The Dragon Lives Again
|The Dragon Lives Again|
|Directed by||Law Kei|
|Produced by||Alex Gouw|
|Written by||Ke Shek, Leung Wai|
|Music by||Frankie Chan|
|25 March 1977 (Hong Kong)|
The Dragon Lives Again (Chinese: 李三腳威震地獄門, originally released as Li san jiao wei zhen di yu men and also known as Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, is a martial arts fantasy comedy in which the soul of Bruce Lee (played by Bruce Leung Siu-lung) goes to the Underworld. The deceased Lee meets a number of pop-culture icons, including Dracula, James Bond, Zatoichi, Clint Eastwood, The Godfather, Laurel and Hardy, The Exorcist, and even 1970s soft-porn character Emmanuelle. Lee befriends The One-Armed Swordsman, Caine from TV's Kung Fu, and Popeye.
The film begins with the announcement, "This film is dedicated to millions who love Bruce Lee."
After his untimely death, Bruce Lee (Bruce Leung Siu-lung) wakes up to find himself in the royal court of the "Underworld". He meets the King of the Underworld and questions his power. The King demonstrates his displeasure by shaking a pole that can cause an earthquake through the Underworld, which gives Bruce pause.
Afterwards Bruce goes to a restaurant, where he meets and befriends Kwai Chang Caine from the TV show Kung Fu, Fang Kang from One-Armed Swordsman and cartoon sailor Popeye. He also encounters a criminal mob consisting of Dracula, James Bond, Zatoichi, and Clint Eastwood, who as of late, been terrorizing the denizens of the afterlife. To counter the frequent waves of attacks from the mob, Bruce sets up a martial arts school to help the victims defend themselves. These pop culture characters, along with The Godfather, The Exorcist, and Emmanuelle, are planning a coup to take over the Underworld. Among their schemes, the characters send Emmanuelle to have energetic sex with the womanizing King in the hopes that he will have a heart attack. At the same time, the mob sends Dracula to kill Bruce Lee. The plan fails, leaving Dracula dead and Bruce Lee discovers a set of written documents that his opponent was carrying as proof of the movement against the King. Upon revealing the documents to the King, he expresses gratitude, promoting Bruce as the captain of his bodyguard.
Bruce endures a series of victorious battles with the attempted usurpers and single-handedly puts an end the attempted coup, but is still angered by the King's abuse of power. Soon enough, Bruce decides to face the King and his minions head-on. The battle proves difficult for Bruce and almost meets his match until his friends arrive in the nick of time to assist him. Eventually Bruce and company emerge triumphant and the King is left pleading for mercy as the infuriated Underworld civilians also approach. The King offers Bruce anything in return for sparing his life, including the throne, but Bruce rejects the offer. Bruce allows the King to keep his throne on one condition : only if he lets him go back to Earth and be good to his people. The King grants the wish and Bruce is levitated back to Earth as everyone watches.
Of the cast, Eric Tsang, who played Popeye the sailor, now has an extremely successful acting career in the Hong Kong film industry, gaining popularity in the Lucky Stars series (My Lucky Stars, Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars), and appearing in a number of films with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. More recently, he won acclaim for his role in the Infernal Affairs trilogy. He has won a Golden Horse Award and two Hong Kong Film Awards.
Many contemporary critics have shown affection for The Dragon Lives Again. Nobody calls it great filmmaking, but most applaud it for its ridiculousness and surreality. In his three-part essay about Bruceploitation for Impact Magazine, Dean Meadows said:
"The Dragon Lives Again was one of the greatest and craziest of all Bruce Lee exploitation movies. Featuring the lesser known Bruce Liang, this was tongue in cheek from start to finish with a synopsis that was and still is unbelievable. The Little Dragon has passed over and is in purgatory anticipating judgement from the gods. Whilst there he tangles with a vast array of fictionalised and popular characters, all awaiting their individual fate. Bond is there. That¹s right, James Bond, along with "prince of darkness" Dracula and erotic icon, Emmanuelle. Now if that wasn't wacky enough, Bruce teams up with his good friends, Kwai Chang Caine and wait for it ... Popeye to defeat the enemy! Of course the Little Dragon does have a secret weapon, known simply as "the third leg of Bruce" (ouch!). The movie was dedicated to all fans of the great master, but whilst hilarious today, audiences would fail to see the humour at the time of its release."
"What any of this has to do with Bruce Lee's legacy is never entirely clear. But when you have a scenario when Clint Eastwood and James Bond are trying to take over a Chinese purgatory and Bruce Lee calls on Popeye the Sailor to help save the day (not counting the interlude for the cast to talk about Bruce Lee's penis!), it would seem that cogent and coherent thought is not high on the priority list. The Dragon Lives Again will probably annoy enthusiasts of martial arts films and the diehard fans of Bruce Lee, but it will provide endless amusement for those who enjoy watching crazy films while filling their systems with endless mugs of beer or puffs of weed."