THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN
- Year: 1977
- AKA: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
- Starring: Bruce Liang, Shin Il Lung, Alexander Grand, Tang Ching, Cheung Lik, Hon Gwok Choi, Eric Tsang, Lau Yat Fan, Lau Wai Yue, Fong Yau, Lily Foo Lai and Jenny
- Directed by: Law Kei
"This film is dedicated to millions who love Bruce Lee"
Any time a film opens with a dedication featuring improper grammar, you know you are in for a good time. Let me start off by simply stating everything you have heard about this movie is true! Bruce Lee goes to hell? Yup! Bruce fights James Bond and Dracula? Yup! Bruce befriends low rent versions of the One Armed Swordsman and Popeye? You betcha! All that and more can be found in what can only be described as one of the wackiest kung fu movies of all time.
The plot is pretty simple: Bruce Lee arrives in Hell and immediately gets on the bad side of the King of Hell. Seems all the women in Hell know about Bruce's legendary prowess in bed and want to play with his nunchaku. This irritates the King, whose wife even digs Bruce, so he sends his henchmen to get Bruce. Did I mention that the King's group of ragtag thugs includes James Bond, Dracula, Zatoichi, the Man with No Name, The Godfather, The Exorcist and Emanuelle? If that weren't enough, Bruce Lee receives help in the form of the One Armed Swordsman, Caine from KUNG FU and Popeye! Yes, Popeye complete with his corncob pipe, can of spinach and theme song. Copyrights be damned! It is like LXG budgeted on the return value of a soda pop can (and more entertaining to boot). Of course, even in Hell Bruce is Bruce so he defeats everyone and everything thrown at him with a variety of styles creatively titled Fist of Fury, The Big Boss, Game of Death, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Bruce's Third Leg. What? Well, to use the old adage, you have to see it to believe it.
More than just your average loony kung fu movie, THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN is something special. It is as if Fellini made a kung fu film. But don't get delusions of grandeur here. Everything about this film is cheap. Hell looks a lot like a cheaply dressed studio set. When earthquakes happen, the camera rocks back and forth while $5 a day grips drop Styrofoam rocks from the rafters. Characters will walk from the set to the caverns of Hell (a rocky hillside) and the director wants us to think they are somehow connected. Uh huh. The casting of Bruce Liang as Bruce Lee is quite inspired. While he looks nothing like the real Bruce Lee, Liang is an exceptional martial artist and gets the mimicry down like the best of them. Unfortunately, he spends a majority of the time fighting guys dressed as mummies and skeletons that look like they would be more at home bopping up and down in a Melies short than a kung fu extravaganza.
Then again, nobody really looks apt for any of the parts they play. HK stalwart Alexander Grand (imagine Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss' lovechild) is James Bond and the only thing he has in common with the suave Bond is that he is white. Dracula is a Chinese dude in greasepaint who attacks in broad daylight. The Godfather and The Exorcist wouldn't even hold up in court as rip offs except for the fact they are constantly called by their monikers. But all this is what gives THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN its charm. It is refreshing to know that an independent Hong Kong studio would use all these characters, effectively thumbing their nose a la Bruce at the law. That couldn't even come close to happening in today's corporate ruled movie industry *cough, cough AVENGING FIST cough, cough*.
Review by William.