|Story of the Dragon (1977)|
|Director:||Chi Chang and Hua Chen|
|Writers:||Hua Chen and Hsin Yi Chang|
|Starring:||Bruce Li, Carter Wong, Hwang Jang-lee and Roy Horan|
|The Plot: Bob (Bruce Li) is a down on his luck martial artist who has recently lost his job at a restaurant after getting into a fight with a group of American martial artists who disrespect the Chinese. When Bob takes off with his best friend (who also worked at the restaurant), the two soon find work on the docks where a local Chinese businessman decides to take care of the two young men. When the time arrives for Bob to demonstrate his fighting skills, on the same American martial artists from earlier who attempt to save face by hiring more goons to take Bob down, all of his coworkers immediately seek to become as powerful as him. Bob then opens a school and immediately runs into conflict with other local teachers who don’t feel he should be teaching the Westerners all of the hidden Kung Fu techniques that he has learned. Soon enough Bob will run into the leader of this American martial arts school that has challenged him and the final conflict will surely arise.|
That’s right, Bob. Chances are the film possibly had the intention of being more Bruce Lee centered than it ultimately turns out here in its international form. There are bits throughout that seem to harken back to certain aspects of the mythology surrounding Bruce Lee, including the establishment’s disapproval of his teaching techniques and his acceptance of all students. Then there’s the Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s martial art, created by himself) mentality that is hinted at throughout the movie, which also seems to point towards being a part of the Bruce Lee legacy… but this character’s name is Bob! The movie ultimately abandons most of Bruce Lee’s teachings in order to instead paint him as a Chinese patriot. Story of the Dragon is a film that is in no way related to any legitimate portrayal of Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Instead it’s an attempt to promote Chinese patriotism and show the overall superiority of Chinese Kung Fu over Japanese Karate, and just about every other form of martial arts that there is. This is, of course, completely out of doctrine with what Bruce Lee ultimately believed and I don’t think any fan of the man needs to be told this. However, it is quite funny to watch Bruce Li chastise his best friend for worrying about going to college and getting an education, which Li finds to be ridiculous when instead he feels that he should be out in the street fighting due to his Chinese ancestry being disrespected. Could anyone in their right mind every imagine seeing Bruce Lee chastising someone for improving their mind instead of taking vengeance out in order to prove their patriotism?
The movie is almost nonsensical in its plot navigation, which actually works in favor of the movie since it takes it from being a generic piece of b-cinema into something special. The first few sequences within the film break down like this: we meet Bruce Li and his partner who are working at a local restaurant, they then get into a fight with a group of American martial artists, they head home, they are then scared away by some elderly white woman who lives downstairs from them (who is never mentioned again) and so they jump out of the window and land in a gigantic body of water. Okay, so I guess they lived on the dock? Anyway, when they swim to shore they are on a dock area with cargo palettes everywhere and they are harassed by the dock-boss’ daughter for not working hard enough. As the two eventually point out, they don’t even work on this dock (yet I have to question why they are walking through a closed off wharf area…), so the boss-man decides to hire these two goons AFTER the karate school from earlier (the one that the American martial artists attended) shows up to beat them into groundmeat… wait, what? How do these pieces work? Truth is, they don’t. Why are they walking through the dock, how did the Karate school know they would be there and why does the dock-boss stick his neck out over Bruce Li and his partner? It is idiotic, but brilliant. I can only imagine a young child with ADHD writing out a script that jumps to as many ideas as this one does. The ridiculous movements of the script aren’t the end of this insanity either. The frequency of the fights and the cheesy low budget attempts to make this seem like its actually shot in America is also part of the unique fun that Story of the Dragon offers. I kid you not, we have a Chinese actor painted in black-face wearing a very bad “afro” wig in an attempt to fill the role of an African American. The fashion in general is pretty deplorable, including an older martial artist who sports a sequin covered kangol hat with a long sleeve turtle-neck under a muscle shirt. There are also enough tracksuits here to fill the closet of an entire Mafia or Yakuza crime family. Phil Cohen from The Fists of Bruce Lee also shows up in another Bruce Li title and is once again wearing his shirt tied around his midrift in an inexplicably non-macho way.