The Dragon Lives Again/Demon Hands of King Fu (1977)

The_Dragon_Lives_Again_(1977)‘When a man’s endowed like Bruce, all the girls are going to want him!’ 

Bruce Lee ends up in the underworld after his untimely death, and opens a gym. Unfortunately, his business plans don’t go down too well with the local bad guys, and he becomes involved in their plot to replace the King of Hades with the Exorcist.

Brilliantly demented Bruceploitation insanity that reaches epic levels of silliness on a fairly regular basis. The story begins with Bruce waking up in the court of the King of the Underworld after his death. He has what appears to be a massive erection. Even after it’s revealed to be only his nunchuks, the King’s wives still lust after him, one of them also explaining that ‘people change their appearance after they die’. This is good to know, as none of the famous characters in the cast bear more than a faint resemblance to how we expect them to look.

After his audience with the King, Lee teams up with Popeye the sailor man and Kwai Chang Caine from the ‘Kung Fu’ TV series (not played by David Carradine). Their plans for a quiet life after death are scuppered by the local mob led by The Exorcist (not played by Max Von Sydow). His gang is an interesting bunch and includes The Godfather, James Bond, Dracula, Zatoichi the blind samurai, Emanuelle, and ‘Clint Eastwood’! They try to recruit Bruce to join their gang and participate in their plot to overthrow the King. Instead, he fights them in a series of ridiculously over stylised combat scenes, mostly on cardboard sets. This includes a delirious sequence where he takes on Dracula and his zombies dressed as Kato from ‘The Green Hornet’!

The_Dragon_Lives_Again_(1977)

‘I’m strong to the finish ‘cos I eat me spinach!’

Getting bored? Then let’s throw in some full frontal female nudity as the King’s wives try  to get it on with Bruce because of the size of his equipment. This involves a magic potion, a catfight and more obsessing over Bruce’s penis. Emanuelle also gets jiggy with the King in an attempt to induce a heart attack (I thought everyone in the underworld was supposed to be dead already?) but logic is obviously not something that worried these screenwriters too much.

Production values are low, the cameraman appears to be on Ritalin, and there are some superbly unexplained changes of location, courtesy of hacksaw editing. Of course, all this could be completely deliberate, given the nature of the film. It’s hard to tell. I saw a crude ‘pan and scan’ print, with the result that characters are often speaking out of frame, which may not have been the original intention of director Lo Ke (real name Kei Law) but it just adds to the fun.

Cast details are sketchy at best, but our main man is Bruce Leong (real name Siu-Lung Leung Leong), and almost everyone else is hiding behind a pseudonym anyway. We do know that our tuxedo-clad, balding James Bond is Alexander Grand, an American actor who actually had a bit part in a real Bruce Lee movie ‘The Way of the Dragon’ (1973) and appeared in other high quality, related projects such as ‘The Clones of Bruce Lee’ (1980) and ‘Bruce Lee and I’ (1973). The second of these was a Kung Fu vehicle for Little Unicorn, a childhood friend of Lee. The great man turned up on set one day to help with the fight choreography. The producers filmed the session in secret and spliced it into the final film. Such is the world of Bruceploitation cinema!

‘The Dragon Lives Again’ (1977) is a blast for anyone who enjoys trashy, exploitation film.  It should have won awards, but I’m not exactly sure what for.

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.