70s kung fu home movies on big screen for charity

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HE was the invincible martial arts legend who became the scourge of big-screen bad guys and sparked a global kung fu craze.

Now Bruce Lee has been hailed for saving a group of Niddrie teenagers from a life of crime in a coming-of-age film premiering this month.

A still from one of the films made by the group.

A still from one of the films made by the group.

Several youngsters were so inspired by the icon that they created a series of action films set in the Capital in homage to him.

Almost four decades later, their efforts have been immortalised in a nostalgic documentary produced by a leading member of the group and which is set to be shown in Edinburgh next Saturday.

Tom Dick, 52, now works as a shuttle bus driver in Arizona but his love of films and his joy in the group’s accomplishments remains undimmed.

He said: “As a bunch of young teenagers back then we chose the path of making movies rather than getting into trouble with the law – and one man, Bruce Lee, put us on the right path.

“All of us knew the guys who would break into homes, cars and shops but we were never interested in that because we were too busy planning a scene for our next film or splicing and dubbing the movies.”

Now and Then: A Journey Through Time will be shown at the Odeon on Lothian Road in a charity night to raise funds for the Sick Kids.

The film shows footage of parts of Edinburgh that no longer exist, including high-rise flats and the cattle market at what is now the Corn Exchange.

The group of 11 who appeared in the films – many sporting hairstyles and fashions typical of the day – all attended Castlebrae High. Remarkably, they have stayed in touch even after Tom moved to the US with his wife in 2001.

He said: “While living here in the States, I would often talk to my friend Keith Brodie back in the UK about the movies we made all them years ago. A few times in the conversations the idea would pop up about making a documentary about those times, but with me being here and all them being in the UK it was just not possible until 2010 when I went back to Scotland for an extended period of time.”

The pair managed to track down many of those who appeared in the film, and they were only too happy to be interviewed for the piece.

The film, which lasts one hour, 20 minutes, shows clips from some of their films, including Out to Kill, The Warriors and Pay or Die alongside reminiscences of growing up in Niddrie.

One of the outtakes saw a cast member accidentally knock a lens out his glasses while swinging a set of nunchaku around his head – much to the amusement of the rest of the crew.

The cast, who dubbed in sound effects later, didn’t have access to state-of-the-art special effects and used strawberry sauce to simulate blood in some of the more gory scenes.

Mr Brodie, 52, from Currie, described making the films as one of the best times in his life.

He said: “I have so many fond memories. And the guys we mucked around with at the time were second to none. I would do it all again.”

The group started making silent super 8mm movies in the mid-1970s, and it was not until 1979 that they got a sound camera. They stopped making them around 1982 when a lot of the them started jobs or moved away from the 
area.

Sandra MacNeish, 50, of Portobello, whose brother Kevin and ex-boyfriend Keith both appear in the film, has been working to publicise the film in the hope it may be aired on prime time TV following its big screen debut.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com