Thursday, August 1, 2013

In short: The Clones of Bruce Lee (1980)

In the months and years after Bruce Lee's death, various film industries, with Hong Kong quite in front, did their best to exploit the man's legacy with frightening enthusiasm. There were shady Bruce Lee biopics, Bruce Lee films made from old outtakes, Bruce Lee-themed softcore, but first and foremost, there was a small army of martials artists/actors willing (if anybody even asked them) to be rechristened into Bruce Le, Bruce Lai, Bruce Thai, or Dragon Lee, in the hopes nobody would realize this wasn't the original specimen before they had laid down their money.

By the time the 70s ended, there really wasn't anywhere to go for Brucesploitation movies, or so anybody not working for our old friends at Filmark thought. Somebody there stumbled upon an idea brilliant in its simplicity: why not gather a variety of pseudo-Bruces and let them team up and/or fight against each other? So it happened that Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, Bruce Lai aka Chiang Tao, Bruce Thai and some other guys of the type gathered. Of course, this being a Filmark production, we never get all of this dubious star power all at once, and instead find various combinations of Bruce clones (who actually are clones of Lee in the film) fighting through three very loosely connected episodes, because even when the Filmark guys didn't make one of their Frankenfilms (and I don't think this is one), they did their best to make any given movie feel like one of them.

One would expect the sheer exploitational chutzpa of the endeavour to be enough to turn The Clones of Bruce Lee into a minor classic of WTF filmmaking but once you've gotten over the idea of a Bruce clone team-up (which was good for about ten minutes for me), you realize that mostly, it's a pretty boring affair, directed in typical Filmark style (possibly by Joseph Kong Hung), which is to say, with actual visible direction being completely optional, decidedly monotonous fight choreography, and of course no plot or characterization to speak of. At about the forty-five minute mark, the film turns interesting for a bit, when three Bruces (two of them official clones) go to Thailand to provide us with some of the most bored looking titillation ever committed to film, and fight a pleasantly crazy scientist who has - among some decent ranting and raving - developed a method to paint some of his henchmen slightly golden, umm, turn their flesh to metal, I mean, making them unconquerable until our heroes feed them poisonous vegetation.

Now, even for me, one great horrible idea and ten to fifteen entertaining minutes do not a worthwhile film make, so I'd rather attempt to dissuade people from yawning through this thing. On the other hand, anyone actually inflicting Filmark productions on themselves (you know, like I do) will not listen to advice of this sort anyhow.

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