the hour of the dragon in the year of the dragon, Bruce Lee was destined for greatness. Fulfilling his fate as an adult, he brought the art of Kung Fu to the western world.
In doing so he became the most influential actor of Chinese origin in Hollywood history. Tragically, Bruce Lee died just as he was on the verge of international fame.
Taken far too young, his death has been scrutinised by those seeking a sinister explanation. Eventually attributed to misadventure it seemed the circumstances surrounding his demise were innocent after all.
Some years later when his son Brandon Lee died in the most bizarre and tragic of circumstances the specter of malpractice raised its head once again.
Had father and son really been the victim of tragic circumstances or had they, as many believed, fallen victim to the Bruce Lee family curse?
The Death of Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee died at the peak of his physical fitness and just as he was about to attain international fame. Since his death he has become a cultural icon and the most influential martial artist in the western hemisphere.
Aged only 33, he died on July 20th, 1973 in the home of an actress due to co- star with him in his next movie. The actress, Betty Ting Pei, claims that Lee complained of a headache so she gave him a painkiller prescribed for herself and left him sleeping on a sofa.
Some hours later when people began to be concerned as to his whereabouts, she tried to rouse him. By this time he was unconscious and could not be saved.
Lee, supposedly had an allergic reaction to the pill he had been given. Strangely he is rumored to have suffered an adverse reaction to the same medication months before but still took the pill of his own free will.
During the post mortem it was discovered that he had also consumed cannabis leaves. According to the coroner, these mixed with the painkiller and Lee’s amazingly low level of body fat, just 1%, combined to poison his system.
Almost immediately the conspiracy theories began. How could such a fit man have succumbed to one pain killer?
Why had Lee taken a pill he knew he was allergic to and why hadn’t Betty Ting Pei called an ambulance much earlier when he could have been saved?
Chinese triads and the Italian mafia who both bore grudges against Lee were blamed for his death, but with little direct evidence the circumstances surrounding his passing remain an enigma to this day.
The Death of Brandon Lee
It wasn’t until the death of Bruce Lee’s son twenty years later that the rumors of a supernatural curse began to gather pace.
Examine the circumstances surrounding his death and it is difficult to accept that such a strange set of events weren’t guided by an unseen hand.
Like his father before him Brandon Lee was on the verge of international film success. He died as he was filming The Crow, which was released after his death. In the film Lee plays a character who returns to life seeking revenge on the person who killed him.
In one of the final scenes filmed on the set, his character is shot. Incredibly, a series of errors meant that a live round was in the prop gun fired at him. Shot in the abdomen he died on the 31st March, 1993 aged just 28.
Almost immediately people cried foul. How could this have happened? Once again the triads and mafia were blamed for what seemed like the perfect murder.
But in a world where truth is often stranger than fiction a bizarre and incredible series of events unfolded. A series of events that would stretch the boundaries of belief if they were the fictional plot of a novel or film.
During filming of The Crow, the contents of a pawn shop had been purchased to add authenticity to a scene. Included in the contents was a case of .44 bullets.
Sometime later when dummy bullets were needed, the technicians on the film discovered that they had none available. Dummy bullets look like real bullets but they have no gunpowder.
Deciding to use the pawn shop bullets, one of the technicians removed the tips and emptied out the gunpowder before replacing the tips again.
What the crew didn’t realise is that when it was fired on set, the loose tip of one of the bullets remained lodged in the barrel of the prop gun.
Two weeks later and the gun was loaded with blanks. Blanks differ from dummy bullets because they are required to make a noise.
To create a blank the gunpowder is left intact but the tip of the bullet and the primer are removed, rendering it harmless.
This time the technicians removed the tips but forgot to remove the primer in just one bullet. When it was fired on set during a scene with Brandon Lee, the jammed bullet tip was dislodged.
In effect the blank bullet with its intact primer and the tip of the dummy bullet created a live round and resulted in the death of Brandon Lee. A million to one chance and the end of a life full of promise.
Is it true then that the Lee family are cursed as some believe? Certainly the strange circumstances around Brandon’s death suggest that the hand of fate played a part.
If there is a curse upon the family there is little direct evidence recorded. When asked about the curse at the time of his nephew’s death Bruce Lee’s brother talked about their father’s grave being next to that of a child, an indication of bad luck in Chinese mythology but this seems a little vague.
Others suggest that a much stronger curse was placed on Bruce Lee’s father after he upset a group of merchants in Hong Kong.
As a child Lee was given a feminine name to confound the demons who had taken his older brother in his infancy. Some take this as an indication of a family curse but it is in fact common practice in Chinese culture when an older child has died.
What is known however, is that Bruce Lee spent his life believing that he was plagued by demons and dark shadows, the documentary about his life filmed in 1993 is entitled The Curse of the Dragon and in another twist of fate was filmed in the next studio to The Crow.
Lee’s last film ironically portrays him battling a demon who eventually gives up the fight and goes on to pursue his son Brandon.
In another scene he is shown avenging people who try to assassinate him by replacing a blank cartridge with a live bullet on a film set. Too many coincidences? It certainly seems so.
A father and a son, both on the verge of international fame and fortune and both cut off in the prime of their lives. Were they murdered as many believe because they angered underworld gangs or were they merely the victim of tragic circumstances?
With more questions than answers it is not surprising that many have turned to the supernatural for an explanation. The twists of fate in the deaths of these two men seem to be beyond belief.
Surely there are too many puzzling questions left unanswered to explain their deaths as accidental. However, once you have discounted accidental then only two possible explanations remain, either Bruce and Brandon Lee were murdered or they truly were the victims of the Bruce Lee family curse.