Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Lee’

Probably the most imposing bad guy in the history of Martial Arts cinema Yang Sze aka Bolo Yeung is finally getting his own documentary and we must say- it’s long overdue. From learning Kung Fu with different masters as a child to his competitive Bodybuilding years (he would go on hold a Mr. Hong Kong title for a whole decade) his story fits the “stranger than fiction” category easily. Not to mention the fact that he freakin’ swam from China to Hong Kong to escape Communism!!! Or the fact that he met Bruce Lee while filming Winston Cigarettes commercial (you just got to love the ’70s).

He stared (mostly as a villain) in over 100 movies raging from Shaw Brothers (The Heroic Ones, The Deadly Duo) to Golden Harvest (Enter The Dragon) to Bruceploitation (Clones of Bruce Lee, Dragon Lee Fights Again) to Van Damme films (Bloodsport, Double Impact) and even Jalal Merhi films (Tiger Claws 1 and 2, TC 2000). He even showed that he could be an awesome good guy/ wise mentor character in films such as Shootfighter 1 and 2 (featuring Karate Kid/ Cobra Kai’s Billy Zabka).

Movie is being directed by Aziz Cem and Pavel Nyziak (who Bolo actually collaborated with on his final movie, the Kazakhstani produced The Whole World at Our Feet aka Diamond Cartel) and features exclusive interviews with the likes of Bob Wall, Richard Norton, Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, Coreena Everson, Cung Le and many, many others.

 

Advertisements

Since we last touched upon this subject (talking about the Ugandan Kung Fu project Bruce U) couple more Lee related projects popped up:

Danny Chan (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) is for example starring as Chen Zhen (made famous by Lee in Fist of Fury) in a team- up action comedy Kung Fu League as well as reprising his role as young Lee in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 4.

More significantly The Warrior TV show (for the longest time a stuff of legends) based on the original Bruce Lee’s concept  (and executive produced by his daughter Shannon Lee) spearheaded by Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious) is set to premiere on Cinemax in early 2019.

Now, as we all know by know when there’s an official project some unofficial ones can be expected too.

ENTER THE AFGHANI BRUCE LEE!

Abbas Alizada (Abb Li for short) gained prominence as a Bruce Lee imitator on facebook, his photos and videos going viral in 2014.  His first attempt of film-making was an Azerbaijani comedy picture released in 2016 called Brat Lee (Brother Li). Well, now it’s seems his first “major” English- speaking role is finally in the cards.

Armani Burj Khalifa held a press conference for the movie titled HE IS BACK (sounds more like a Schwarzeneggersploitation picture, does it?). Film is to be directed by Chitah Yajnesh Shetty with Abb Li joined by a female lead Alina Lliumzhinov. Movie is being produced by Showtime Cinema & SBM Pvt Ltd in association with Ninjoor Pictures so we know more than a few people are banking on this being a hit. Also it’s a pretty international affair seeing that talent spans America, Thailand, India and China.

If I was being a skeptic I would say that there’s far too many inexperienced people involved in this movie but there are some positives too. Director Chitah Yajnesh Shetty is a legit JKD instructor under the late Grand Master Richard Bustillo so he knows his martial arts. Kaecha Kampakdee of Ong- Bak 2 and Asian Connection fame is in charge of action choreography and cinematographer is Ross Clarkson (Undisputed III, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear)  so that could easily translate to some solidly shot Martial Arts scenes. Filming begins in January 2019, so we’ll keep you informed how things go.

One thing is for sure- it’s 2018 and Bruceploitation is alive and well.

In the late 70’s, the early days of post- Bruce Lee boom, we were bombarded with all kinds of Kung Fu flicks-from the Shaw Brothers to the to the rise of young Jackie Chan‘s to the budding American Martial Arts flicks but it’s a movie called Death Promise that really sticks out like a sour thumb. I mean to this day I haven’t encountered another a Kung Fu movie like that- a film about the common folk’s rise against their evil landlords. Combining Asian Martial Arts with the harsh social reality of the life in the projects and Charles Bronson or should I say Charles Bonet style complete overkill revenge movie.

In New York City, slum lords are resorting to using nefarious methods to evict tenants or have them leave so they can tear the buildings down for more commercial properties. One such victim is Charley Roman, a karate expert whose electricity and water has been shut off courtesy of the slum lords.
Unfortunately it doesn’t show that the effects of the late-70s New York
financial crisis also include Karate and Kicking Ass!

Obviously someone is dead set on evicting poor souls out of their homes but at this point we have no idea who. Their next play is to set buildings on fire. To that end we have some bad archival footage of fire.  They tried to set fire to his building too, even thou the few card-boards they have wouldn’t make much difference. But Bonnet won’t give them any chance, So he jumps in and immediately starts kicking ass. Unfortunately the bearded punk didn’t seem ready for this and he started going into some kind of spasms as soon as Charles Bonet touched him. I wasn’t sure should I laugh out loud of just feel sorry for the guy.

Well, at least the bearded guy survived…

After Bonet dispatches of the arsonist gangs we finally see the evil cabal that’s behind all of this aka The Landlords and for and I must say for an evil cabal they are very diverse group of people from very different backgrounds, everything from the elderly high court judge to the nasty ghetto pimp. I have to wonder just how all these people got together in the first place?

Anyway , Charley’s dad ends up mysteriously dead on the kitchen floor. He seemingly met his demise without any resistance, uncharacteristic for him. All the while Bonet and his black friend (with an awesome name Speedy Leacock) were having fun at the bar. But who could have defeated an old boxer like him so effortlessly? I mean we saw him dispose off some young punks with no trouble earlier in the film. The plot thickens. Bonet finds his father’s body and completely loses his mind– coupled with a ridiculous scream effect!

Now, despite the wishes of his late father his teacher Shibata show him the letter (revealing their enemies) right away, without a second thought. Unfortunately according to Shibata his skills are not up to par, so before any revenging is done- so he sends him away to China (or maybe upstate New York )  to his master Tony Liu (The Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury) to sharpen up his skills. There’s just one thing, Liu is absolutely not an old man (hell, he is 65 now- 40 years later and that’s still not that old) and grey in his hair is painfully obviously a paint.

Also if you pay any attention the fact that his master- a Japanese Karate practitioner Shibata was taught by a Chinese Kung Fu Man who’s style is definitely not Karate doesn’t seem to bother anyone. But it’s an old American picture, maybe we should just be happy there’s no yellowface involved.

Returning to his home after months of heavy duty training he is right away reunited with Leacock. And with his help he is making a list of people he needs to kill. As we all know you can’t really achieve anything if you don’t make a list fist. They start of by pouring the poison down the string Ninja style, ending a life on elderly Judge in his sleep without anybody noticing a thing before it’s too late. Their next kill is a bit more public, Bonet dispatches of the evil businessmen by punching him to death trough a car window after a lengthy chase! They also get reinforcement, Liu’s other student shows up to help out- looking like a Bruce Lee’s mentally challenged third cousin.

Now, when they get to the pimp, Leacock insist on doing he deed himself. You can get complete picture of situation in those slums and it’s neighborhood when you hear his 12 year old brother had gone OD (must be some relative of  Drew Barrymore too).

He seems as shocked by her disproportionately large nipples as the rest of us.

The remaining Landlord, an old man with a cane sends his men on the three of them and tries to run away but gest a shuriken into his hand, then one in his back. Bonet follows him to the roof where he gets cut by a katana in front of his eyes !? It turns out, Shibata is a Yakuza!  He was behind the landlords all this time! So, wait, why did he then send his student to sharpen his martial arts prowess so he can more easily defeat him? Must be some Honor code we just can’t understand?

Aaaayyyy blonde dude is so fuckin’ awesome!

The remaining Landlord, old man with a cane got a shuriken into his hand, then his back. Bonet follows him to the roof where he gets cut by a katana in front of his eyes !? It turns out, Shibata is a Yakuza!  He was behind the landlords all this time! So, wait, why did he then send his student to sharpen his martial arts prowess so he can more easily defeat him? Must be some Honor code we just can’t understand?

They go into a prolonged fight with Shibata before killing him with his own sword– irony, right? Also he then throws his lifeless body aka something that is obviously not a human being down the building.  Also that something seems very, very heavy because someone in great shape like him  can barely lift it.

Maybe even a greatest fall in history of the cinema!

Verdict: Unfortunately Death Promise’s  Charles Bonnet never got to be the next best thing in Martial Arts movies, even though he did get to act again in his friend’s Roy Van Cleefe’s (another Martial Art legend)  Black Dragon Revenge and Way of Black Dragon. And for all the cheesiness of Death Promise I consider that to be shame ’cause the dude was a real life badass and  genuinely excellent Martial Artist and  different than many tournament fighters back in the day  he actually looked good on the camera. At least we finally did get a Latino American Martial Art super- star with Marko Zaror (Savage Dog, Reedemeer, Machete Kills, Undisputed 3) but we had to wait for 2000’s for that.

And now one more time: Death Promise theme!

Trivia: Interestingly in the old days when movies were made on the dime- posters were often masterpieces! Death Promise poster for example was done by the legendary comicbook artist Neil Adams (Batman, Deadman, X-Men). Now in the days of multi- million dollars franchises, we often only get bad Photohop photo- manipulation.

 

 

We talked before at length about the crazy and  wild world of Bruceploitation cinema. You can even read our tribute here. Now, unexpectedly, genre is making a slight resurgence with Michael Worth (himself a Martial Art actor/ director)’s excellent efforts shining the light on Brucesploitation with a book (Bruceploitation Bible), documentary and even a weekly podcast.  This once forgotten genre is finally getting the love it deserves!

Let the real Bruce Lee please stand up!

Now, to make things even more interesting we  have news of  Ugandan‘s premiere director Nabwana I.G.G. (Who Killed Captain Alex? and The Return of Unkle Benon) making his own spin on the Bruce Lee formula in an upcoming film staring African Kung Fu sensation Mansul Kiiza as the titular Bruce U. This will mark the first time Wakaliwood (Wakaliga, Uganda) Ramon production films in the People’s Republic of Chinaincluding the legendary Shaolin Temple and even The Great Wall of China!

Premiere of the movie was even attended by the Chinese ambassador in Uganda-  Chu Maoming and Star Times CEO Andy Wang so I wouldn’t be surprised with further China/ Uganda cinematic collaborations!

   Ugandan boy and Kung Fu fan Kiwa accidentally gets a chance to learn Kung Fu at China’s Shaolin Temple!

 

 

 

A bit of history:

Raymond Chow‘s film company Golden Harvest hit it big in the early 70’s when they discovered a certain up and coming star called Lei Siu Long aka  Bruce Lee . Their mega-fruitful collaboration hit it’s stride with Lee and Chow even forming their own partnership/ production house Concord Prouction Inc. (each owning 50%)  Way of the Dragon was a product of that collaboration, as was  Warner Bros. cooperation- Enter The Dragon. Unfortunately Lee died before the world premiere of Enter The Dragon and Golden Harvest lost it’s biggest star way too soon.

Of course Golden Harvest  would find continued success in decades to come, skyrocketing the career of Jackie Chan in the 80’s and making popular TMNT films (together with New Line Cinema). But in that strange place between Lee and Chan they continued to produce films to different varies of success.

One of those was Lo Wei‘s Slaughter In San Francisco, there to fulfill Chuck Norris‘s contract, he signed on two films when he made Way of the Dragon. Now, another famous name that had a (three) picture deal was non other than one- off Bond from Australia, George Lazenby!

Now, on Bruce’s insistence Lazenby was signed on a three picture deal. First of the films was to be Shrine of Eternal Bliss aka Stoner, the movie he was ready to make with Lee and Japanese Karate movie sensation Sonny Chiba but Lee died and Chiba dropped out soon afterword. Warner Bros. co- production money was also gone and with it’s budget severely cut Lazenby was promoted to a star.

Lazenby as the Detective Stoner, investigating a new and deadly drug! I’m still not sure if that’s the best or a worst name for a character.

 

With all the controversy surrounding  it movie was still a minor success in both Hong Kong and Europe and the Golden Harvest collaboration continued.  Next up was a unique co-production too, joint effort between Chow’s Golden Harvest and The Movie Company from Lazenby‘s native country of Australia (even thou he was being demoted to a villain) and the film was called: Man from Hong Kong aka Dragon Flies!  That was right in the middle of both Hong Kong movie boom and Australian New Wave of films so as expected the result was seriously  bizarre mix of Hong Kong action and Aussie craziness and has to be seen to be believed. Still we will try to help you out  and pinpoint some of the most entertaining bits (and there’s a lot of those).

 

Movie starts with an Aussie journalist visiting Hong Kong– by a glider  of all things! I’m just going to assume she came from Australia to Hong Kong by a glider ’cause that’s just perfect.  She almost gets arrested by Jimmy Wang Yu ( One-Armed Swordsman, The Chinese Boxer) but he decides to show her what’s so special about special units anyway- in bed!

In the meantime very suspicious (and suspiciously scarred) Sammo Hung (Enter The Dragon, My Lucky Stars, Ip Man2 ) carrying a briefcase in the bus. Hardened Aussie  Detectives Gross goes after him and after a bit of a chase at the Ayers Rock  (and a bit of a brawl too) manages to arrest him.

Shortly after Wang Yu arrives in Australia to continue with the (you guessed it) Sammo Hung case. That means he will interrogate good ol’ Sammo– and by interrogating I mean beating him into submission. I guess Chinese people  don’t believe in human rights.  And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Sammo a mysterious  assassins shots him (to prevent his from testifying I guess).

Wang Yu starts chasing him  and after a crazy pursuit they end up in the middle of a Chinese restaurant of all places!!!

We finally see the evil boss of crime and it’s (of course) non other that George Lazenby with a porno mustache to boot! He went from a Bond to a Bond villain, and it suits him well in fact. Yu contacts the journalist from the beginning of the movie– turns out the glider was borrowed from her boyfriends, she’s a bit of a slut that way.  Anyway, she takes him to the high class party where he meets Lazenby face to face.

 Did he just accuse Wong Yu that he’s yellow? That’s maybe taking it to far…
And surprisingly he finds information that the main center of the villains is the local Martial Arts Center. So he breaks into in, climbing the but it turns out the center was not so empty as he thought.  Massive showdown ensues in Martial Arts Center and continues climbing on another level against a seemingly endless number of attackers.

Of course- despite all his mastery he gets severely beaten and cut , and half dead barely manages to jump onto the first car shows up in front of the center. The Chinese lady co- driver hilariously proclaims “He is a good man, we must help him” even though she never saw him before.
They do the only  logical thing and that’s drag him to somebody who can patch him up– it turns out to be the girl’s father- veterinarian! Man, I’m starting to understand why Yu hated everyone and everything on the set.
 
She really thinks this is cute
While naively returning from the picnic ( and the obligatory picnic sex) Lazenby‘s gang attacks their car and his lady dies in a horrible explosion and he vows to get his revenge. Man,  that’s a bit excessive, he  didn’t even know her two days go!

So he does the only logical thing, borrows the glider from the journalist and uses it to break into his office by climbing down the pipes. He finds the office almost straight away and even though Lazenby is ready he is not ready for the rage of the dragon.  He manages to light him on fire and still keeps beating him ,  man- Wang Yu has no mercy at all!  And then he slips a bomb into his mouth!

 Just look at that!
The detectives wait for him outside and although grumpy at first  laugh with him at the explosion of the whole building floor and all the death that entails! Man, you get this sort of stuff only in the 70’s!

Trivia: The Man from Hong Kong was one of the subjects of highly entertaining documentary on Aussie cinematography: Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! It’s especially interesting seeing some behind the scenes like the power-strugle between the director Brian Trenchard-Smith and main actor Wang Yu who mostly wanted to direct everything himself, and his open disdain for white actresses he filmed love scenes with was definitely a bit unexpected.

 

Add to that and extremely hyped Quentin Tarantino who obviously enjoyed the movie immensely when he was about 10 years old.

Another fun bit of trivia, the other cop (one with an unruly set of hair) is actually Hugh Keays-Byrne later famous for his performance in Mad Max franchise (as a Toecutter in Mad Max and later as a Immortan Joe in Fury Road).

Also, it’s important to note  Umbrella Entertainment did a fine job of re- releasing the movie on BluRay in 2016, remastering it to 1080P HD, so if you ever want to check out the movie in best possible quality, you can order it here.

In the late 80’s and the early 90’s many fine Kickboxers made the switch from the ring to an acting gig and there was always a steep learning curve there. For every Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren able to make a solid leap from Karate (or Full Contact Karate/ Kickboxing) almost straight to mainstream roles you had a fair share of people who needed years and years to get their acting chops up there, people like Jerry Trimble for example (these days an extremely capable actor- but originally someone able to do the talking only with his fists/ kicks).

“…  de la violence!” Who could resist?

 

Don “The Dragon” Wilson, a Kickboxer of a highest caliber is even below that comparison. His presence and acting capabilities seems completely at odds with his abilities in the ring. Where in the ring he was able to be relaxed and get his timing right in the movies he seems constantly tense, performing not only his lines but his specialty- kicks with such nervousness and stiffens that he looks incredibly lika  a Robocop trying to imitate Bruce Lee.

 

Movie starts with our hero (see Ring of Fire 1)  John Woo (Wilson) buying a ring for his pretty redhead girlfriend Julie (Maria Ford). She accepts the marriage proposal way to easy but they get interrupted- by a band of muscled up, biker looking thieves! Man, not a single boring day in the Don “Dragon” land. After killing an innocent man for no reason whatsoever the he good doctor Woo (yes, Wilson is a doctor in this series) jumps in to fight them with his bare hands! Police breaks in but Julie still ends up wounded, and we also get a bonus bizarre car chase (I mean the tire gets shot and the whole car goes up in flames)!

 

Now in the hospital Wilson and his retarded friends visit Jullie but he runs into the same goons trying to wheel out their compatriot in the freakin’ middle of the day (what are the odds)!  As always the fight ensues and Dragon accidentally manages to finish what he started by  accidentally shooting  the already crippled thug straight in his face!!! Doctor killing a patient- man this is dude is crazy!

Kalin (Ian Jacklin) gets arrested but quickly escapes and his second in command Predator (Evan Lurie) kidnaps Jullie. Then, what started as a by the numbers action thriller suddenly goes completely left field-in all improbably it turns into a Martial Arts remake of Mad Max series and Walter Hill’s The Warriors.

“You know that shit when they build new buildings on top of old ones? Well that shit still underneath is the Underground! Yes, the random street dude clues Wilson in and he finds the entrance to the Underground. It even has an ENTER TO DIE sign on the entrance, so this should be fun.

 

Also, somehow in the Underground there’s an agreement that guns are prohibited so the world devolved into crazy hand to hand fighting post- apocalyptic community. Not a bad idea when you thing about it. Going trough underground passageways Woo destroys everything in his path, led by a  guide- an old black Vietnam vet with a bum leg. Maybe they could have added a mystical powers too? He keeps  fighting different underground fractions one by one as he goes towards the center, the Trashcan Samurai (notice an old favorite Gerald Okamura), the Afro- Ninjas… he even fights the Skateboard Gang with Kali sticks and  flashlights!

 

Yes,  Dragon VS an evil skateboard gang! With the appropriate soundtrack,too…

His retarded (also Martial Arts friends) go after him, and mostly just kick the people already down from the Dragon beating.  Yet they manage to lose sight of what they came here for (like I said they are a bit retarded ) and end up in an underground hooker bar. Whore gang of course drugs them and deliver them straight to the villain. The only one who gets out is a small Chinese dude who gets into a fight with a disgusting bodybuilder chick.

“You are really sexy when you throw one of those spining kicks!” WORST. PICK- UP LINE. EVER.

Now Woo has to save the friends who came to save him. But don’t worry- no problem in the world that can’t be solved with some cagefighting! He goes against the Predator and deafeats him and you know what else happens- more explosions! The old veteran vet did his magic with rigging the armory. Sadly the final fight happens in the daylight so it looses some of the surreal, dream like quality other fight had. Also the main villain is just not very good.

 

Verdict: Even thou you can’t really call this a good movie it is a crazy good time, I mean it has explosions, over the top fighting,  90’s music and  (for no reason whatsoever) Road Warrior esthetics! But the truth is- this would work even better if it was an old school arcade fighting  game.

 

Imagine this- just with Don “Dragon” Wilson!

 

 

 

Everyone’s favorite burlesque dancer/ martial artist/ actress Tura Satana is finally getting a documentary of her own!

Tura laid a blueprint for every female action star that we have today with her role as villainous gang leader Varla in Russ Meyer‘s classic “Faster, Pussycat!Kill!Kill!” ( it’s truly rare to see such an ass- kicking performance even now) but that’s just a tip of the iceberg. In her youth she  was a prisoner of Japanese- American internment camp, later she was a victim of racially motivated gang rape and yet she rose up to become a martial artist/ avenging badass, super- popular dancer an then legendary B- movie actress with her turns in Meyer’s Faster,Pussycat!(1965) and Ted V. Michael’s The Astro- Zombies (1968) and The Doll Squad (1973).

Even thou she survived further hardships like a  horrible car crash in the 80’s and had numerous operations to repair her back she never lost her will to live life to the fullest. Later in her life she worked as a nurse and a police dispatcher but in 2000’s she did return to acting appearing in the The Astro-Zombies sequel Mark of the Astro Zombies (2004) , women- in- prison film Suger Boxx and she also reprized the role of Varla in Rob Zombie‘s underrated animated movie The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009).

Cody Garret started working on the project before Tura’s death in 2011 and you can easily see that it was a passion project for her and the rest of the crew. The list of the people interviewed for the documentary is seriously impressive with everyone from Dita Von Tease , John Watters (Pink Flamingos)  and Ted V. Michaels (Astro Zombies) to  Kitten Natividad (Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens) and Shannon Lee ( Bruce Lee Enterprises) gladly taking part. Movie is also narrated by the Asian- American comedian Margaret Cho.

Now is your chance to contribute before the Kickstarter campaign ends in less than 48 hours. If you’re interested go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/148661830/tura-the-tura-satana-documentary