Woodland Crest – outdoor film location for WOTD, Sheung Shui
Woodland Crest is a smallish (for HK at least) apartment complex that sits about a kilometre east of Sheung Shui MTR station. It’s a rather run-of-the-mill and innocuous kind of place that sits on a little bit of local history. The development itself was completed in 1996 but before it existed it was the site for a place known as the “Twin Dragon City Country Club”.The Twin Dragon City Country Club seems to have been quite popular during its time mainly because of the eponymous restaurant, that sat on top of what was once a small hillock, that was a popular dim sum place for the locals from around the NT.
The hillock has been removed and in its place is the apartment complex and its adjoining private garden. I’m interested in this place for two reasons. First, obviously because of my interest in local history in and around the New Territories, and second because it was used as one of only two local HK locations for Bruce Lee’s “Way of the Dragon”. But more of that later, first a bit more about the club.
Well, there doesn’t seem to be much information available out there. At least nothing is documented online other than some various peoples memories that it was built in the style of an old village, with the restaurant looking very much like an old temple or ancestral hall, and that there was a kiddy playground and up there. It sounds like it may have closed down sometime around 1978/80. I can’t find an exact year but it was a long time before the apartments appeared.
Actually, I have a photo of the front of the restaurant but the person who gave it to me asked me not to put it online and unfortunately I gave him my word. The reason is because its a rare shot, taken during the filming of WOTD, and shows Paul Wei Peng Ao and Thomas Chan (both played roles in the film). However, what I can show you is some small crops that feature the restaurant sign and the two Chinese sedan chairs that used to sit either side of the restaurant entrance.
Reading right to left it says “Seung Lung Sing Tsau Lau” – literally “Double/Twin Dragon City Restaurant”.
Here are the sedan chairs. I believe I have seen a B&W shot on uwants.com.hk before, but here they are in full colour.
This one above is sitting on the left hand side as you face the entrance. The next one was on the right hand side.
So there you go. A tantalising taste of what used to be there. Steve Kerridge’s Vol 2 book has some great photos of this location, so if you want to see more of the area you should go and buy the book.
Anyway, back to Bruce. I’ll be honest, other than some fairly (still) peerless action scenes, including the famous fight to the death with Chuck Norris, there is little in the film for non-Bruce fans. The film is a bit boring between the action sequences and was aimed strictly at a Chinese audience – meaning much of the humour and cultural references did, and still do, go over most non-Chinese heads. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because we are here to discuss the location.
When the John Little location doc crew were here last August, I ended up joining them at this location for a while, basically because I wasn’t sure they would get the right place (initially they didn’t, but there’s a reason for that) and also because I hadn’t been personally. Luckily by the time I arrived my directions seem to have done the trick and I arrived a little after the crew – my taxi driver asking me why the hell I was going to this place with 3 kids in tow.
The reason its hard to find this place is because it has TOTALLY changed and is now unrecognisable from anything you will see on screen. The Woodland Crest development has taken over most of the area that was used for filming, as we shall see later, and the only reason you know you are in the right place is because of the nearby Tin Ping Shan hillside, which is also seen on the film.
About an hour was spent walking around trying to nail angles and to a lesser degree some were found by virtue of some other mountains in the background that turned out to be part of the Pat Sin Leng range in Tai Po. The truth is that the housing development not only obliterated the area where the country club used to occupy, but also most of the sandy wasteland to the east where the filming was done.
I took the liberty of obtaining an aerial shot of the area from 1973 (i.e. after the film was made) and have stuck it – with some success, although the scale is slightly different in both – next to a modern day shot from Google Earth. You can judge for yourself below.
You can see the triangular sandy area in the B&W on the right, compared to how the apartment complex now sits on this site as of 1996. If you look carefully on the colour shot, you will see the channels in the ground where the Ng Tung River used to run prior to its recent redirection (circa 2003/04).
Anyway, after spending a considerable amount of time studying and comparing these two shots I figured out that the majority of the land used for the shoot is now covered by the private garden inside the complex grounds – there is still a tree line in there that matches the 1973 shot which serves as a good point of reference. The tennis courts on the right are the approximate location that Bob Wall and Wang In Sik enter into the foray, as seen below.
Anyway, here is a shot with Tin Ping Shan at the back, followed by the distant shot of Wong Leng (I believe).
Well, I guess that’s all I can say on the matter. Hopefully you’ll be able to see the finished version of John’s documentary and assuming he decided to keep this location in (he didn’t look too happy on the day to be honest) you can judge for yourself.
As an update I should mention that I had the very great pleasure of meeting the actor Jon Benn the other day. He was in town (from Shanghai) and invited me to meet him for a drink. I have to say he is one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure to meet, and best of all he had some great stories to tell about not only this film and Bruce but also his days in Mexico when he had bit parts in “The MAgnificent 7″ and “Night of the Iguana”. What a cool bloke.
He did mention two things to me that I would like to share, The first is the red Mercedes seen on film WAS Bruce’s (so that should end the speculation). Bruce had in fact only just bought it the day before and half-jokingly told Jon that if he put a scratch on it during the filming then Jon was a “fucking dead man” – Jon had to drive it into the scene and come out with his gun blazing. Suffice to say the car came out fine.
The other story Jon had was about bumping into Chuck Norris in a bar in the Philippines in the 80′s. Jon asked him straight up who would win in a fight between Bruce and Chuck and Chuck answered unequivocally “Bruce would – he was the best in the world”.
So there you go, straight from the horses mouth.
(incidentally, Bruce’s old Merc ended up with a very wealthy private collector from Arkansas. I’m sure it will see the light of day again one day)