The Black Dragon's Revenge (HK 1975)

Rating: *(*)
Alternate Titles: "The Death Of Bruce Lee", "The Black Dragon Revenges The Death Of Bruce Lee"
Review Date: 2/8/15
Cast: Ron Van Clief, Charles Bonet

Another shameless Bruce Lee exploitation film, but Ron Van Clief is a lot of fun to watch if you're a fan of the genre. After the death of Bruce Lee, the martial arts world was in shock and entertaining all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain his premature passing. Someone hires Ron Van Clief, a.k.a. The Black Dragon, to investigate Bruce's death, so he flies to Hong Kong and meets up with his old friend Charles Bonet (a.k.a. the Puerto Rican Terror). Several students from Bruce Lee's kung fu school start their own investigation, but the bad guys don't like people nosing around and pick off the good guys one by one. The final showdown between Ron and the bad guys resolves nothing, and the question raised at the beginning of the film remains unanswered.

It's a pretty poor low budget kung fu film, but Ron Van Clief is a charming, talented, and charismatic performer. He's not an especially good actor, but that's not really required. He has some great 1970s dialog, with the highlight being when he calls the head crime boss a "jive turkey." The fight scenes are decent and fairly entertaining, and Ron Van Clief is a fluid and graceful fighter. Charles Bonet is also quite good, but he lacks charisma. What's especially strange about the film is that Ron is essentially playing an exaggerated version of himself, which creates an odd juxtaposition of reality and fantasy. Apparently, the film ran into some legal trouble with all of the references to Bruce Lee, which resulted in a silly disclaimer at the beginning of the film, and the audio drops out whenever someone mentions his name. The absurdity of the whole premise is actually quite comical. Sadly, the source material used for the DVD is extremely poor and it's a pan-and-scan disaster. This cheapens the experience quite a bit, but it still remains enjoyable. Recommended for old school kung fu enthusiasts only.