‘The Professor’s gone mad. He’s already ordered two of the Bruce Lees to fight each other… TO THE DEATH!’
After the sudden and untimely death of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the SBI (Strategic Bureau of Investigation) lets a brilliant scientist extract DNA from his body so he can create 3 clones of the great man. The clones are then trained in kung fu and dispatched on top secret missions against bad guys.
When Bruce Lee died in 1973, he was already Honk Kong’s premier martial arts film star and the release of ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973) shortly afterward took his fame to the global stage. With the international re-release of the small number of his films (often under similar and confusing titles), Hong Kong producers began churning out movies starring Lee lookalikes. The lead actors often changed their names appropriately and publicity would suggest that the finished film actually featured the dead star. There was so many of these that they became collectively known as ‘Bruce-ploitation’ films.
The release of ‘Game of Death’ (1978) brought things to an end, as some of it actually did feature new footage of Lee. It was the film he was making when he died. But there was still time for one last hurrah and so, sometime in the late 1970s, producer Dick Randall and director Joseph Kong conjured up the cinematic glory fest that is ‘The Clones of Bruce Lee’ (1980).
Tastefully, we open with Lee’s death as he is admitted to hospital after a heart attack. He’s barely cold before SBI agent Mr Colin barges in with mad Professor Jon T Benn (the mob boss in ‘The Way of the Dragon’ (1973)!) to take some kind of medical samples from the corpse so he can start whipping up some clones. And this he does with quite outstanding efficiency. They are full grown barely 5 minutes later and ready for action. We get Bruce Lee 1 (played by Dragon Lee), Bruce Lee 2 (played by Bruce Li) and Bruce Lee 3 (played by Bruce Lai). None of them look a lot like the original (or each other!) but they keep their big sunglasses on a lot so that’s fine. Their training is handled by Bolo Yeung from ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973), although for some reason he’s credited in the U.S. version as Yang Tze, which is also the name of the longest river in Asia.
Bruce Lee 1 is sent undercover to foil the schemes of an evil film producer who is smuggling gold. When his identity is discovered, the villains discuss shooting him ‘on camera’. It’s a weird foreshadowing of the real life death of Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon, on the set of ‘The Crow’ (1994). Bruces 2 and 3 go to Thailand to deal with Doctor Ni, who is both a drug kingpin and a mad scientist. He turns some portly middle aged men into metal so they will be invulnerable to our heroes fighting skills but he hasn’t counted on their weakness for poisonous plants, which the Lees shove in their mouths during the inevitable fight sequence. When they return to the lab, the Professor’s gone a bit mad (he did laugh a lot so I was always a bit suspicious) and he pits the Bruces against one other to find out which one is the best… or something?
Such a wild conceit should be good for a few laughs but the plot (such as it is) is basically just an excuse for endless fight choreography, which ranges from competent to painfully sloppy. It doesn’t help that blows are accompanied by ridiculously OTT sound effects and the editor using a chainsaw to cut the film. We see a split second of some of the combatants standing around waiting for their cue!
Explanatory scenes in between the endless scraps are completely perfunctory and feature some truly atrocious dubbing, with some characters apparently being voiced by more than one person. Although it might seem unfair to highlight such issues, it has to be remembered that this film was intended for the international market, not just a domestic release.
Some of the training montages are accompanied by the ‘Rocky’ theme (I wonder if permission was sought), there’s a lengthy and completely irrelevant scene featuring topless babes bouncing around on a beach and a couple of minutes that look like they were lifted from a Bangkok travelogue.
Wow. They don’t get much worse than this. Director Joseph Kong was actually called Joseph Velasco and also brought us ‘Bruce’s Deadly Fingers’ (1976), ‘The Return of Bruce’ (1978), ‘My Name Called Bruce’ (1978) and ‘The Treasure of Bruce Lee’ (1979). Producer Dick Randall began his career making documentaries about nudists, graduated to real porn and then gave the world the ‘Supersonic Man’ (1979), who was nothing like that Superman fellow and could lift large balsa wood cutouts of tractors above his head.
The French Sex Murders/Casa d’appuntamento (1972) – Mark David Welsh