Following the success and death of Bruce Lee many imitators stepped up to take his place. Most of these ‘Bruceploitation’ films never made it to the cinemas in Australia. But when the video boom hit in the mid eighties, these films flooded the market. Time has clouded my memory, I watched a whole swag of these films featuring actors who called themselves Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Leong and Bruce Lang.
As I mentioned, my memory of these films is hazy at best, but one of the weirdest films I saw featured Bruce Lee in the afterlife. In heaven or hell (wherever Bruce went), he is attack by a legion of guys in skeletons suits. Naturally a legion of skeletons is no match for the martial artistry of Bruce Lee. So the big guns are dragged in to kick Bruce’s ass. First James Bond is sent in. Bond’s Walther PPK is no match for Bruce’s fists of fury, and 007 is bested. Next they send in ‘The Man With No Name’. Yep a cheroot chomping man in a poncho is sent to teach Bruce a lesson. Of course the pseudo Eastwood also gets his comeuppance.
That’s about all I can remember of the film. Not that the film was all that good, but after all these years I thought I might track it down and watch it once more. Was it really as goofy as I remember?
My first hurdle was finding the film – I couldn’t even remember the title. Then I stumbled upon Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave. Could this be the film? The short answer is NO, but since I have gone to the effort of obtaining this piece of crap, I thought I might as well review it. My suffering shall be your suffering. Here goes…
The film starts with a lightning bolt striking Bruce Lee’s grave stone. A man (presumably Bruce) leaps up out of the dirt. So Bruce is alive once more. But this doesn’t really matter. This cow catcher looks like it has been tacked on at a later date. This opening does not match the rest of the film, and in fact this is the only reference to Bruce Lee made in the film.
The film proper, opens with Wong Han (Bruce K. L. Lea) arriving by plane in Los Angeles. Wong gets into a taxi and as the car moves through the streets, Wong flashes back to three years previously, in Hong Kong where he was working with his brother Go-Hok Han as a kung fu instructor. Go-Hok has had enough. He wants to make money, and large amounts of it, and working as a Ku Fu instructor doesn’t seem like the way to get it. He quits the business and heads across to the other side of the world and attempts to make it big.
In the time away, Go-Hok has made it. He is a successful business man and he summons his younger brother to come across to the US. The flashback ends, and Wong is still in the taxi. The taxi pulls up unexpectedly and the driver pulls a knife and demands all of Wong’s money. Wong hands it over, and then he is forced out of the car. The driver knocks Wong to the ground, and then drives off. But the driver hasn’t finished yet. He swings the car around and starts barrelling towards Wong. At the last moment, Wong gets up, sidesteps the car and kicks the driver side window in as it passes.
Later, Wong arrives at his brother’s gymnasium, only to find that he died the day before. The official verdict is suicide – but both you and I know that there far more to the story than that. Wong thinks so too, and starts to investigate a group of mobsters who had an association with Go-Hok Han.
Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is a B-grade, grindhouse chop socky flick with truly awful dubbing. Wong sounds like a race caller on mandrax. Thankfully there is a fight scene every ten minutes and even though the early fights are rather un-involving, the fight choreography gets better as the movie goes along.
Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is not the worst film of it’s kind that I have seen, but it is close. Unless you’re a kung fu junky who must watch all the seventies martial arts movies that you can lay your hands on, then I’d stay clear of this one. There is a rumour, and personally I find it rather dubious at best, that the film was directed by Umberto Lenzi (under a Korean pseudonym). If you look at any of Lenzi’s poliziotteschi, it is obvious that he is a far more competent director than what’s on display here.
The film I was searching for turns out to be called The Dragon Lives Again, which, no doubt in time, I will pick up a copy and relive the mad insanity that I remember. In the meantime, here is the title sequence – uploaded to Youtube by: animaniaco