I was chatting this morning with my great friend and Blvd. Warriors interviewee, Grandmaster Ron Van Clief, and he mentioned a filmmaker friend of his named William Lee. I decided to find out more about Lee and found this retro-style clip from a movie Lee directed in 1987 called Treasure of the Ninja. The clip takes takes its cues from everyone from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (when Lee stomps the life out of Bob Wall’s character O’Hara) to Carl Scott and Drive-In Movie cult classics, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Check out the Treasure of the Ninja clip below, and then I want to let everyone know a little more about William Lee, one of millions of young urban males whose life has been touched by the legendary Bruce Lee and classic Asian martial arts films.
William Lee’s career behind the lens goes back to his teen years. Born in New York, Lee’s father, a World War II veteran and aircraft engineer, moved his family to the Midwest when William was 6 years old. According to Lee himself, after watching kung fu legend and martial arts star Bruce Lee on screen for the first time in 1974, he asked his father to purchase a movie camera so that he might “replicate” the legend’s exploits – albeit on a smaller scale. Within a year of picking up a film camera, Lee received his first award at the Eye Music Festival of San Francisco. Since then, he has directed over thirty film projects.
In 1988, Lee self-distributed his martial arts film Treasure of The Ninja, designing the box cover and sending flyers to video stores he found in phone books from cities across the United States.
After being diagnosed in 1997 with the life-threatening disease Systemic Lupus, Lee underwent surgery, treatment with experimental drugs, and chemotherapy for the better part of two years. In addition to substantial weight loss, William Lee was forced to contend with a gaping hole in his side, and physical debilitation that resulted in lengthy periods in a wheel chair. In spite of the intense pain and temporary setbacks, he eventually forced a miracle. The affliction that once placed his life in jeopardy is now in remission, and he is a fully functioning member of the community, a testimony to medical advances and his own desire to live.
Lee continues to develop film projects, the latest of which is another martial arts action thriller called Architect of Chaos.