Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976)

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)‘Can Bruce Lee defeat the invincible and unbeatable BLACK ANGEL OF DEATH?’

A young martial artist follows his best friend to America, but only arrives in time to attend his funeral. The man’s death happened in mysterious circumstances, and subsequent investigation reveals that he was possibly connected with the local drug syndicate…

In the wake of the untimely death of the iconic Bruce Lee, a veritable cottage industry of cheap, knock-off movies appeared, all trading on the great man’s name. This was encouraged by the fact that Lee’s own pictures had been released under multiple titles in the U.S. and around the world and, in the days before the internet, audiences could be forgiven for not knowing exactly how many movies he’d made. It also didn’t help that films like ‘Game of Death’ (1978) appeared, which was cobbled together from the footage Lee was working on when he died, and new material shot with lookalikes.

So how much has this particular example to do with Bruce Lee? Almost nothing. All we get to justify the title is the shot of his tombstone at the start (which looks rather as if it’s made of cardboard; shades of Ed Wood) and a flash of lightning…and that’s it. Cut straight to our hero in a taxicab after his arrival in the States. ls he supposed to be the reincarnation of Lee or something? Well, he is played by the suspiciously named Bruce K L Lea, who certainly has the appropriate physique and moves, but still doesn’t look an awful lot like his (almost) namesake. The taxi driver tries to hold him up for cash, but this proves to be a tactical error when Lea kicks out the window from outside and leaves the guy with his face covered in elastoplasts, as if he’s had a particular unsuccessful morning’s shave.

The story here is as generic as it gets, so predictable that it demands little or no commitment from the audience. lt is helpful to the dubbing crew though, who I suspect were never in possession of the original script, given the awkwardness of the dialogue. It does make for some amusing exchanges, of course, mostly between our hard-assed hero and the ditzy waitress (Deborah Holland) who helps him out. Rather brilliantly, Holland is apparently a Kung-Fu expert after one brief lesson from our hero, which seemingly justifies him regularly putting her in harm’s way. The character’s voices simply don’t fit at all, though, and the dub sounds as if it were knocked together in an afternoon.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)

‘Who are you supposed to be again?’

Leaving that aside, the film does have one virtue; and that comes with the combat sequences. Ok, so this is the sort of movie where gun ownership is pretty much unknown and simply everybody does Kung-Fu, but there’s no denying that Lea shows a lot of ability. Unsurprisingly, he was not an actor called Bruce K L Lea at all, but a martial artist named Jun Chong, whose subsequent career followed that path, rather than the trail to your local fleapit. It was probably a wise choice.

The film has a mildly interesting production history, being that it’s not even a product of the Hong Kong film industry at all, but originated in South Korea, although it was filmed in Los Angeles. Some commentators believe that the film was actually shot by Italian director Umberto Lenzi, who was responsible for the notorious horror shockers ‘Cannibal Ferox’ (1981) and ‘Nightmare City’ (1980), but that seems to be unconfirmed.

A formulaic Kung Fu revenge flick, redeemed in small part by the skills of the leading man, and the sometimes amusing shortcomings of the dub. And, of course, the wonderfully trashy title.

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