Watching (and rewatching) the “Al Leong Death Reel,” I try to recall the first time I noticed him onscreen. I didn’t see Lethal Weapon or Big Trouble in Little China until they were out on video, years after the theatrical releases…I guess it must have been in Bill & Ted’s, which was in ’89.
And yet I have this feeling that there was something before Genghis Khan. What was it?
I have difficulty remembering because that first image of Al Leong was one that I had tried very hard to block out of my head when I was a little kid. It was from a TV show in which a man named Harry Folger winds up in Chinatown — at Al Leong’s restaurant. But it’s a strange kind of restaurant. The wrong kind of restaurant.
“What happened?” I asked twenty-six years ago. “How come he’s so hungry?”
My older sister, who had been watching with me, explained. I thought it over. And then, being the chickenshit that I was, I couldn’t sleep because I was terrified of ending up in Al Leong’s restaurant and suffering the misfortune of Harry Folger.
In the twenty-six years since, I’ve seen a bunch of movies with memorable Al Leong death scenes. He dies and dies and dies, and he is exceptional at it. But why not let the guy live for once? That struck me as a very original idea — an idea worth backing.