Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Let’s assume for a moment that you are a bad person and that you are going to hell. Let’s also assume that those circles of hell that the poet Dante wrote about is an accurate representation of what hell is like. Somewhere around the fourth circle, Satan… because he’s kind of an asshole… is going to turn on the VCR and stick this movie, ‘The Dragon Lives Again’, into the machine and force you to watch it. And since this is hell and all, he’s probably going to make you watch it over and over again and no matter how many times you watch it, you still won’t be able to decrypt what the hell is going on this movie. Or Satan’s going to make you watch one those puppy ‘buddies’ movies like Space Buddies or Santa Buddies. You better pray to that God that has abandoned you at this point, that ‘The Dragon Lives Again’ is cued up on Hell’s Playlist.

Describing this kung fu flick is truly an exercise in futility, and many have tried, but we will forge ahead. Bruce Lee has died and gone to The Underworld. True enough, actor Bruce Leong doesn’t look like Bruce Lee, but apparently when you die, your appearance changes to resemble the actor who will take the least amount of money to be in your movie. Legend has it, at least this Brucesploitation’s film legend has it, that Bruce is quite well endowed, and the wives of the King of the Underworld have got to get them some of that. This legend is amplified by a still comatose Bruce Lee sporting what looks to be a fourteen inch erection under his sheets, but don’t worry… it’s just his nunchucks. Don’t even bother asking.

Bruce, once he regains consciousness and has a discussion with the King of the Underworld, just wants to live his life in peace and get some grub but this is not going to happen. Because Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman won’t allow this to happen. I don’t know why Zatoichi is messing with Bruce, but there he is causing a ruckus. Soon Zatoichi is joined by James Bond and the Spaghetti Western styled Clint Eastwood, in addition to Dracula’s skeleton Zombies and they give Bruce a good once over.

Fortunately Bruce is brought back to health by a kindly doctor and his hot maid, and he continues to attempt to live his life in peace by opening a gym. The Exorcist, who is The Heavy in this movie, does not like this. I don’t know why he doesn’t like this, but he

doesn’t. I thought all the Exorcist wanted to do was to wrest control away from the King of the Underworld with the help of his right hand man The Godfather and his mistress of seduction Emmanuelle. But he also doesn’t want Bruce to open a Gym.

Bruce has also seen the error of his ways on the Earth, so he apologizes to his wife, he stops people from gambling and stuff, but all this does is make the Exorcist even more upset so he orders his people to take Bruce out. Clint, Bond, Zatoichi, Dracula and his zombies and a spirited battle with the Godfather all result in sound defeats for these dudes. Yay! Movie over, right? Oh no my friend… Bruce still has to do battle with The Executioner and his mummies. But this time Bruce has the aid of The One Armed Swordsman, Some Dude and Popeye the Sailorman. Who eats his spinach and kicks zombie ass in case you were curious.

We completely get the concept behind Brucesploitation. The man’s biggest movie didn’t get released until after he died, and that movie launched him into superstardom. Imagine if Michael Jackson died two weeks before ‘Thriller’ dropped. It’s kind of like that. So we get the influx of Bruce Li’s and Lo’s and Chen’s and Le’s and Lau’s. There was this void that needed to be filled which is why got ‘The Clones of Bruce Lee’ and a bunch of sequels to movies that didn’t have Bruce Lee in them. I get all of that. There’s no way in hell that anybody could ever get ‘The Dragon Lives Again’. This movie is completely insane. It is clear to me, from the seeds of the concept to the final edit, that drugs had to be involved in bringing this masterpiece to the light of day. I’m talking heavy mind altering stuff like Angel Dust or Crack, even though I don’t think Crack was invented yet.

To say that this movie doesn’t make sense is an insult to the notion of ‘not making sense’. From the moment this movie begins to the final shot of that lifeless dummy on a string doubling for Bruce being ‘sent to back to Earth’, this film was one stone cold trip. But as a Kung Fu movie, it wasn’t so bad to be completely honest with you. The fight sequences were well choreographed, and the big fight between Bruce and The Godfather was a particularly good one. Bruce vs. Dracula… maybe not so good. Bruce vs. Clint Eastwood… maybe not so good. But then they aren’t supposed to be martial artist. And The Godfather is, right? Plus, unlike most every other kung fu flick coming out of Hong Kong in the 70’s and 80’s, this one had the common decency to insert gratuitous nudity. Remember, Emmanuelle is in this movie and she doesn’t know Kung Fu, so she had to use other skills to bring down the enemy. There was even a Viagra reference as the wacky Queens of the Underworld tried to trick Bruce into taking a drug that would ‘stiffen his resolve’. That’s what the Queens of the Underworld said, not me.

So watch this movie. If you do end up in the fourth circle of hell, you would’ve already seen it and you can pretend like it’s causing you pain and completely trick Satan. Otherwise it’s ‘Sports Buddies’ for you, and trust me… you don’t want that.

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