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  Bruce Lee in New Guinea based on a true story
Year: 1978
Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Stars: Bruce Li, Dana, Chan Sing, San Kuai, Larry Lee, Gam Kwan, Bolo Yeung, Lau Kar Yung, Lee Hoi San, To Siu Ming, Cheung Lik
Genre: Horror, Sex, Martial Arts, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ah, Bruceploitation movies! Following Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, a host of imitators sprang into action as producers tried to convince international audiences the late star made more than just five movies. There was Bruce Le, Bruce Leung, Bruce Liang, and the most popular, Bruce Li. He starred in relatively sober biopics like Dragon Story (1974) and Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (1977), but fact soon mixed with fiction in outlandish fare like The Dragon Dies Hard (1974), Bruce Lee Against Supermen (1975), and this amazing horror-adventure - also known as Bruce Li on Snake Island and, my personal favourite, Big Boss A Borneo.

International film star and kung fu hero Bruce Lee (Bruce Li) is also a part-time anthropologist. Bet you never knew that, huh? He and his buddy Chang Sing (uh, Chan Sing) head for Snake Worship Island where Bruce plans to research the evil Devil Sect, who practice “snake venom kung fu”. Their trek through the jungle is hindered by two, dopey, comedy relief guides and a sneaky treasure hunter (Larry Lee) out to steal the natives’ sacred, magic pearl. His efforts are thwarted by skull-masked tyrant, Great Wizard, whose poison ring leaves Bruce mortally wounded.

Two handmaidens bring him to the island’s rightful ruler, Princess Ankawa (Dana), who protects her people with the aid of an amazing kung fu ape (actually some guy in a ratty gorilla suit). Bruce is set to die unless someone “warms his frozen blood.” So lovely Ankawa strips off her leopardskin bikini and thigh boots and snuggles next to him in bed. Sex, naturally, follows. One year later, Chang Sing returns to Hong Kong and consoles Bruce Lee’s parents over their missing son. “I blame you”, Mr. Lee unhelpfully tells his weeping wife - who inexplicably agrees! Suddenly, a newsflash announces Bruce has been found at sea. He returns home, plagued by visions and behaves strangely around his pretty cousin. Then things get really weird…

If you’re allergic to kung fu weirdness, this won’t be your cup of tea. Connoisseurs will find it pure gold. Part jungle horror, part chopsocky adventure and part sexploitation romp. Following that jarring leap forward in time, the film takes a curious turn and amps up the horror. The cinematography becomes dreamlike and strange, Bruce turns into a snake every time he touches a woman, and in an unexpected twist, Ankawa bears his child whom the villains promptly place under an evil spell. Of course the piece de resistance remains that kung fu gorilla, a popular element in martial arts fantasies of the time including Battle Wizard (1977) and Shaolin Invincibles (1977), although its origins lie in Chinese literature.

Zoom-happy camerawork is pure, old school kung fu, but the fights are well choreographed and feature impressive acrobatics from Bruce Li and Bolo Yeung (who tangled with the real Bruce in Enter the Dragon (1973)). Given that so many girls were kicking butt in HK cinema, its slightly disappointing that Princess Ankawa doesn’t take part in any fighting. Despite their horrendous dubbing, Bruce Li and doe-eyed, pouty-lipped Dana are an appealing pair of B-movie lovers. This appears to have been Dana’s final movie. She played the cute cyborg girl in Super Inframan (1975), but mostly starred in Shaw Brothers sex comedies like Girl With The Long Hair (1975).

If you make it through this bonkers Bruceploitation epic, you owe it to yourself to see The Dragon Lives Again (1976), which is pretty much the genre’s Citizen Kane.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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