Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Dragon Lives Again / Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu

Title: The Dragon Lives Again / Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu
Director: Kei Law
Released: 1977
Staring: Bruce Leong, Sin Il Lung, Tong Ching, Jenny, Alexander Grand, Eric Tsang, His Chang, Fu Lai, Mei Wong, Kah Wah

Plot: After his untimely death, Bruce Lee (Leong) wakes up to find himself now in the “Underworld”. Having decided to set up a gym to allow him to continue to share his martial arts skills, he soon finds himself under attack from some familiar faces, who are plotting to take over the Underworld, while drawing equally unwanted attention from the King of the Underworld (Ching).

Review: Yes that’s right boys and girls it’s another “Bruceploitation” movie! The genre which proves, that just because your leading man has suddenly died, that it shouldn’t stop you making money off their legacy, by hiring either actors who look like them or using actors with similar sounding names. This however is possibly the most insane Bruceploitation movie I have seen to date, seeing how not only is Bruce in Hell, but also facing off against Zatoichi (The Blind Japanese Swordsman played here by Mei Wong) which might not sound too random, until you find out that he also set to fight James Bond (Grand), The Godfather (Il Lung), Dracula (Chang) and Emmanuelle (Jenny), while gaining support from The One Armed Swordsman, Kain (from “Kung-Fu”) and Popeye and yes I mean the same spinach eating sailor that we all know and love.

Having thrown plausibility out of the window, director Law takes full advantage of the surreal situation by essentially pushing it as far as he can, as Bruce also fights a bunch of Mummies as well as skeletons, yet still keeping a familiar Kung Fu framework from within which the action unfolds, hence we have Bruce opening a gym, only for it to come under attack, with the more traditional rival school here being replaced by a gang of famous pop culture icons, everything else though is just good old Kung fu right down to it’s quarry based fight scenes.

Leong might not look anything like Bruce Lee, but that doesn’t really matter seeing how in this version of Hell, no one looks like their former selves an idea which basically writes off the fact that no one looks anything like any one of the pop culture icons they are supposed to be playing and hence why we also get the Asian versions of Clint Eastwood (Wah), Dracula and more interestingly Kain, a role which was originally meant to be played by Bruce Lee in a concept he was working on while he was working on "The Green Hornet" called “The Warrior”, only for the idea to be stolen by Warner Bros and turned into “Kung Fu”, so it was especially interesting to see this role, finally being played by an Asian actor. Still Leong does randomly don the “Kato” costume from “The Green Hornet”, but like so much in this film no real explanation is given for it’s appearance here.

The tone of the film is clearly being played for laughs, rather than any kind of seriousness, atleast that’s what I hope Law was aiming for, especially as unlike other Bruceploitation movies which atleast had some element of paying tribute (largely though it was more to do with making as much cash as possible) to Bruce Lee’s legacy and the mystery behind his much discussed untimely death. This like “The Clones of Bruce Lee” however is a much more surreal kind of film. Still it hard to say that’s not amusing to see Bruce Lee fighting James Bond or a group of skeletons, which essentially resemble a bunch of guys in cheap Halloween costumes.

The alternative argument however is in terms of the tastefulness of releasing a film like this, a few years after Bruce Lee's death, let alone the fact it opens with Bruce sporting what would appear to be a monster erection, only to then be revelled to be his nunchuck's (easy mistake to make), much less to have Bruce apologising reflectively to Linda for his cheating ways. Meanwhile Bruce’s penis does seem to be a source of great interest to the King’s Concubines, which also gives us the great line “When a man’s endowed like Bruce, the girls are bound to want him.”, something which is never revelled even though we do get to see a move called “The Third Leg of Bruce Lee”.

Like so many Kung Fu movies of the 70’s the moves on display here all come with their own colourful names, none better seen than during the quarry showdown between Bruce and Zatoichi were the names of the moves explode onto the screen in huge white letters, with Bruce’s moves all being named after his films hence we get “Way of the Dragon” & “Enter the Dragon” were as Zatoichi shows us the colourfully named “Blind Dog Pissing”. Still this quarry setting you’re best getting used to seeing how nearly every fight takes place here. Still the fight scenes are all enjoyable enough, with Leong fighting with nowhere near the ability of the real Bruce Lee, but certainly with enough skill on show here to make for exciting brawls, even when taking on multiple opponents, while even the usually non martial arts trained of his foes all seem remarkably skilled usually after failing to shoot him at seemingly point blank range!

The soundtrack mainly consists of snippets of the “Enter the Dragon” theme, while we also get a Kung Fu reworking of the James Bond theme, while even more bizarrely the opening strains of Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting” also makes an appearance, with seemingly no purpose outside of cramming in another pop culture reference and raising a cheap laugh.

This film is without a doubt one of the craziest films I have seen in a long while and despite having a plot which is beyond implausible, but it atleast sticks with it’s ideas down to it’s insane final showdown which see’s Bruce squaring off against the king of the underworld and his army of mummies, while being backed up by Popeye and the One Armed Swordsman, which is the sort of fight I never fought I would be writing about, yet at the same time reminds just how much fun, can be found in writing about such obscure and random classics such as this, which would be unlikely to be found if I was writing about purely mainstream cinema, as I’ve a feeling that one is going to take some beating to knock it off the top of the weirdness totem pole.

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