Starring: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, voices of Corey Feldman, Josh Pais, Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist
“Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki, but something much worse comes for you. For when you die, it will be without honour.” (Splinter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
First, a disclaimer. I’m an enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. From the Eastman & Laird comics to the ’80s Fred Wolf cartoons to the Playmates toys to the Konami video games, I couldn’t get enough of the lean green teen fighting machines when I was a sprog. And yes, that included this film (and its two sequels).
WONG: “Your threats don’t frighten me one little bit.” SUZUKI: “You should be.”
Many martial arts films cash in on Bruce Lee’s name despite having little to do with the great man. Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is obviously one such film, though you’ve got to applaud a movie that goes so far as making the outlandish claim that not only does Lee star in it, he actually does so after his untimely death.
Of course, this is complete bollocks. In reality the only thing this film has to do with Bruce Lee is a hastily cobbled-together intro showing a hilariously fake-looking gravestone with “BRUCE LEE” printed on it, which then explodes and is followed by some hideous fan art of Bruce Lee punching a dragon. Then the actual film, the one that has nothing to do with the legendary martial artist and was seemingly chosen at random to have this intro slapped onto it, properly begins.
The film tells the tale of Wong Han (played by Jun Chong – though the film credits him as “Bruce KL Lea”, no doubt to cover the filmmakers with a good “what? Oh you thought we meat THAT Bruce Lee” excuse). Wong is a Hong Kong man who comes to LA to meet his kung fu teacher friend who he hasn’t seen for three years. When he gets to his friend’s dojo, Wong finds that his chum’s been murdered by five men – “a Japanese, a white man, a black man, a Mexican and a cowboy”. Yes, a cowboy.
Wong vows revenge, and sets out on a Kill Bill-style mission to take down the five evil-doers. Don’t ask me how he goes about tracking them down, because this film is all over the place.
As he wanders around LA (while carrying his pal’s bones in a sling around his neck, naturally), Wong encounters a woman called Susan who’s being attacked. He saves her and gets talking to her, and as luck would have it she knows how to find all the men who killed his friend. What are the odds?
It’s difficult to put across how bad Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is. The dubbing’s among the worst I’ve ever seen in a film, the fight scenes are laughably basic and poorly lit, and seriously – what the hell is the deal with the bones.
The final ten minutes, in which Wong encounters the “cowboy” shortly before finding out a horrible secret, try to provide a clever twist but in reality it just opens up far more questions. Such as “why did these actors never make the big time?”
Despite the above you should still see this film, preferably with a group of like-minded cheese-lovers. You’ll chuckle at the scene where Wong is grilled by a police chief (“you’re gonna get the chair!” “and what kind of chair is that?”), guffaw at the pivotal car-buying scene, shake your head in amazement as Wong and Susan spend a needlessly long time looking for criminals at a racecourse only to leave and go “oh, there they are”, and watch dumbfounded as Wong, who has to meet Susan by a certain time, is distracted by the shittest-looking carnival (stock footage, of course) for literally two hours.
It may not be the Bruce Lee film it masquerades as, but Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave turns out to be so much more. It’s a love story, it’s a thrilling mystery, it’s an action-packed extravaganza and, most of all, it’s a load of old shite. Get it watched.
Oh, and be sure to check out the trailer below, which blatantly states over and over again that this is definitely Bruce Lee and the film’s all about him fighting the “black angel of death” to come back to life. Which is like saying I’m Freddie Mercury.
HOW CAN I GET IT? Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is only available on Region 1 (US) DVD. If you live in the UK and can play these discs, you can order it very cheaply by clicking here. If you live in the US and have a few bucks spare you can get it by clicking here.