Bruce Lee (Bruce Leong) has died, and his spirit has travelled to the Underworld where he now lies inert as the King of the Underworld arrives to examine him. Bruce is dressed in his Kato costume and mask from the Green Hornet television series, therefore the King is not entirely sure what the big deal is at first, not recognising the newcomer, so his right hand man puts him right, letting him know that they are in the presence of one of the greatest fighters of all time, whose death has changed his appearance and whose cause of death is unknown. But then Bruce awakes, wondering where he is, and the King decides to show off his own powers, grabbing his special column to create an earthquake...
Oo-er. If you have made a habit of contemplating life's imponderables, then after you've dispensed with all that meaning of life, why are we here?, what is our purpose? rubbish, you'll find yourself returning to those questions which truly tax the most profound thinkers. You know, stuff like, who would win in a fight between Clint Eastwood and Bruce Lee? Or James Bond and Bruce Lee? Or, erm, Emmanuelle and Bruce Lee? Well wonder no more, as here is The Dragon Lives Again, or Li san jiao wei zhen di yu men as it was in its native language, to clear up those nagging worries about who is the screen's toughest tough guy.
And as you might imagine, the answer to those questions is quite consistently offered as Mr Bruce Lee. Sure, he gets beaten up near the start by the celebrity bad guys, but he doesn't let that hold him back and soon he is showing them who is the big boss. The premise is that now Bruce is stuck in the afterlife, he finds it resembles a seventies kung fu movie and the Triads are led by various characters from hit films. Therefore the King may be pulling the strings, but the representatives of evil are the likes of Clint in his Man with No Name garb, "James Bond" - who knows which version he's supposed to be? - The Exorcist, who sadly does not resemble a high-kicking Max von Sydow but a bloke dressed as a priest, and The Godfather.
Marlon Brando opening a can of Oriental whup-ass would indeed be a sight to behold, but the Godfather here seems to be a generic Mafioso. Nevertheless, the entertainment value of these copyright-flouting characters is not to be underestimated, even if the narrative never rises above that "who's best in a fight?" set up. During those fights, we are privy to the names of the moves the combatants are employing, so when Bruce takes on Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman the names of his cinematic works appear on screen to identify his style when thumping his opponent in the bollocks, and Zatoichi graces us with his "Blind Dog Pissing" kick. Thanks for that.
Needless to say, the outrageousness of the cheek deployed here is often quite hilarious, nowhere more than in the grand finale where Bruce is assisted not only by the One-Armed Swordsman and Cain from the TV series Kung Fu, but by Popeye as well, who in one fall-down-laughing sequence acts just as his cartoon counterpart would when we hear his theme tune on the soundtrack and he grabs a can of spinach to consume, then defends himself decisively against a marauding horde of mummies. Did I mention that Dracula is in this too? In broad daylight? Which makes sense only as much as that he is indeed a dead character, whereas you wonder what was supposed to have happened to Clint and Bond and the rest to maroon them in the Underworld. As Brucesploitation movies go, The Dragon Lives Again is one of the nuttiest, and even has a happy ending as our superstar hero flies off to be reincarnated. Music by Frankie Chan.