The Clones of Bruce Lee [神威三猛龍] (1977)
Starring Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, Bruce Lai, Bruce Thai, Jon T. Benn, Bolo Yeung-Tze
Directed By Joseph Kong
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then I guess that answers the age old question of how much flattery it takes to beat the shit out of an army of grass chewing bronze men … Ha! That’s right, three times as much! It’s 1977 now, a year after both of our previously reviewed films, and I guess a year is all it took to suck dry what little integrity there was left to begin with in Bruce Lee exploitation cinema.
Bruce Lee is dead and an urgent call is placed by the SBI (that’s the Special Bureau of Investigations to all you civilians out there). They need the blood of Bruce Lee, and they need it fast… It’s kind of disturbing that the government was lying in the wings, waiting for Bruce Lee to die so they could implement this master plan, but I guess when the world is threatened by the evils of gold trafficking, noble sacrifices must be made. A mysterious man known only as “The Professor” is contracted by the SBI to synthesize three clones from the salvaged blood. The three Bruces all take turns wearing a salad bowl on their heads as the professor prepares them for training. He christens them Bruce Lee 2, Bruce Lee 3, and Bruce Lee 1 (in that order).
Bruce Lee 2 and 3 (played by Bruce Le and Bruce Lai, respectively) begin their training by doing kung fu to the Rocky theme. This isn’t nearly enough so Bolo Yeung is called in to whip these fuckers into line. He teaches them all kinds of Bruce Lee stuff, like the one-inch power punch before taking them on himself and pretty much destroying them.
Now let me pause here for a moment to explain that after Bruce Li, the quality of Bruce Lee imitators goes downhill pretty fast. This is the second and third string we’re dealing with here, so now you can vaguely look like Bruce, but fight nothing like Bruce and still get away with it as long as you flick your nose every now and then. If Bruce Li was the Sears of Bruce Lee imitators than Bruce Le is definitely the Wal-Mart… and well, I guess that makes Bruce Lai the Dollar Tree. Anyway I think you get the point.
While Bruce 2 and 3 presumably continue their training, Bruce 1 (Dragon Lee) is deemed ready for his first mission. The mission involves infiltrating the gang of the world’s most famous gold trafficker, who also produces kung fu films. Bruce 1 auditions and wows the film’s director, but the producer almost instantly pegs him as a secret agent and hires a couple of Caucasians to beat him up. They obviously haven’t been keeping up though, since everybody knows that if there’s one thing fake Bruce Lees love to do, it’s to beat up white guys… which he does with no trouble at all before deciding to eavesdrop on the evil filmmakers. He overhears the director explaining his evil scheme, to kill him in front of rolling cameras! The director continues elaborating before delivering the most unintentionally brilliant line in film history:
“…we can capitalize on his death for years after this picture comes out!”
Maybe I’m starting to feel the fatigue of fake Bruce Lee week over here at Silver Emulsion but I could have sworn that somewhere in the evil director’s film crew there was also a fake Jackie Chan and another Bolo Yeung, which makes no sense at all since they managed to bribe hire the real Bolo Yeung to train the Bruce Lee clones. I don’t know. Anyway, Bruce 1 ends up thwarting the on-screen assassination attempt and kicks the producer’s ass before he could escape on his boat with his gold-painted bricks.
Whew! Think it’s over? Well, where most movies end, The Clones of Bruce Lee is just getting started. Clones 2 and 3 are now battle-ready Bruce Lees and are briefed on their mission. They are to fly to Thailand to meet up with their SBI contact that is played by none other than… Bruce Thai! What the fuck? Now if that wasn’t confusing enough, the dialogue feels the need to constantly remind us that Bruce Thai, although normally a Bruce Lee imitator is simply supposed to be a regular guy in this film, which is really silly. That’s kind of like hiring Samuel L. Jackson to play the white police chief in the remake of Shaft.
Anyway, Bruce Le asks Bruce Thai to show him the sights and sounds of Thailand. He takes him to typical Thai fare, like a waterfront market. Which I guess is nice and all, but soon the two decide to don speedos and those big-ass Bruce Lee glasses and saunter on over to a beach full of completely nude women who apparently hang out all day dancing to public-domain disco music while rubbing lotion on their breasts. Bruce Lai meanwhile is back at the hotel where he finds an entirely different naked woman waiting to ambush him in his bed with a butcher knife! Turns out, she is an agent of Dr. Nai, the man who they were sent to Thailand to kill. Dr. Nai is securing plans for world domination by making drugs that turn people into bronze or some shit. Honestly I don’t think it matters. He injects the serum into a small army of soldiers before heading outside to test them for battle by having his cronies beat them repeatedly with lead pipes. Dr. Nai then laughs and makes more naked women dance for him.
The three Bruces are no match for the bronze men, but opportunity strikes when one of the bronze men accidentally falls into a patch of grass and begins uncontrollably gnawing at it before passing out dead. As luck would have it, it turns out that Thailand is simply ripe with beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine, and bronze man killing grass. Our Bruce Lees waste no time, tearing up handfuls of the toxic grass and force feeding it to Dr. Nai’s bronze army amid a chaotic frenzy of sub-par martial arts, saving the world once again from total domination.
By this time, this film had gone above and beyond in delivering on every promise. You get three Bruce Lees (four if you count Bruce Thai, who if you remember isn’t really supposed to be a Bruce Lee), two separate adventures, and a staggering number of fights. I’m not kidding. There are over one thousand fights in this film. Add to the mix two mad scientists, an army of bronze soldiers, a bunch of naked Thai women, and Bolo Yeung. It is simply mind-blowing how much sheer lunacy and off-beat awesomeness is packed into the film’s slim running time. What could possibly be left for this film to offer?
Oh man! The Bruce Lees could all fight each other! You see, for a man as elegant and distinguished as “the Professor,” a simple thank you from the SBI is not enough. You can save that petty shit for people who cure cancer. Bruce Lee cloners deserve a little more. The Professor decides to strike back by pitting his best Bruce Lee against the SBI. But first, fake Bruce Lee supremacy must be decided by having the three of them battle to the death. When the professor’s lovely assistant gets wind of this, she goes out to warn the Bruce Lees that he has completely lost it. The three of them fight their way into the professor’s laboratory to put an end to his madness, but not before the film’s requisite cannon-fodder, Bruce Lai, gets zapped to death by the professor’s death ray.
Now wait, if the professor has a death ray capable of melting a Bruce Lee, then why did he go to great lengths creating Bruce Lees in the first place? Like many of the important questions this film poses, that is best left to the imagination. The Clones of Bruce Lee is a masterpiece of surreal filmmaking that possesses an almost zen-like quality. It’s fairly obvious the filmmakers had no clue where their film was headed and the stream of consciousness style of filmmaking is almost soothing to behold. This is a film worthy of your attention, but if you think it couldn’t get wilder than this then just wait until you see what we have in store for you next time as we bring our Bruce Lee exploitation extravaganza to a close.[Editor’s note: Once again, some of these images come from the excellent Clones of Bruce Lee website. If you enjoy these Bruce Lee clone films, then it should be your primary information source.]