Who’s Foolin’ Who? It’s Classic Brucesploitation with The Dragon Lives Again (1977)

Is this movie a joke? Well, yeah. But that doesn't mean it's not real.
Is this movie a joke? Well, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Okay, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way at the top. Yes, today is April 1st. Yes, in America it is April Fool’s Day. And yes, this post is my offering to that day.

All that being said, though what follows may seem like some kind of massive joke, and in some ways it definitely is, but at the same time, the movie I’m posting about today is real, as you will see at the end of the post.

So, for those who may not have ever heard the term “Brucespoitation” before, perhaps a bit of explanation is in order. In the wake of Bruce Lee‘s untimely death in 1973, and for a number of years thereafter, it seemed like anyone involved in the martial arts film industry did anything they could to find a way to connect their film to the late master. Sometimes this was done by inserting bits of training footage or other unused bits of film into otherwise unrelated movies. Sometimes it was done by changing the name of the star to something that sounded or looked similar, such as “Bruce Li” or “Bruce Le“.  Then there were times when the producers would go even further than that.Which is how we get to 1977’s The Dragon Lives Again.

Oh, don't even pretend you hadn't wondered before what it would be like if Bruce Lee fought America's favorite spinach eating sailor.
Oh, don’t even pretend you hadn’t wondered before what it would be like if Bruce Lee fought America’s favorite spinach eating sailor.

If you look at the poster at the top of this post, or even at the opening frames of the movie itself, you will notice that it states that the film is “dedicated to the millions who love Bruce Lee”. That, and the title, which invokes Bruce’s nickname of “The Dragon” would automatically be enough to draw in a certain amount of viewers just for curiosity’s sake. But this flick goes way beyond that simple expediency. Instead, it gives us a full-on exploitation of the legacy by taking as its initial premise that upon his death Bruce wakes up in the underworld ready to take on its king and take him down.

Ok, not bad as far as a set-up. Especially when you can get away with explaining the fact that your star looks, sounds, and acts nothing like the original Bruce Lee with a simple throw-away line stating that when one passes to the underworld their body undergoes a metamorphosis that changes their face and body.

Oh, okay then. So far so good. We’ve set up our premise, we’ve explained away the major complaint people might have. Now what do we do with it?

Yes, Bruce also fights Dracula in this movie. Why? Because. Do you really need more of an answer than that?
Yes, Bruce also fights Dracula in this movie. Why? Because. Do you really need more of an answer than that?

Obviously, it’s time to bring on the wacky. And by wacky, I mean the “guest stars” for Bruce to fight alongside or against. After all, if you’ve got an underworld setting where pretty much anyone can appear and anything can happen, why wouldn’t you take full advantage of it? Which is really all the explanation you need to team Bruce up with characters such as Popeye and Kwai Chang Kaine (from the then-popular TV show Kung Fu), or to send him against opponents such as Dracula, James Bond, Zatoichi, and Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”. Oh, and just for the hell of it, why not also throw The Godfather, The Exorcist, and sex-kitten Emmanuel into the mix too.

Yeah, why not?

What? You’re thinking this film is starting to sound like a  complete mess? Well, that’s probably because it is. But it’s also a rather fun mess. Obviously, it’s never going to win any Academy Awards. As a matter of fact, it’s not even going to win any midnight cinema awards. This is simply a movie that has one purpose: to put butts in seats and keep them entertained for 90 minutes or so. Does it accomplish even that meager goal? Well, I suppose that depends on how you look at it and how much tolerance you have for this sort of thing. For my part I’ll simply say that I found it an entertaining enough time waster.

And that’s even without considering “The Third Leg of Bruce” which is brought in as a devastating weapon. Yeah, folks, we’re talking true high art here.

Okay, that’s enough from me on the topic. After all, why should I spoil all the fun when thanks to YouTube uploader DigThatBoxHOLLYWOOD you can enjoy the entire flick yourself. Just click play, sit back, and let the martial arts glory absorb you.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!


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