Friday Flashback: Bruce Lee Meets Popeye

Exploitation has been hand-in-hand with the movies ever since Thomas Edison first ripped off the Lumiere Brothers back at the end of the 19th century. And in over a century’s time, exploitation films have carved out their own genre with numerous sub-categories such as the rock and roll exploitation of the mid-1950s, the sexploitation films of Russ Myers and the like in the 1960s or the blaxploitation films of the early 70s.

But there was one exploitation genre that briefly flared and then flickered out that could seem crass even by exploitation standards- Bruceploitation, or the exploitation of Bruce Lee to sell a film.

Bruce Lee was an international phenomenon and at the height of his career at the time of his death in 1973. Scrambling around to fill the box office void Lee’s passing was going to create, Hong Kong movie makers found themselves shoving any one of their contract players with a modicum of martial arts skills in front of a camera and slapping onto them a name that sounded close to Bruce Lee’s.

Li san jiao wei zhen di yu men or Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu (1977) (also known as The Dragon Lives Again) is perhaps one of the more outrageous entry in an already outrageous genre. It stars Siu-Lung Leong, given the screen name of Bruce Leong here even though there is virtually no resemblance at all, as Bruce Lee, who following his death has arrived in hell and opened a gym. After all, what else would one do upon arriving in the afterlife? All seems to be going OK until he discovers that some evil folks, including the Godfather, James Bond Dracula and Clint Eastwood, are planning on taking over Hell. So Bruce teams up with Kung Fu‘s Kain, The One-Armed Swordsman and, of course, Popeye. Crazy, right? Here we get to see Popeye doing all the things we know him for, like eating spinach and fighting mummies.

Unfortunately, this film doesn’t seem to be available on DVD right now, but hopefully it’ll show up soon.

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About Rich Drees 7034 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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