Saturday, 25 October 2008


Directed by Lo Ke
86 Mins Approx.

There are many, many Bruce Lee rip-offs out there. Following Lee's tragic demise, untold quickies were furiously pushed out from skid row chancers such as IFD to respected big hitters like Shaw Brothers (whose sleazy trash fest I LOVE YOU BRUCE LEE is definitely worth a look). However, for sheer crazed out-there lunacy, THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN wins hands down. Yes, there really is no contest here.
When Bruce dies he is transported to the underworld (a kind of twilight zone nether world). Here he encounters a bizarre array of characters from popular culture - James Bond, The Exorcist (typified by a shifty monk replete with cloak and cross), The Godfather, The Man with No Name, blind swordsman Zatoichi, Dracula and Emmanuelle. These disparate figures are out to usurp the kingdom's emperor and it's up to Bruce (with a little help from the One Armed Swordsman and Popeye!?) to cut some serious shapes and tackle Dracula's army of zombies (various stuntmen jumping around in skeleton costumes). Incensed with a deeply narcotic strangeness, this berserk enterprise transcends its cut-price kung fu tag and drifts in to stylisations one usually associates with a Dali-esque surrealist pop art painting. There's a surprisingly great cast on hand too – look for 'Lucky Star' (and future INFERNAL AFFAIRS player) Eric Tsang as Popeye (his performance is pretty weird) and DRUNKEN MASTER legend Simon 'Sam the Seed' Yuen as a kindly doctor. Amazingly, Little Dragon look a like Bruce Liang went on to depict the villainous 'Beast' in Steven Chow's phenomenally popular KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004).
I first caught this insane wonder during the early days of the golden video age some 25 years ago and haven't been the same since. Released on VCL with proper old school packaging (in those huge clamshell hard plastic boxes that you just don't see anymore), many missed this obscure gem because of a misleading sleeve (that depicted naked courtesans bathing). Over the years there has been a gradual buzz amongst genre fans, resulting in many ropey online DVDR bootleg issues (taken from the VCL UK video print) and grey area budget releases (such as the Return of the Dragon quad pack from Video Asia). Now recently re-issued on prolific UK DVD imprint Vengeance Video, all can now marvel at this truly bizarre Eastern oddity in a fairly clean full screen transfer at an agreeable budget price. For the truly obsessed, there is also a Mandarin language print in circulation that omits a farcical sex scene between the emperor and Emmanuelle.
Lovely Jon

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