Re-Enter the Dragon

Genre Theory, Brucesploitation and the Sleazy Joys of Lowbrow Cinema
HBK/PBK by Stewart Home

2018
9780994411273 PBK
9780994411280 HBK
235x191mm | 228 pages | 11 b/w illus.

Hardback

Description

HEAD KICKING BRICK BREAKING MAYHEM!

This is the first in-depth look at movies that riff on tropes associated with Bruce Lee and that sometimes transformed this actor into a mythical superman.

The period with the greatest cluster of Brucesploitaton productions lasted less than a decade from the mid-seventies to the early-eighties, but the genre spluttered on into the twenty-first century; and although it didn’t exist as a category before Bruce Lee’s death, there are several films that pre-date the Little Dragon’s demise that clearly belong to it. While death added another dimension to Bruce Lee’s celebrity status, he was already a huge star in South East Asia before he passed away; so cynical movie producers did not need to wait for his death to exploit popular interest in Lee – even if the term Brucesploitation had yet to be coined.

Within Brucesploitation actors who copy and clone Bruce Lee make up one strand of the subgenre, but their importance can and has been over-stated. Much of the writing about Brucesploitation is fan and internet based, and many of those producing this discourse make little attempt to explain why they insist certain films belong to the genre. Too many fans write as if genre is somehow natural, rather than created and shaped both through bald assertion and by more critical discussion and thinking. It is all too common to find any martial arts film featuring certain actors and themes, or with Bruce in the title, being accepted as Brucesploitation without any debate around the issue.

This book systematically explores the genre and controversially takes a close look at which flicks really should be seen as belonging to it.

Contents

  • Mapping Brucesploitation
  • Brucesploitation Rankings
    • CORE
    • SEMI-PERIPHERY
    • PERIPHERY
    • OUTER LIMITS
  • Bruce Lee, Brucesploitation and Joseph Velasco but no full-blown theoretical summing up!
  • A Note on the Title of this Book
  • 10 Brucesploitation flicks to check out if you’re new to the genre and want an overview
  • Anti-acknowledgements and further sources of confusion
  • Index

Extract

From Mapping Brucesploitation

The period with the greatest cluster of Brucesploitaton productions covers less than a decade from the mid-seventies to the early-eighties, but the genre spluttered on into the twenty-first century. Although it didn’t exist as a recognised category before Bruce Lee’s death, there are several films that pre-date the Little Dragon’s demise that belong to it. While death added another dimension to Bruce Lee’s celebrity status, he was already a huge star in South East Asia before he passed away so cynical movie producers did not need to wait for this event to exploit popular interest in Lee—even if the term Brucesploitation had yet to be coined. Early entries in film genres inevitably have to be made before the category to which they belong comes into being. Likewise the links between the films that make up any given genre are relational and not rational, and ultimately what belongs to any given cinematic category must be argued on a case-by-case—that is a movie-by-movie—basis.

I have seen it falsely asserted in a number of places—including Wikipedia—that Brucesploitation movies attempted to exploit interest in Bruce Lee after his death. Fist of Unicorn (1973) can and should be treated as a part of the genre, and it was made and released before Lee died on 20 July 1973. Brucesploitation dates back to at least 1972 and includes the Ramon Zamora comedy kung fu vehicle The Pig Boss (1972) that riffs on Bruce Lee’s first adult star vehicle; it may also encompass Zamora’s Fish and Fury—although whether this second item is actually a stand alone feature or just segment of King Plaster (1972) is currently unclear to me. These Zamora flicks belong to a Filipino tradition of parody films that include Iking Boxer (1973, a slapstick version of King Boxer) and Lasing Master (1980, a spoof of Drunken Master), but which also encompassed off-the-wall remakes of both local and international hits that had no martial arts content whatsoever. Despite being aware of Zamora’s early involvement in the Brucesploitation genre, I haven’t actually seen the titles I’ve just mentioned because they’ve never been available in English; indeed these movies are assumed to be completely lost, with no prints in Tagalog having surfaced in the last thirty-five years. Below I do deal with Zamora’s later dubbed into English Bruce Lee related output.

Within both Brucesploitation and the related Chansploitation phenomena, actors who copy and clone Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan make up one strand of these subgenres, but their importance can and has been over-stated. This is evident not just from the title of the book Here Come the Kung Fu Clones by Carl Jones, but also the UK fan site Clones of Bruce Lee run by Lee Holmes. Both Jones and Holmes treat Bruce Liang as a clone. My own view is that when Liang appears as Bruce Lee in The Dragon Lives Again (1977) he is there as an actor playing the Little Dragon in the underworld after death rather than a clone; this is emphasised by dialogue in the English dub addressing head on the fact that Liang doesn’t look like Bruce Lee. Liang also played Lee’s Chen Zhen character in two Hong Kong TV series; 1981’s The Legendary Fok and 1982’s The Fist. I do not address these TV shows because I approach Brucesploitation as a film genre.

Movies such as The Black Dragon’s Revenge (1975), with a narrative that revolves around a fictional investigation into the death of Bruce Lee, belong to the Brucesploitation genre without even featuring a clone so copyists are not essential to this film category. Lee Holmes on his Clones website at one time listed Black Dragon’s Revenge supporting actor Charles Bonet as a Bruce Lee clone, but given this martial artist’s karate leanings and rejection of kung fu, this is not a claim I take at all seriously. I would further argue that those who see figures like Bonet as clones do so because they approach Brucesploitation in thrall to the misleading idea that copyists define it. Tadashi Yamashita, sometimes called Bronson Lee after a character he played, is another example of a karateka I do not accept as a Bruce Lee clone; despite both Jones and Holmes—among others—mistakenly asserting he is one.

While I am in agreement with those critics who say the official Game of Death (1978) is Brucesploitation because among other things it uses doubles for the dead star, it seems to me that the two films edited into movie features from Lee’s 1960s TV appearances as Kato—The Green Hornet (1974) and Fury of the Dragon (1976)—should also be treated as a part of the genre. All three of these films deploy the cut-and-paste technique. There is a long history in exploitation film of multiple edited versions of individual movies being made to appeal to different markets—and address the varying types of censorship encountered around the world at different historical periods.

ends