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Frequently Asked Questions

v1.4 - Updated 7/29/2011


1. General Questions

1.1 What is Big Trouble in Little China?
1.2 Who starred in BTLC?
1.3 What's the storyline?
1.4 What's so great about BTLC?
1.5 What formats are BTLC available for viewing in?
1.6 Will are the specs of the Blu-Ray version?
1.7 Will are the specs of the DVD version?
1.8 Will there be a sequel to BTLC?
1.9 Can I get the Music Soundtrack to BTLC?
1.10 Where can I find the answers to more questions on BTLC?

2. Movie Plot Questions

2.1 What game is Jack playing at the beginning of the movie?
2.2 Why is Jack's truck called "The Pork Chop Express?" What's he carrying?
2.3 What's this whole thing about green eyes?
2.4 So why did it take 2000 years for Lo Pan to find a suitable girl with green eyes?
2.5 Not good enough? How green do your eyes have to be to break the curse?
2.6 What's up with Lo Pan looking both old and young?
2.7 Why "David" Lo Pan?
2.8 What's Egg Shen's story?
2.9 What the hell is Margot Litzenberger's role in the film?
2.10 What the hell are all the Chinese hells?
2.11 What is that weird underwater room with all the skeletons?
2.12 Who's that grinning Chinese guy on the banner during the funeral in the alley?
2.13 Why are the two gangs fighting in the alley?
2.14 Who are the Three Storms?
2.15 Hey, isn't Lightning the same character from Mortal Kombat?
2.16 Who's that old guy in the hat seen momentarily in the alley before the big fight?
2.17 What's in the Six Demon Bag?
2.18 What's in that flask Jack drinks, magic potion?
2.19 Good, thought so. What do we do, drink it?
2.20 Good, thought so. What's that symbol that forms in the lightning as the Storm is killed?
2.21 Is there a relationship between Big Trouble in Little China and Buckaroo Banzai?


1. General Questions

1.1 What is Big Trouble in Little China?

Big Trouble in Little China (BTLC) is a action / adventure / fantasy / kung-fu motion picture, directed by John Carpenter and written by W.D. Richter, Gary Goldman, and David Z. Weinstein. It was produced by Taft Entertainment Pictures and released by 20th Century Fox in July of 1986.

1.2 Who starred in BTLC?

The film starred Kurt Russell (Tombstone, Backdraft) as the wise-cracking truck-driver Jack Burton, actress and model Kim Cattrall (Sex in the City, Star Trek VI) as the lawyer Gracie Law, and co-starred Dennis Dun (Warriors of Virtue) as Wang Chi and Victor Wong (Three Ninjas) as Egg Shen. Playing the part of the evil Lo Pan was the versatile Asian actor James Hong (Chinatown, Blade Runner)

1.3 What's the storyline?

Jack Burton drives into San Francisco Chinatown on a trucking job. Once there, he meets up with his old friend Wang Chi. Wang loses a bet to Jack, so Jack accompanies Wang to pick up Wang's girlfriend and collect his winnings. At the airport, Wang's girlfriend, Miao Yin, is kidnapped by a bunch of street punks revealed to be under the command of a 2000-year-old evil spirit named Lo Pan. Lo Pan needs to marry a special Chinese girl with green eyes to become flesh and take over the world, and Miao Yin happens to fit the bill. The story is basically about Jack and his friends (including lawyer Gracie Law and magician Egg Shen) trying to get Miao Yin back while stopping the evil Lo Pan.

1.4 What's so great about BTLC?

The film was directed by John Carpenter, horror-meister of filmmaking, and has his special touch throughout the film. There are grotesque monsters, decent special effects, great kung-fu fighting sequences (employing great fight choreography from James Lew), funny lines, and a bizarre mixture of camp and kitsch. The film never really takes itself too seriously, making some of the cheesy lines and situations great fun to watch. Kurt Russell plays his John Wayne-like role to the hilt, and watching one of the Storms literally blow up is classic.

1.5 What formats are BTLC available for viewing in?

Currently BTLC is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS, and Laserdisc formats. You might find a Betamax copy floating around somewhere, but it's got to be quite rare.

1.6 What are the specs of the Blu-Ray version?

The Blu-Ray of Big Trouble in Little China was released in August 2009 and contains:

  • The original film in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (2.35:1)
  • DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track
  • Original film and extended cut versions (with never-before-seen-footage) accessible on BD-50 dual-layer disc via seamless branching

Other features are those previously offered on the 2-Disc DVD version:

  • 5.1 DTS English
  • English Dolby Digital 4.1 Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • Separate Audio track with commentary by director John Carpenter & actor Kurt Russell
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes (including an Alternate Ending)
  • An Out-of-this-World Effects Montage with commentary by SFX guru, Richard Edlund
  • Still Gallery
  • Advertising Gallery
  • Magazine Articles
  • Music Video of "Big Trouble in Little China" by John Carpenter and the Coupe de Villes
  • Movie Trailers
  • Television Spots
  • Interactive DVD Menus

1.6 What are the specs of the DVD versions?

There are actually two versions of the BTLC DVD:The 2-disc DVD "Special Edition" version released in May 2001 contains:

  • The original film in Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)
  • 5.1 DTS English
  • English Dolby Digital 4.1 Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • Separate Audio track with commentary by director John Carpenter & actor Kurt Russell
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes (including an Alternate Ending)
  • An Out-of-this-World Effects Montage with commentary by SFX guru, Richard Edlund
  • Still Gallery
  • Advertising Gallery
  • Magazine Articles
  • Music Video of "Big Trouble in Little China" by John Carpenter and the Coupe de Villes
  • Movie Trailers
  • Television Spots
  • Interactive DVD Menus

The single disc DVD version released in June 2003 contains:

  • The original film in Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)
  • 5.1 DTS English
  • English Dolby Digital 4.1 Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • Separate Audio track with commentary by director John Carpenter & actor Kurt Russell

1.8 Will there be a sequel to BTLC?

Probably not. But here's what we know:

Back in the early 90's, there were plans in the works to create a TV series based on Big Trouble in Little China, called "More Trouble in Little China." A screenplay was created, but the project failed.

There was a petition circulated on the Internet to get a sequel made, and soon Carpenter himself heard about a desire for BTLC2. Responding to the request, Carpenter noted that the first film did not make enough money back to warrant a sequel, and would probably not be considered. (Which is strange considering that Escape from NY, a marginally successful film, had a sequel made) He did like the idea of a TV series or TV movie, but nothing seemed to come of it.

In 1998, I approached John Carpenter at Dave's Video in Sherman Oaks, CA during a promo for his release of The Thing on DVD. After questioning him on making a sequel, the director expressed no desire to make Big Trouble over again. So it looks like people will have to be satisfied with the DVD release (for now).

1.9 Can I get the Music Soundtrack to BTLC?

Although out of print, John Carpenter's musical score to Big Trouble in Little China IS available! There are currently three versions out there: the original Demon Records 1987 CD, the 1999 Supertracks release with added music and bonus tracks, and the 2009 La-La Land Records release with the complete score. The original CD is hard to find, but sometimes someone is selling a copy on Ebay. The newer CDs can be found on Ebay and occasionally on Amazon.com.

Here are the track listings of each CD:


Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - 1986 Demon Records (DSCD-2)
Score composed by John Carpenter
Recording, mixing, sequencing and synthesizer programming by Alan Howarth

1. Big Trouble in Little China (The Coupe de Villes) (3:13)
2. Pork Chop Express (3:40)
3. The Alley (2:00)
4. Here Come the Storms (2:20)
5. Lo Pan's Domain (4:30)
6. Escape from Wing Kong (8:00)
7. Into the Spirit Path (7:07)
8. The Great Arcade (7:50)
9. The Final Escape (6:58)

Total Playing Time: 43 minutes, 38 seconds


Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - 1999 Super Tracks Music Group (DSCD-2)
Music Composed and Performed by John Carpenter in Association with Alan Howarth

Big Trouble in Little China
1. Big Trouble in Little China (Performed by the Coupe de Villes) (3:19)
2. Pork Chop Express (3:59)
3. The Alley (2:02)
4. Here Come the Storms (2:14)
5. Lo Pan's Domain (6:04) **
6. Escape from Wing Kong (10:10) **
7. Into the Spirit Path (7:04)
8. The Great Arcade / Final Escape Part 1 (7:53)
9. The Final Escape Part 2 (6:58)
10. Big Trouble in Little China - Reprise (Performed by the Coupe de Villes) (3:08)

Backstabbed
11. Opening (3:35) *
12. Alexandra (5:57) *
13. Blue Planet Interlude (3:08) *

Escape from New York
14. Atlanta Bank Robbery (3:31) *

* Never Before Released Tracks
** Contains Previously Unreleased Music


Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - 2009 La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1086) Music Composed and Performed by John Carpenter in Association with Alan Howarth (3000 unit limit)

DISC ONE

  1. "Prologue" (2:15)
  2. "Pork Chop Express" (Main Title) (4:01)
  3. "Abduction At Airport" (4:17)
  4. "The Alley" (Procession) (1:12)
  5. "The Alley" (War) (2:31)
  6. "The Storms" (2:42)
  7. "Tenement / White Tiger" (3:49)
  8. "Here Come The Storms" (4:15)
  9. "Wing Kong Exchange" (4:40)
  10. "Lo Pan’s Domain / Looking For A Girl" (3:16)
  11. "Friends Of Yours? / Escape Iron Basis" (7:18)
  12. "Escape From Wing Kong" (5:38)
  13. "Hide" (4:35)

DISC TWO

  1. "Call The Police" (7:32)
  2. "Dragon Eyes" (1:12)
  3. "Into The Spirit Path" (7:05)
  4. "The Great Arcade" (7:53)
  5. "The Final Escape" (Lo Pan’s Demise / Getaway) (7:02)
  6. "Goodbye Jack" (3:14)
  7. "Big Trouble In Little China" (End Credits - Album Version) (3:22) Performed By The Coupe De Villes
  8. "Stingers Montage" (5:24)
  9. "Big Trouble In Little China" (Original Version) (3:01) Performed By The Coupe De Villes

Total Score Running Time: 96:29


1.10 Where can I find the answers to more questions on BTLC?

Try the Wing Kong Exchange at http://www.wingkong.net 


2. Movie Plot Questions

2.1 What game is Jack playing at the beginning of the movie?

It's the classic Chinese bean-counting game of Fan-Tan.

There are four players in this game. You need one piece of paper, sticks (icy-pole sticks etc.) and dried beans. The players number the corners of the piece of paper zero to three. Each player selects a number between zero and three and writes his or her name next to that number on the paper. One player picks up a handful of beans and puts it on the paper. Using a stick they count the beans into 4 equal piles. This continues until the beans can no longer be distributed equally. The winner is the player whose number matches the number of beans remaining.

Thanks to Richard at URH for clarification!

There's also a modern domino game called Fan Tan. This game, also known as Card Dominoes, and probably yet other names, involves getting rid of all your cards by playing them to a layout. In the basic game this layout starts with the 7 of each suit and grows outward towards the king in one direction and the ace in the other. For details see Melissa Binde's Fan Tan page (now archived here)

2.2 Why is Jack's truck called "The Pork Chop Express?" What's he carrying?

Pigs!

2.3 What's this whole thing about green eyes?

2000 years ago, the first sovereign emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di, was challenged by the warrior Lo Pan and his armies. Lo Pan was defeated, and cursed by both Huang Di and his patron god of the East to have no flesh and live as a ghost for eternity. Huang Di and the god of the East put an escape clause in Lo Pan's curse, however. To appease the god of the East, Lo Pan would have to marry a special girl with green eyes. To appease Huang Di, he had to kill her.

2.4 So why did it take 2000 years for Lo Pan to find a suitable girl with green eyes?

Apparently, girls with green eyes are rare, and Chinese girls more so. But Jack Burton asks Lo Pan this very question, ("2000 years and you can't find one broad to fit the bill? C'mon Dave, you must be doing something seriously wrong!") whereby Lo Pan responds, "There have been others. There are always others, even in a life as short as yours. But you know the way it works with women, how seldom it works out... yet we all keep trying like fools!" So it looks like Lo Pan had other women, but for one reason or another, they were never good enough to break his curse.

2.5 Not good enough? How green do your eyes have to be to break the curse?

Well, there's a test, actually. Lo Pan refers to it as "Embracing the Naked Blade" and "Taming the Savage Heart." Remember in the middle of the film how Lo Pan has Gracie Law and Miao Yin grasp Rain's swords, fly in the air, and touch the glowing orb, causing the statue's eyes to blink? It would seem that both Gracie and Miao passed the tests. The odds that both of them pass after 2000 years of unsuccessful attempts seems highly improbable, but hey, that's cinema.

2.6 What's up with Lo Pan looking both old and young?

Even though Lo Pan suffers from the curse of "No Flesh," it seems that he has a physical form that's ridiculously old (2000 years - beats out Yoda). As this ancient cripple in a wheelchair, he can still pick up telephones, giving evidence of his physical form. He's very weak, apparently, as indicated by his use of an electric wheelchair rather than manual one.

When he feels like stretching his legs a bit, Lo Pan can transform into his "Spirit form," a seven-foot tall ghost of what he probably looked like during the height of his power 2000 years ago. In this form, he has no substance, passing through walls and not having the ability to touch anything.

Later during the actual wedding ceremony between Lo Pan and Miao Yin, the curse begins to reverse and Lo Pan has enough substance to pick up the "Needle of Love" and put it into Miao Yin. Lo Pan knows the curse is lifting when he notices blood on his fingers, indicating his flesh and blood are returning. The curse is not fully lifted, however, as Lo Pan is able to allow Egg Shen's rocket launcher missile to pass right through him during the wedding ceremony fight sequence. Once the curse is gone, Lo Pan loses both his pale fleshtone and his immortality. It is in this form that Jack is able to kill him with his knife-reflex action at the end of the film.

2.7 Why "David" Lo Pan?

I dunno... I guess that's what happens when you enter the USA through Ellis Island. It's an amusing American surname to accompany the foreign sounding "Lo Pan." Besides, I still crack up when Jack refers to Lo Pan as "Dave."Then again, it might be Lo Pan's "Business name" as the head of the National Orient Bank; something to distract people from his infamous last name.

2.8 What's Egg Shen's story?

It's never really gone into detail, but from what we see and hear of Egg, it can be assumed that he is older and more powerful than he looks. It is also very likely that Egg Shen had fought Lo Pan sometime in the past, evidenced by Lo Pan's line during their magic duel, "You never could beat me, Egg Shen." We do know that Egg Shen is knowledgeable about Chinese history, Chinatown, and Chinese black magic. He's "a very rich man" who owns several large buildings in Chinatown. Egg also runs a San Francisco tour bus service called "Egg Foo Young Tours" where he acts as a bus driver and tourguide. Perhaps Egg is an ancient sorcerer like Lo Pan, only he aged better. Maybe he's just had a chance to face Lo Pan when he was younger. It would take a movie prequel to explain this.

2.9 What the hell is Margot Litzenberger's role in the film?

She's a reporter for the Daily People's Herald. She's gotta have her scoop. And Eddie needs a love interest.

2.10 What the hell are all the Chinese hells?

Characters mention five Chinese hells throughout the film. They are (in this order):

  • The Hell of Being Cut to Pieces
  • The Hell of Boiling Oil
  • The Hell of the Upside Down Sinners
  • The Hell Where People are Skinned Alive
  • The Hell of the Oily Dragon (not Horny Dragon, as has been suggested)

The DVD also has Uncle Chu mention "The Hell of the Vast Cold" in one of the deleted scenes.

2.11 What is that weird underwater room with all the skeletons?

That's the "Hell of the Upside Down Sinners." It is conveniently located on the lower floors of the Wing Kong Exchange building. Seems like a prison where prisoners are hung upside down that got flooded with salt water from the bay.

2.12 Who's that grinning Chinese guy on the banner during the funeral in the alley?

That's Lem Lee, the previous Godfather of Little China, one of Lo Pan's competitors who got assassinated by the Wing Kong under orders from Lo Pan. For more information about Lem Lee, I wrote a short story called "The Hell of Being Cut to Pieces" found in the Creative Writing section on my website, the Wing Kong Exchange (www.wingkong.net)

2.13 Why are the two gangs fighting in the alley?

One gang, wearing all black, is known as the Wing Kong, vicious warriors commanded by Lo Pan. The other gang, wearing tan outfits, are the Chang Sings.The Chang Sings apparently were supporters of Lem Lee, who was killed by the Wing Kong. The Chang Sings want revenge, thus their confront in the alley.

To quote Uncle Chu, "They've been fighting for centuries!"

2.14 Who are the Three Storms?

They are: Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong) and Lightning (James Pax). Each Storm is a physical manifestation of the major elements of nature.Thunder's strength lies in his physical abilities. When upset, he is known to physically expand in rage. He wields a pair of Sais during the alley fight.Rain is a master swordsman and is quite agile. He wields a pair of clawed maces. Lightning is the creepy guy who doesn't say much but harnesses electricity. During the alley fight, he has a pair of spinning forks (!) at his disposal.

2.15 Hey, isn't Lightning the same character from Mortal Kombat?

Well, yeah, they look the same, don't they?

I think the character of Lightning comes from Chinese mythology, and is not intrinsically from BTLC. That said, yes, they are probably supposed to be the same character. No doubt the people at Midway games watched BTLC when coming up with an idea for the character in the game.

2.16 Who's that old guy in the hat seen momentarily in the alley before the big fight?

That's Lo Pan in "civilian clothes." He looks old, but not as old as in his wheelchair form, which probably means he's in his ghost form. Perhaps he takes this form when he wants to spy on his minions in Chinatown. He does note Jack's truck and smiles knowingly.

2.17 What's in the Six Demon Bag?

Wind, fire... that sort of thing.

2.18 What's in that flask Jack drinks, magic potion?

Yeah!

2.19 Good, thought so. What do we do, drink it?

Yeah!

2.20 Good, thought so. What's that symbol that forms in the lightning as the Storm is killed?

I'm told that the symbol is the Chinese symbol for "Carpenter," for John Carpenter, the director.

2.21 Is there a relationship between Big Trouble in Little China and Buckaroo Banzai?

Yes, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984) was directed by W.D. Richter, who wrote the screenplay to Big Trouble in Little China (1986). If you watch the end of Buckaroo Banzai, the film mentions a potential sequel called "Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League." Supposedly, Richter was writing this Banzai sequel and, under John Carpenter's direction, it eventually morphed into Big Trouble in Little China.

Ah, but the plot thickens. In 1996, a BB fan named Ernest Cline wrote a professional screenplay of "World Crime League" which almost made it big time. You can find more info at http://www.ernestcline.com/bbawcl/

Most interestingly, his script has several scenes with none other than wise-cracking, truck-driving Jack Burton!

Here's the first scene with Jack:

_________________________________

A trucker, wearing a ball cap and sunglasses, walks out of the station eating a huge submarine sandwich. He's got a saddlebag slung over his shoulder. He glances at the Jet Car, and Buckaroo motions to him.

BUCKAROO: Excuse me, sir. Do you know who that truck over there belongs to?

TRUCKER: Jack Burton . . . Me.

BUCKAROO: Well, Mr. Burton, we need to get this car to Holland Township, New Jersey as quickly as possible. If you'd be willing to tow us with your rig, we'd be glad to compensate you.

JACK BURTON: That won't be necessary, Dr. Banzai.

Jack turns sideways so that they can all see the Blue Blaze Irregular patch on the shoulder of his jacket.

JACK BURTON: You pay for the speeding tickets and I'll have you back at the Institute in an hour, tops.

BUCKAROO:Thank you, Mr. Burton.

JACK BURTON: Call me Jack.

BUCKAROO: Buckaroo. (shaking his hand) Say Jack, mind if I have half your sandwich there? I'm starving. Skipped breakfast.

JACK: (handing him the sub) Knock yourself out, Buckaroo. (to the others) Reno, Rawhide, Sid, if you fellas push her around in back of the 'ole Porkchop Express there, I'll hitch ya on.

They are all a bit stunned and impressed that he knows their names. They start pushing, and Tommy smiles and hops back behind the wheel to steer. Buckaroo lays into the sandwich like he hasn't eaten all day (which he hasn't) and his taste buds are immediately on fire. He drops the sandwich and begins fanning his mouth.

JACK: Chinese pepper-steak. Packs a wallop, don't it?

New Jersey hands Buckaroo a canteen, which he empties. New Jersey motions to the saddlebags slung over Burton's shoulders.

NEW JERSEY: Like your saddlebags.

JACK: Thanks. Real leather.

 
 
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