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Friday, November 27, 2015

The Clones of Bruce Lee


The Clones of Bruce Lee
1980
Joseph Velasco

Bruce Lee is rushed to the hospital, but it’s too late, he’s dead. A scientist, Professor Lucas (Jon T. Benn) shows up mere seconds after Bruce passes away, flashes credentials for the SBI(!?) and takes some cell samples. Back in his lab, he develops three Bruce Lee clones. After Bolo Yeung trains them, they are sent out to fight crime. The creatively named Bruce Lee 1 (Dragon Lee), Bruce Lee 2 (Bruce Le), and Bruce Lee 3 (Bruce Lai) face off against a gold smuggling ring and an unrelated bid to take over the world with androids.

I nearly swore off the whole subgenre of Bruceploitation after a scarring encounter with Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave (1976). I’ve decided to give the weird b-movie corner another chance, and a movie with three Bruce Lees seemed like a good place to start. The whole idea of basing movies on Bruce Lee, well after his death, and even using his real life demise as a plot point, is a seedy exploitation idea that I  thought could only exist in the past, but with Ip Man 3 (2015) looking to feature a CGI Bruce, I’d say the idea has only gotten more sophisticated.

Thankfully, Pastafarian Bruce didn't make the cut.
The first fifteen minutes or so of The Clones of Bruce Lee is surprisingly engaging. After a funky opening number, the movie wastes no time in getting to the story. The creation of the clones and their subsequent training scenes are shot in a workman like fashion, but the whole affair is strange enough to keep things moving.

Then the fights start piling up. I understand it’s a martial arts movie, you’re there for the fights. It’s why you’re not watching a drama or a police procedural. You’re there to watch people punch and kick each other in dynamic ways.  The Clones of Bruce Lee offers flatly shot fight after fight after fight, to the point where they all blur together. This is movie where you go to the bathroom during the fights and hope you don’t miss any of the in-between parts.

"My giant bronze groin style Kung-Fu will defeat you!"
It’s these moments, where the movie really comes alive: grass eating bronze androids, the scientist who is seemingly normal until he turns into a raving lunatic in a restaurant, and gratuitous nudity from some unnamed women cavorting on a beach. Put this together with the shoddy production, bad transfer, out of sync sound, and general sleaziness of this entire venture, and you’ve got something becomes more than just a cheap cash-in. Clones of Bruce Lee becomes something truly astounding.

The Clones of Bruce Lee isn’t an easy watch, most of the time it takes turns either being boring or incomprehensible. However, if you step back and realize you’re watching something made by a whole team of professionals that had no problem with the using the real life death of a movie star to make a film like this, then I think you can truly grasp the wonderful ludicrousness of it all.

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