It's a fake Bruce Lee vs. a fake Muhammad Ali!
Well, if there’s one thing January is going to bring, it’s going to be another trip to the genre know as Bruceploitation (BP). If you don’t know what that is, Wikipedia can help you there. If you don’t like actual research (like me), then here is a quick summation of the genre. BP was a phenomenon where producers tried to make money off the death of martial arts actor, Bruce Lee. Basically, they’d make movies that involved the name of Lee and it was in name only. I don’t think many who actually knew Lee were involved with them. Different martial artists were getting thrown into that “Next Bruce Lee” title and even the movies involved Lee’s name even though he never appeared in them. Some stock footage from previous movies would be used but that’s it.
For the last few years, I’ve gone into this swamp of weirdness and yells. Sometimes, there is some good to be found. You might get a decent movie or two. Then, you might get something so ludicrous that it needs to be seen. These movies can bring laughter in a “so bad it’s good” way. Today’s movies can end up on a scale of decent to “What in God’s Name Did I Watch.” So, sit down and read about how I spent most of my weekend getting to know these “movies.”
Fist of Fear, Touch of Death
Fist of Fear, Touch of Death was released in 1980. Basically, a reporter goes around and interviews different fighters and promoters at The 1979 World Karate Championships in New York. Adolph Caesar (yes, that’s his real name) goes around and interviews faces like Fred Williamson, Ron Van Clief, and some white guy about Lee. There’s also footage of “interviews” with Bruce Lee and even a “documentary” talking about how Lee was inspired by his great-grandfather (a Chinese samurai?????) to study karate… wait, what?
So… this piece of “poodoo” was pretty bad and not really in a “so bad, it’s good” way either. I remember that this movie came in with a double package with another documentary called The Real Bruce Lee. I always watched that one over this one and I see why. That one was even more accurate than this thing! I might be wrong, but I don’t think Lee ever studied karate. If he did, it may had been just a look at it since his main style pre-Jeet-Kune Do was kung fu. The “Championships” themselves were pretty weird to say the least. The actual fights in it are pretty bad too. Who runs around dressed up like Kato and beats up rapists? I will say that’d be an interesting movie at least!
Fred Williamson: What the hell are we doing here?
Adolph Caesar: I don't know, man. I even get nominated for an Oscar a few years later!
The interviews themselves were weird. They were sometimes edited weird especially the “real” ones with Bruce Lee. I think they got some of that footage of him talking from Longstreet, a TV show he appeared on. Then, we get to the weird fake story that actually used stock footage from different things. The old footage that shows a pretty young Bruce Lee was taken from one of the movies he did in his youth (Thunderstorm). The footage of his “grandfather” actually came from a movie called Invincible Super Chan. Something tells me that movie is more interesting that this thing here. The “story” is actually laughable with the horrid dubbing and overall weirdness.
Is there anything good I can say about it? Not really. I will say that some of the things said about Lee in the interviews were nice. You do get the idea that the team did like Lee but obviously didn’t know much about him nor his backstory. I think some of the “biographies” about Lee from this time were even a little better than this. Overall, I’d skip this but if you need something to laugh at, go for it. Here’s an interesting interview with the director of the movie. It definitely sheds light on how a lot of the weird decisions got made.
The True Game of Death
Next up is The True Game of Death… no, it’s not the actual G.O.D. This was released in 1981 and it stars Hsao Lung as the Bruce clone for this movie. It’s also the only movie this guy’s done and it’s easy to see why. In it, a martial artist actor who’s a fan of the departed Bruce Lee is approached by some gangsters to do something. Of course, he doesn’t go along with them, so they get his girlfriend to drug him. Lung survives his poisoning and disguises himself as a chef. When his girlfriend gets kidnapped and taken to a pagoda, Lung goes in and faces men on each floor.
I guess Dan Inosanto didn't want to come back for this knockoff like he did in the 1978 version.
If this sounds familiar, your instincts are right. This movie makes the 1978 version of Game of Death look golden and I actually kind of like that movie. This movie is far from the decent BP movies. It almost copies the 1978 version beat for beat and does it in a pretty bad way. It’s actually pretty forgettable. I actually almost got this clone mixed up with Ho Chung Tao (Bruce Li), but when I saw him up close, that wasn’t the case. The movie even throws in weird, psychedelic images of Bruce Lee from Way of the Dragon. It’s just so weird. Footage from his funeral is even shown at the beginning and it feels so tasteless.
Is there anything about the movie that’s okay? I did think some of the fight scenes were okay. We get a fight with sumo wrestlers that are fine. Also, Lung’s death from the poison was hilarious. He was convulsing in a way that was more laughable than sad. It’s unfortunately beaten by The Dragon Dies Hard where “Bruce Lee” does flips as he dies. Yes, that happened and it was funny. Overall, skip this one since there’s really not anything to it. I wish I did.
Goodbye, Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death
Next up is another G.O.D. ripoff. This one stars Ho Chung Tao (Bruce Li) in the lead role and it was actually released in 1975, so it’s a knockoff of the original, unfinished version. In the movie, Tao plays a martial artist who is asked by a studio to stand in for Bruce Lee’s final movie. Since he doesn’t make his decision, he and his wife watch the movie which “starred Lee in the lead role. That movie gets “Bruce” involved in a money scam involving gangs. His girlfriend is kidnapped and taken to the Tower of Death. There, “Bruce” has to face different fighters up the tower and save his woman.
If this also sound familiar, your instincts may be on the mark again. I can say that this one is at least better than The True Game of Death. I thought it was interesting that the main story is a movie within a movie. Unfortunately, we don’t even go back to what the guy who was asked to stand in for Lee at all. The fight scenes are also pretty decent with this one as well. They don’t go into weird mode like Enter the Game of Death, but they’re fine none the less. Other than “Bruce’s” girlfriend looking pretty nice, that’s all the good I got for this one.
If you're wondering, this is how it appears in the movie...
The negatives for the movie are few. While I liked the whole “movie within a movie” thing, that movie was far from good. The story had some weird plot holes. Also, the movie does some weird stuff. I remember this one fight scene where “Bruce” was literally teleporting around. What was that all about anyway? I didn’t know Bruce studied with Goku too! Then, there was the movie’s theme song, “King of Kung Fu.” It’s a straight-up disco song and unfortunately, it’s pretty annoying too. Here’s a link if you want to get it stuck in your head. Overall, this one’s okay. It’s far from good but better than most.
New Fist of Fury
Next up is New Fist of Fury and it stars some guy named “Jacky Chan”. Yes, Jackie Chan was thrown into one of these roles too. The movie was first released in 1976 but it was re-released in 1980 as Jackie Chan became more famous. About 40 minutes was removed from the 1980 version though. If you can tell by the title, this is another sequel to the original Fist of Fury. It even has some of the actors from the movie like Nora Miao (Chen’s love interest) and Lo Wei (the inspector). Han Ying-chieh (the villain from The Big Boss) and Chan Sing also had major roles in the movie.
In the movie, Ms. Lee (Miao) and a couple of others from Shanghai go to Taiwan to live with their grandfather. They run into their fair shares in Taiwan though as the Japanese rule there too. Jackie Chan plays as Sing Lung, a thief that ends up getting involved with them and the school they’re hiding at. Even though he hates the Japanese, he wants no part in fighting them or learning kung fu. The leading Japanese guy, Okinara, (Chan Sing) wants to bring all of the Taiwanese schools under Japanese rule and Ms. Lee’s grandfather dies as a result of that. Sing Lung then decides to join the Jing Wu School and learn kung fu.
I know baldy is wondering too.
This movie was fine for the most part. One thing I do like about it is that it feels like a continuation of Fist of Fury. While it does weirdly copy its predecessor, it does feel fresh at times. It definitely feels fresh when it involves Jackie Chan’s character since he's far from Chen Zhen character-wise. It takes Ling a while to get there. I did think that him not being in the movie much was weird though. I’m guessing that was why so much got cut out of the 1980 version. I also liked that Nora Miao’s character and a couple of folk here got major roles here. Even though Chan Sing was the stereotypical, evil Japanese leader, he kicked some serious butt here. In, fact, all of the fight scenes here were really good. They were also usually brutal for a Jackie Chan movie too.
Of course, there are things not to like about the movie. The Japanese are pretty much the Saturday morning cartoon villain they were in the original movie. At least we did have some differences here. I also thought the inclusion of the Lee footage and some references were done poorly. Remember that scene where Chen Zhen goes slo-mo on that white boxer? Well, Jackie does it here and it’s pretty laughable. Heck, only Lee could make that look cool. Also, I thought the ending wasn’t that good. I know they were trying to go for the ending from the previous movie, but this one didn’t work for me. Lastly, there were times where the movie would get a little dull. Overall, this one isn’t too bad and is better than most BP movies.
The Story of Chinese Gods
Finally, we have this strange oddity. This is an animated movie from China and it was released in 1976. I found out about this one from a YouTube reviewer and thought I needed to check it out. I don’t know if this really counts as a BP movie since it’s animated, but it does have a fighter who really looks like Bruce Lee. The fighter is featured a lot towards the movie’s end. In the movie, The Chinese gods look down and see an evil king hurting the land and its people. They team up with a man on Earth to take the king down. In retaliation, the evil king teams up with demons and a war starts. Of course, the evil king loses and all is strangely saved.
... I Got Nothin'!!!
To say this movie is weird is the understatement of understatements. I thought Brandon showed all of the weird parts in his review, but I was way wrong. I wouldn’t go so far to say this movie’s good though. The story is all over the place. The animation is weird and looks kind of crappy. The dubbing is pretty bad too. It’s all nonsensical, and somehow, that makes the whole thing a watch. It’s so weird in its weirdness! Yes, I said that.
I think the animators were trying to bring the weirdness of Chinese folklore to life and they do try. I can’t say that they succeeded. For example, the Lee warrior ends up fighting a woman who turns into a fox, fights four blue demons, and grows into a giant. I’d like to see Bruce Li try that! He even makes multiple versions of his face and arms like he’s The Living Tribunal from the Marvel Universe! It’s weird, man! Overall, I can’t really recommend the movie itself, but at least check the review out. It’ll be all you need.
In the end, these are some okay ones. I did have one I wanted to look at, but I’ll skip “Bruce Lee – Super Dragon" (if that’s what it is really called) for now. If you want to check any of these out, at least I’ve now warned you what you’re in for. Next time will be another visit to Ultimate Spider-Man. It does fit with this month; trust me. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and warn me about any “Ryellsploitation.” I want my royalties, dang it!