The good folks at io9 recently wrote about a film that has to rank up there as one of the all-time classics that I had completely forgotten about…the 1977 Hong Kong martial arts-comedy The Dragon Lives Again (a.k.a. Deadly Hands of Kung Fu).
One of the many Bruce Lee-inspired exploitation (or “Bruceploitation”) flicks released after the Asian American icon’s death, this is not only arguably the best of that genre, but one of the most bizarrely brilliant cinematic creations ever. Just read the Wikipedia synopsis:
After his untimely death, Bruce Lee (Bruce Leung Siu-lung) wakes up to find himself in the “Underworld”. He meets the King of the Underworld and questions his power. The King demonstrates his displeasure by shaking a pole that can cause an earthquake through the Underworld, which gives Bruce pause.
Bruce goes to a restaurant, where he meets Kwai Chang Caine from the TV show Kung Fu and cartoon sailor Popeye. He also meets Dracula, James Bond, Zatoichi, and Clint Eastwood, with whom he does not become friends. These pop culture characters, along with The Godfather, The Exorcist, and Emmanuelle, are planning a coup to take over the Underworld. Among their schemes, the characters send Emmanuelle to have energetic sex with the womanizing King in the hopes that he will have a heart attack.
Bruce defeats the bad guys, but is angered by the King’s repeated use of his dangerous earthquake-inducing pole. Bruce threatens to kill the King unless the King lets him go back to Earth, which he does.
You don’t even need to see the movie–that description alone should be enough to convince you how awesome this film is (and yes, Caine is even played by an Asian this time, not a white dude in “yellow face”). But if you do decide to watch it, you’ll see that it delivers on everything it promises. This excerpt from Film Threat’s review of The Dragon Lives Again pretty much sums up its appeal:
What any of this has to do with Bruce Lee’s legacy is never entirely clear. But when you have a scenario when Clint Eastwood and James Bond are trying to take over a Chinese purgatory and Bruce Lee calls on Popeye the Sailor to help save the day (not counting the interlude for the cast to talk about Bruce Lee’s penis!), it would seem that cogent and coherent thought is not high on the priority list. The Dragon Lives Again will probably annoy enthusiasts of martial arts films and the diehard fans of Bruce Lee, but it will provide endless amusement for those who enjoy watching crazy films while filling their systems with endless mugs of beer or puffs of weed.
So if your curiosity has been properly stimulated, check out this clip where Popeye (played by Eric Tsang who’d go on to star in the Infernal Affairs trilogy) does battle against a bunch of mummy-esque creatures (and yes, “copyright infringement” is apparently not in the vocabulary of the HK film industry):
And here’s the opening sequence where “Bruce Lee” himself meets characters like James Bond and Clint Eastwood’s Man with no Name:
If you’re still game after that, looks like you can watch the whole film in multiple parts on YouTube.
However, a work like this can only be properly enjoyed on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience. But when would such an occasion even arise? Well, if you live in the Los Angeles area, you’re in luck because on November 12, 2011 at 10:30 PM, the film is screening at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. I can tell you that this is an extremely rare opportunity to experience this movie the way it was meant to be seen so be there or forever live with the weight of regret.