How Were 70s Kung Fu Films Dubbed?
Whenever I dubbed a film, I’d work with the same three to four people and I’d do four to six different character/film. We were given a script in Chinese with English subtitles. We had four hours to dub one film, and only dub dialogue and small crowd scenes. We’d watch a five-minute clip twice, once in Chinese, once without sound, then dubbed it.
We would choose our characters in each scene and remember what voices we used for them. We had to memorize the dialogue because there was no time to read the script while the clip was playing. Most important, our voices must start when the character’s mouth moves and finish when the character’s mouth stops. Speed was of the essence.
Since we weren’t professional actors or dubbers, after the second film we ran out of different voices, so we’d develop a good guy voices, a villain voices, an innkeeper voices, etc, and that’s why these films often sound alike. What if there’s thirty Chinese characters of dialogue with a two English-word translation? Make stuff up that makes sense. And if there’s four Chinese characters and 10 words of English, say something fast with a similar meaning. Often times four or five of my characters were in the same scene, thus I’d have a five-way conversation with myself in five different voices. It was hilarious and fun.
Sometimes we had an Australian help out. Not that our voices weren’t out of place enough, but having an Australian twang saying, “Mate,” sounded zany.