Saturday, May 18, 2024



ENTER THE CLONES OF BRUCE, a documentary from Severin Films, is a fun, fast-paced look at one of the weirdest and wildest cinematic sub-genres. 

One of the saddest things about Bruce Lee's shocking death in 1973 was that it happened right when the martial arts master was on the verge of becoming a global pop icon due to the release of ENTER THE DRAGON. The Kung Fu craze of the Seventies caused a number of Asian production companies to seek out a "new" Bruce Lee, and the result was a spate of films starring a group of martial artists who were given new names and identities, in an attempt to convince audiences that they were the Dragon, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. 

ENTER THE CLONES OF BRUCE, directed by David Gregory, examines these "Bruceploitation" pictures, and the people and performers behind them. The film gives background on the Hong Kong film industry, and the reasons why so many producers tried to fool people into thinking they were presenting new, unseen Bruce Lee features. What is particularly notable about this documentary is that it has new interviews with some of the men who were tasked to take on the mantle of Bruce Lee--men called Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Bruce Liang, and Dragon Lee. 

The documentary makes clear that these so-called clones of Bruce were not just mindless props--they were men who had dreams and aspirations of their own, men who were also trained martial artists. They weren't trying to dishonor Bruce Lee's legacy--they were trying to make a living in a very chaotic industry. 

Just how chaotic the Asian film industry was is shown by the many clips used from various Bruceploitation features. Only a few of these scenes are enough to make one realize how outrageous and how outlandish this sub-genre was. These movies were cranked out at an astonishing rapidity--the Asian film industry was much more interested in quantity rather than quality. 

This film also has plenty of rare behind-the-scenes footage, along with new interviews with such kung fu movie cult stars as Angela Mao, David Chiang, and Sammo Hung. 

ENTER THE CLONES OF BRUCE doesn't try to make the case that Bruceploitation flicks were an example of cinematic art. But it also doesn't go out of its way to denigrate the sub-genre either. It accepts it and presents it for what it is. Despite all the craziness and goofiness involved in these movies, the fact that so many of them were made--and so many different "Bruces" starred in them--means they must have made some sort of impact. 

I highly enjoyed watching ENTER THE CLONES OF BRUCE...but more importantly, I learned plenty about a section of film history that I previously had almost no knowledge of. The best documentaries inform, entertain, and cause one to want to learn more about the subject, and this one certainly does. Severin and David Gregory have released another great product for film geeks everywhere. 

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