Nishimoto Tadashi (aka Ho Lan-Shan, 1921-1997）
Nishimoto Tadashi was the cameraman for Way of The Dragon (1972) and Game of Death (1972). He was better known as Ho Lan-Shan in HK and had worked for Shaw Brothers and then Golden Harvest. He had 48 films to his HK filmography’s credits between 1957-1978. Below are excerpts from his Japanese biography “The Road to Hong Kong - from Nakagawa Nobuo to Bruce Lee” written by Nishimoto Tadashi, Koichi Yamada, Sadao Yamane, published in 2004, 7 years later after Tadashi’s death.
Q1: After you left Shaw Bros, you stayed as an independent film-maker?
NT：They came back to look for me twice but my own company had begun shooting advertisement. I was really busy and thus, did not return to Shaw Bros. Then, Raymond Chow called me one day and met me at the Hong Kong island to discuss something important. When we met, he asked me, “Do you know Bruce Lee?” I replied, “Sure, I do.” So, he continued, “Actually, this is the first time he is going to direct and play in the movie and he personally hopes that you could be the cameraman.”
Q2: Is it Way of The Dragon？
Q3: Have you worked with Bruce Lee before?
NT: No. That was the first time. Bruce Lee’s first film for GH was The Big Boss, followed by Fist of Fury. Those two movies were directed by Lo Wei. They did very well in the box-office. Actually, I have seen a few of his childhood movies, his acting was very good, much better than the lead actor. He had the talent and potential.
Q4: Were you the cameraman for the first two movies of Bruce Lee?
NT: No, it wasn’t me. The cameraman was from Taiwan. As Bruce Lee was the director for WOTD, thus, I was offered to be the cameraman. Initially, they came to me with the offer but at that time I was already the Managing Director for my company. So, I told them if the boss go to shoot movie, then there would be no one running the company. I was about to reject the offer but thought again that if I give half of the cameraman’s pay to the company, then it will solved my problems. Raymond Chow also agreed to all the conditions I stated.
The initial condition was, “Mr. Tadashi, is it Ok that you only shoot the outdoor location in Rome?” I said, “If that’s the case, then, do it.” I thought I haven’t been to Rome before, now there’s a chance to tour Europe and earn money at the same time, there’s nothing more wonderful than this. So, I agreed to be the cameraman. Then, it was like the third day, we were already making our moves to Rome. It was Raymond Chow, Bruce Lee and I, three persons. Later, the staff and the actors arrived and began preparation for the shooting.
They gave me plenty of freedom and let me do whatever I like. We stayed in a very fine hotel. Although we were scouting for filming locations, but actually we were enjoying our tour. We took car rides to Firenze and other places which would not be in the shooting list but we roamed about these places for quite sometime.
In Firenze, we went shopping in the leather shop. Bruce and Raymond bought shoes for their wives. They all paid by credit cards and asked me to buy. But I didn’t own a card and had not enough money. Hence, Raymond said, “Mr. Tadashi, don’t be shy, just buy whatever you want. If you don’t have money, I’ll pay for you first.” So, I bought many stuff which Raymond helped me foot the bill. He told me to pay him after we returned to HK. But he did not press me for payment when I returned and later, he did not even mention about it anymore. Actually, I know that they were meant as gifts for me. So, I got whatever I wanted.
I intended to leave Rome upon completing the filming of the outdoor location. Eventually, I was not able to leave. Why? Because when we were watching the rush sample in a processing company located in Rome, I thought we were watching another movie as it was beautifully shot, the color was especially fabulous and I really admired it very much. Then, it turned out to be my own filmed sample. That was why Bruce didn’t want to let me go.
Q5: Why do you think of using Techniscope in WOTD?
NT: Oh, that was because I watched the Italian movie, “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” (Italian title: Ieri, oggi, domain (1963)) and found it to be a great film. It was filmed with Techniscope.
Q6: It’s the 1963 comedy movie, directed by Vittorio De Sica, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni?
NT：Yes. I won’t forget about the scene in the Rome’s processing company. After watching the rush sample, Bruce stood up and held me tightly, “Mr. Tadashi, thank you so much!” However, when the raw footage was processed in GH, the color was very poor. As Bruce had seen the rush sample in Italy, he too, felt the effect did not meet up with his expectation. Hence, we went to the processing company and discussed with the person in-charge. Bruce said to me, “Mr. Tadashi, I’ll sit next to you. So, if we are not able to settle the matter, please kick my leg lightly to notify me. Then, I’ll send it over to Japan and process it.” As his own Concord company was cooperating with GH, therefore, he had the decision rights.
Nevertheless, the other party was Raymond Chow and the person in-charge of the processing company was my hostel’s neighbor who was a nice person. They were all my friends. If it is due to my own opinion that a few hundreds reels are to be destroyed, I sure wouldn’t do it and also, I must give some face to that person. If want me to tell the truth, I was real mad and wanted to kick Bruce’s leg heavily. Yet, I didn’t do it. Bruce was angry later. He said the color shouldn’t be so bright and if it was processed using the Italian method, the end result won’t be like this. The other party promised to re-process the film and provide a result with better effect. So, we returned to watch the enhanced rush sample for the second time which finally met our expectation.
Q7: In Japan, Bruce’s last movie, ”ETD” was the first to be released and it caused such a stir there. Then, followed by “WOTD” and GOD?
NT: Correct. My first movie working with Bruce was WOTD which he was the director. The second movie was GOD (1972-1978). I completed about 1/3 of GOD, then, the Americans came to talk a deal with Bruce. As he needed to stop filming GOD in order to shoot ETD, so, he wanted me to be the cameraman for ETD. However, when the American director and producer came to watch my trial test, I found that my English was inadequate, I was unable to communicate with the director. It would not be feasible to let Bruce helped me do the translation all the time. In addition, I don’t like to have a translator that follow me around. when I don’t understand what the director wants, I mentally had a feeling of displeasure. Due to this reason, the director was unable to communicate what he wanted, thus, Warner Bros finally got a cameraman from United States to help.
Q8: So, Gilbert Hubbs became the cameraman for ETD?
NT: Yes. Bruce apologized to me I told him it’s alright, I should be the one thanking him. I am not a person that would surrender easily. GH’s deputy chief, production supervisor all apologised to me profusely, “Mr. Tadashi, sorry that the whole thing turned out this way, it was requested by the director. However, the money which was prepaid to Mr. Tadashi earlier doesn’t need to pay back.” I thought I have earned it effortlessly. Then, they said, “Will have to trouble you again in the near future. After this movie, please film the remaining of GOD." Unfortunately, while trying to complete the remaining of GOD, Bruce died.
Before that, I called Bruce and had a tele-conversation with him. He told me, “Next week, we’re going to Korea to film the outdoor locations. Mr. Tadashi, please go and prepare yourself.” It was planned to film the fights in the pagoda of GOD and that pagoda was in Korea. Bruce said to me, “Mr. Tadashi, after this, I’m going to tour Europe and the whole world and then spar with the first class martial artists. I hope to film all the fighting arts in the world and make them into series.” This is the last time I talked to him over the phone.
(Note: From Tadashi interview above and interviews with stuntmen like Bee Chan, Yuen Hwa, Tony Lau and even George Lazenby etc. It was confirmed Bruce definitely would complete GOD by 1972 before proceeding to his next filming for Shaw or Warner Bros.)
Thanks LIF. That was interesting.
The last note reads:
"Note: From Tadashi interview above and interviews with stuntmen like Bee Chan, Yuen Hwa, Tony Lau and even George Lazenby etc. It was confirmed Bruce definitely would complete GOD by 1972 before proceeding to his next filming for Shaw or Warner Bros.)"
Could this be a possible error, and the article meant to say "...complete GOD by 1973"?