Book Review

by Joy C. Al-Sofi, ©2002

A new book about Jackie Chan has just been published. This one is entitled The Unauthorized Jackie Chan Encyclopedia by John Corcoran, published 2002 by Contemporary Books, a division of McGraw-Hill. Softcover, 240 pages.

A new book about Jackie is a cause for celebration among Jackie Chan fans everywhere.

Just how good a job does John Corcoran do?

Lets start with the good points and there are a bunch:

  • Lots of photos, Jackie stills, lobby cards, posters, and magazine covers not found in other books
  • Photos of other Hong Kong movie actors, directors, and movie posters
  • An extensive list of articles in US publications along with a few foreign publications in English as well. A very welcome addition.
  • A fan contributed musicography of Jackie's CD's. There is also a description of many of Jackie's music videos. This section is among the most valuable contributions of the book.
  • Entries for some of Jackie's co-stars
  • Listing of some of Jackie's awards
  • Includes some of the people important in Jackie's life
  • Lists some names of Jackie's characters in films
  • A chronological filmography
  • Fan Club listing and contact info
  • A special long out of print English language interview with Jackie by Neva Friedenn from 1981 that is said to have been the first interview Jackie ever gave in English.

    Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, in this reveiwer's opinion, the positive aspects don't outweigh the negative. Here is a partial list of the many immediately apparent problems that I felt seriously detracted from this book.

  • Too many of Jackie's important co-stars have no entries

  • No list of the memorable villains in Jackie's movies

  • Reversing the Chinese name order

  • Not one name in Chinese Characters - Not even Jackie's!

  • The filmography is incomplete

  • There are numerous inexplicable omissions

  • Want to find something quickly? Good luck! There is no index!

  • Info that is just plain wrong

  • Some content that is merely repetitive of what is already available

    (Examples of these items can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.)

    To be fair, John Corcoran came to this venture with an extensive martial arts background, rather than a Hong Kong film background. He is the editor of The Martial Arts Sourcebook. (The Martial Arts Sourcebook was one of the important factors that led to my starting the USA fan club.) I was eagerly looking forward to this encyclopedia.

The book isn't comprehensive enough in terms of the number of entries or new information to warrant calling it an encyclopedia. Like so many of the prior books, too much of it consists of plot synopses, cursory stunt descriptions, and injury detailing entries. That, plus no Chinese, no index, and several obvious inaccuracies doesn't make this a book I'll be reaching for very often.

I can't help thinking that could have been so different. Wouldn't it have been great if John had shared with us his strong suit, his martial arts expertise and instead have given a us a run down of the martial arts moves and styles Jackie has studied? He could have detailed how these styles were displayed in each of the movies and how, in bringing them to the screen, they were altered from traditional forms. Maybe even an occasional entire scene by scene breakdown.

The fairest warning I can give is that in my opinion, the less you know about Jackie Chan and Hong Kong films, the more chance you'll have of actually enjoying this book.

Still it does have new photos, depth regarding his music, even if the format has made it relatively unusable, a quite lengthy if not exhaustive list of Jackie articles in English, and a very rare, early interview.

Based on what the book does deliver, if you are a Jackie Chan fan, and that's probably why you are reading this, then you've definitely got to have this book in your collection.

You can buy it from the fan club for $17.95 + s & h. If you want it right away, please contact me for complete price details by e-mail and you can use PayPal or click on our link to and do a search for Jackie Chan . They can sell it cheaper because of volume pricing.

Otherwise, because the review copy wasn't received until the September newsletter had already been mailed, look for how to order in it our October newsletter.

For examples and further details on my criticisms, click here for a detailed review.


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