The Dragon Lives Again (aka Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, 1977)

12 ASSASSINS FROM HELL WITH ONE OBJECTIVE:

KILL BRUCE!

Whoa…  Who is Bruce and why is he such an asshole that you need demon assassins from hell to take him out?

Oh boy, that’s question that has answers that is weird and interesting in its own right.  Shit, I could write an entire article on the whole idea of “Bruceploitation” alone and never once start this movie.  The explanation of why Bruce needs to be killed and what the title even means begins with the greatest martial arts star in the whole world: Bruce Lee.

Lee was born here in America – San Francisco to be exact – in 1940.  By the mid-60s, he’d be a household name for playing Kato, the Green Hornet’s faithful sidekick, on television (even appearing on a couple episodes of Batman as Kato).  In the early 70s, Lee exploded into movie theaters as martial arts movies became a whole new phenomenon both here and in Hong Kong.  In 1973, after some issues battling headaches and seizures, Lee tragically died in his sleep at the age of 32.  The exact cause of his death is still debated with everything from heat stroke to an unknown and undiagnosed health issue no one knew about to the painkiller concoction that was used to treat his headaches being stated as the cause.

His films The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death, and Enter the Dragon are all genre classics that are still beloved to this day.  On top of that, it’s well stated that Lee was a very likable person who was appreciated by just about everyone who knew him.  Of course, he’s also the father of Brandon and Shannon Lee with his wife Linda Emery.

His death left a massive hole in Hong Kong cinema and the martial arts genre that ultimately led to the very dicey subgenre of Bruceploitation.  It’s dicey as all get out because 1) it relies on people who could pass as look-alikes because western audiences couldn’t really tell between one Chinese guy and another, and 2) it’s passing these people off as basically playing a revered real-life dead man.  They mostly would star guys with names changed to things like Bruce Li, Bruce Ly, Bruce Le, Bruce Liang, and so forth.  It was some sort of Bruce name with a last name that sounded a hell of lot like Lee.  Several movies were churned out with the sole intention of sequelizing, aping, or straight rehashing Lee films – particularly Enter the Dragon, his biggest success.

Then you had Bruceploitation flicks like the one we’re talking about today.  They specifically seem to cash in directly on the fact that Bruce Lee is, in fact, dead.  You’ve got The Clones of Bruce Lee, The Dragon Lives Again, and Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave which all basically either are stories about Bruce Lee being brought back to life or, as in the case of the third title mentioned, just wants to use that title to make it seem like the #1 action star of the early 70s was in fact, going to fight the fuck back from the grave.  It’s kind of hard to argue that Hong Kong needed a star to sell and Bruce Lee certainly was their greatest start (until others like Jackie Chan could come along), but damn…  It’s kind of insensitive, don’t ya think?

Anyway…  Let’s get into this flick, which also goes by the name Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, which, if you try to find it on Amazon or what have you, you mostly come up with trade paperbacks for Marvel’s series The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu which starred several of their martial arts characters like White Tiger, Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, and the Daughters of the Dragon (Misty Knight and Colleen Wing).

So…  How does this movie start?  With “Bruce Lee” (Bruce Leung in this movie) walking into a red room and dodging a bullet from James Bond.  Yeah, no shit.  Then, he fights some skeleton ninjas who work for the Godfather.  Then Japanese character Zatoichi.  Followed by him dressed as Kato taking on The Man with No Name.  And if you don’t think Dracula won’t show up, you’re a fucking moron, because he is here too.  Seriously.  That’s what’s happening here.  But we’re not done with those guys either!  The movie also features, of all things, the Exorcist and Emmanuelle who, I suppose, this guy must have last seen:

Dude…  Watch the boner there.

That’s Bruce Lee.  He’s dead with a massive hard on… for action.  The King of the Underworld is there.  A couple underworld babes are watching the proceedings and when one asks if the other is sure it is Bruce Lee, we’re giving a helpful explanation that when someone dies, they go through a physical change.  That’s, you know, for us who don’t have facial blindness when it comes to other races to understand this guy doesn’t look that much like the actual Bruce Lee.

Alright, well, our fake Bruce doesn’t have a raging bone, it’s his nunchucks.  The King of the Underworld thinks the only reason why Bruce would bring a weapon with him would be to attack him.  Bruce realizes that this guy really is capable of shaking apart the foundation of the world so he might be best off not starting a fight with him.

Bruce gets his nunchucks back and is sent on his way.  He goes to a restaurant to get some food, because these things are below as they are above, I guess.  Here, he meets and befriends, of all people, Caine from the TV show Kung Fu, Popeye, and the One-Armed Swordsman, Fang Kang.  He also gets attacked by Zatoichi.  The waiter explains that the Godfather has some pretty big time thugs such as James Bond and “Clint Eastwood”.  He actually calls the Man with No Name Clint Eastwood.

Sure.

Dirty Harry and Double-O Mutton Chops here want to know what gives with Bruce Lee being a jerk in town.  Bruce is basically all like, “Leave met he fuck alone, guys.  I’m new in town and I ain’t gonna take your shit for nuthin’.”  So Bruce Lee starts karate fighting the goon squad that came with these guys.  He’s harmed and stunned.  The Godfather’s dudes leave and a friendly doctor helps Bruce recover.  Bruce asks if he has a chance to get back to life, back to reality.  The doc is like, “Uh, no.  I don’t know nuthing about none of that.”  I assume if he knew anything of that, he’d, you know, use it for himself?

At some underworld bar or club or something, the Godfather celebrates with the Exorcist over his eventual ascension to King of the Underworld.  *Sigh* that’s a sentence I just typed.  Emmanuelle asks the Exorcist if he’ll remember her when he becomes King.  *Double sigh* that’s another sentence I just typed.  And he’s like, “Babe, you’re so fucking hot I will give you whatever you want.”

I’m… I’m not sure the producers of this movie understand Catholic priests all that well.

With very little explanation or even plot convenience, we learn that the King of the Underworld is a moron and the Exorcist wants him dead.  However, the Exorcist is worried about Bruce Lee.  The Godfather says he’ll take care of Bruce because… I dunno why.  I guess the Godfather is just that kind of guy.

In some kind of gambling den in the underworld, Bruce shows up to play some dominoes with Fang.  First, Bruce says they are shuffling the dominoes wrong, and then shows off his impressive domino shuffling skills.  Sure.  Then, of course, because he’s a fuckin’ bad ass, he wins a stupid large pile of money.  Okay.  Finally, he tells everyone that there will be no more gambling in the underworld because in life, they all gambled so much that they lost everything and committed suicide.  Now, in the underworld, they are gambling again.  So, that’s it, no more gambling.

Who the fuck are you, fake Bruce?  Seriously, I’m rooting for fake Exorcist and fake Godfather to beat you up, take your lunch money, and then pants you – or whatever they are planning to do to deal with you.  You ain’t the king of shit, dude.  Don’t come down here and on day one, start bossing people around.  You, sir… You might just be the villain.

Also, you and your friends look like assholes.

Anyway… Bruce teaches a bunch of people in Chinaunderworld how to fight the Kung Fu.  Cut to the King of the Underworld’s bathhouse with an insane amount of naked Asian lady titties.  Whaaaaaa?  This movie doesn’t have an ounce of feeling that it is made for adults.  This is some kiddie bullshit with Bruce Lee bossing people around because he is better than all the rest of these fuck nuggets, and the bad guys are insanely cartoonish.  But… Titties.  Lots of them!  And weirdo King of the Underworld who wants to touch and do weird shit to his naked ladies in his bathhouse.  The fuck?

What. Is. This. Movie?

I legit have no idea what this movie is really about.  Just when I see some tits and try to figure out one thing, say, like the tone of this movie, suddenly I’m watching Popeye and Caine fighting some bumbling cops and Bruce is telling them that they can straight fuck off because they don’t answer to no one no more.  Zatoichi comes into town and he and Bruce fight.

You know what?  It just hit me…  What did people think when they saw this movie back then?  First, Popeye is dead.  I hope your cartoons aren’t ruined forever knowing that you are watching a dead man.  Then, you have Caine and Fang.  Dead.  But what about James Bond and Zatoichi?  Hope you don’t think of them as heroes standing up for what’s right and being incorruptible!  Because they totally are corruptible.  They are bad guys in this.  What was the purpose of this?  Who drew up the lines between the characters for good or bad?

Whatever.  Back to the King of the Underworld’s bathhouse.  The King is chasing some naked chicks around like a madman.  It’s as if the movie was telling me to not think too much about the movie or its implications because there are tits in another setting!  Speaking of, the bad guys have sent Emmanuelle to ensnare Bruce with her lady bits.  I will eventually get to Emmanuelle and her lady bits on this blog, but, for now, she fails to get Bruce with her wiles causing her to throw a tantrum like a cartoon child.

Bruce meets with the Godfather, who tells him that if he threw in with these guys, Bruce would be in pretty good shape.  Bruce basically tells them to fuck off and leaves.  I thought the big plan was to kill Bruce or at least force him to stay out of their way.  Isn’t this, you know, NOT that plan?  Anyway, back at the pad where Bruce is hanging out at while he, I dunno, gets back on his feet financially or something, a couple sexy broads from the King of the Underworld’s bathhouse, the actual Queen and her maid, decide to rape Bruce by impersonating Fang’s sister who has been taking care of him.  They put some drugs in his tea to slip him a mickey.  He refuses them and threatens to get rough with them if they don’t leave – which only turns them on more.  The girls return to the King and demand he punish Bruce.

This is madness.  This movie is utter nonsense.  I’ve seen lots of Bruceploitation movies – particularly with Bruce Li.  For the most part, they were serious crime films with sweet fighting scenes.  There was a plot worth a dick to follow.  But this… This is some nearly unwatchable bullcock.

Oh good…  Dracula has shown up and he looks as ridiculous as you might expect.  While Bruce, dressed as Kato, fights off Dracula’s zombies and eventually the Lord of the Undead himself, let me explain what’s going on here.

Nothing.  Nothing is going on.

I guess the Exorcist has a new plan to get rid of the King of the Underworld.  He’s hooked him up with Emmanuelle to try to fuck him to death.  So this leads to that sex scenes with more tits and naked butt.  Try as she might, Emmanuelle seems completely worthless because she can’t get the old fuck’s ticker to give out.  In fact, leave it to Bruce to show up and explain that to the audience and help stop Emmanuelle from carrying out her assassination attempt.  The King legitimately says the following line:

“Her pussy’s in on this too, and she was going to use it to kill me!”

Listen…  I understand this movie is translated and overdubbed and none of that likely helps with this story.  That said, for fuck’s sake, I swear if one of you assholes tell me that this movie in its original Chinese is a classic piece of cinema worthy of the utmost respect, I will karate chop you in your fucking balls.  This movie is goddamn terrible.

Apparently Bruce, with little more than a single kick and a punch and a chop here and there has killed Dracula, James Bond, and Clint Eastwood.  Emmanuelle has been cast out of the King’s castle so…  I guess she’s done.  Godfather and Exorcist show up to kill the King and easily get rid of his guards and such.  The King protects his throne by fucking up the Earth by shaking that single pillar that holds everything its place.  As Exorcist and Godfather escape, they run into Bruce who takes them both on in a relatively shitty fight sequence.

That’s the other thing, the fights in this movie aren’t all that special.  I’d forgive the general shittiness of this movie if the fight scenes were actually worth a fuck.  Yeah, sure, there are plenty of lunges and some fast camera cuts and moves and what have you, but I don’t feel like there are any moves I’m seeing here that most normally people couldn’t do.  If this movie was in widescreen, maybe the scenes would be better, but I kind of doubt it.  That’s not to say there aren’t flashes of something cool, but they are mostly boring and uninspired.

Kind of like this movie.

The King seeks help from Chinese folk legend Zhong Kui who summons a bunch of demons to fight Bruce.  Surely tired from all the relentless fighting ever since he showed up in the underworld, Bruce is nearly defeated by the demons until his pals show up to help.  Eventually, Bruce and gang win.  Bruce faces off against Zhong Kui and defeats him as well.  Bruce and the other subjects of the underworld force the King to allow Bruce back to the world and demand he treats his subjects better.

There you have it…  Bruce Lee is alive.  That’s not at all stupid and shockingly offensive or nothing.

This movie is about as fucking dumb as you can get.  I am shocked to see that contemporary re-evaluations of the movie rank it as one of the most important and best Bruceploitation movies ever.  Hmmm…  How do I state my response to this.  Erm.  Well…  If I carry the one over here… Add those two numbers together there, and then divide it by…  Oh…  Here’s how I can respond to that…

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MINDS?!?

As I sort of stated above, there are plenty of kung fu movies that are kooky and silly and fun.  There are also plenty of Bruceploitation movies that starred Bruce Li that had some sense of humor, but mostly tried to keep the demeanor of the movies closer to other actual Lee characters and not this…  Well, whatever the fuck this shit is.  In this movie, “Bruce” is a cocky prick.  He thinks he knows best, he only cares for his own goals of returning to life and doesn’t do anything for his friends.  If you ask me, he’s basically a villain in this movie due to his selfish intentions and his lack of doing anything worth a fuck for the friend who helped him beat the bad guys.

Erg…  Well, at least I’m done with that.  I’ll some day get to better Bruceploitation movies.  You know, movies with an actual plot or something other than fistfuls of my hair to hold onto.  But, next week, I need a pallet cleanser.  To do that, let’s get back to the women in prison genre and to our old friend, Bruno Mattei.  I’ll be watching his “filth-fest” (directed under his pseudonym Vincent Dawn) starring the lovely Laura Gemser, Violence in a Women’s Prison!

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