THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN (1977) - Category: Brucesploitation with an enjoyably absurd twist
Even for the bizarre sub-genre of Brucesploitation films this movie is out there! The film starts with the recently – deceased Bruce Lee arriving in the afterlife, where the concubines of the King of the Dead gather around to gawk at the bulge in the pants of the late martials arts superstar. (Just in case you thought NO opening could be more tasteless than the one in The Clones Of Bruce Lee ) In a bit of alleged comic relief the bulge turns out to be caused by a weapon, not Lee’s organ. (Corpse schlong jokes! Who doesn’t love them?)
As head-shaking as that bit is at least it’s coherent, unlike virtually everything else that happens from this point on in the movie. And the time-honored tradition of Brucesploitation films having leading men who don’t even look like Bruce Lee is well-represented in this flick, but at least here they try to explain it away by talking about how a person’s face and body change after death. Which, of course, makes no sense since this is supposed to be Lee’s soul, not his body. Anyway, Bruce somehow persuades the King Of The Dead to grant him a chance to return to the world of the living, and is told he can return if he outfights all the other inhabitants of this odd netherworld.
You see, this isn’t just any bland version of the afterlife our hero finds himself in. It’s kind of a Valhalla of cult movie characters and Bruce spends the rest of the movie fighting all of them in various combinations. Lee is the only figure who’s an actor (kind of), the other shades in this Psychotronic Hell are actually famous characters from various film series: there’s Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name from Spaghetti Westerns, there’s Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, there’s James Bond, there’s Fang Kang, the lead character in the One-Armed Swordsman series of films, there’s The Exorcist and The Godfather, both of whom are played by Asians, for those of you who like laughing at the oddity of Caucasian actors playing characters like Charlie Chan, Mr Moto and Fu Manchu.
For some very odd reason there’s also Emmanuelle from the erotic film series bearing her name plus, for some even odder reason, there’s Dracula, who’s neither living nor dead so you’d think he wouldn’t be here at all. In the film he leads his famous army of … zombies? Yep, instead of a legion of vampires at his side Drac has an army of “zombies” who are really just guys in black costumes with full-body skeleton designs on them like the outfit worn by the Turkish film character called Killing (my head hurts). Later in the film Drac leads an army of mummies, just to make things even more confusing.
Before we bother worrying about all the foregoing weirdness, let me point out that another denizen of this netherworld is the cartoon character Popeye, yes, FREAKING POPEYE, played by a real-life Asian actor who squints and puffs up one of his cheeks in an attempt to look like his namesake. He even eats a can of spinach to increase his strength during a battle with Drac and his army of mummies.
Oddly, the Ilsa character from Dyanne Thorne’s infamous tetralogy of films makes no appearance. Neither does the red-haired samurai from the Son Of The Black Mask movies. His movies always had quasi-supernatural overtones so it would have made sense to include him in these proceedings, but that’s probably why they didn’t throw him in. After all, something that made sense might have been too much of a shock to the viewers’ systems. In the end Bruce Lee emerges triumphant over all comers and is permitted to return to the world of the living, just like happened in real life.
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