Bruce Li in New Guinea (1978)

Posted in Reviews by - January 10, 2013
Bruce Li in New Guinea (1978)

A title of confounding falsity, featuring an actor mimicking Bruce Lee and Taiwan doubling for Papua New Guinea, and neither party doing a particularly convincing job.

This Joseph Kong Bruceploitation arrives at the zany dog-end of the genre, and the story is forever clutching at straws.

Kong might well be the sub-genre’s Hitchcock, spinning such classic name-droppers as The Clones of Bruce Lee and Bruce’s Deadly Fingers. Although this film is clearly insane, Kong manages to convince a roster of familiar faces into raiding the Four Seas costume department for all the headbands and leopard print they can find. Great supporting actors like Bolo Yeung and Lee Hoi-san are squeezed into dressing gowns and gladiator boots which helps to make the film fun and breezy.

As for Bruce Li, it is clearly unfair to overlook his capabilities as a convincing leading man when forced to don his Lee-like moniker, especially when he is usually the most sensible thing in his own films.

Here he’s particularly great as a hard-nosed anthropologist (eh?) alongside kung fu friend Larry Lee, who both take a random trip to Papua New Guinea in an inevitable ruse to rough up the natives.

They encounter a primitive snake tribe who possess the coveted snake pearl – a deadly lure for inquisitive tourists despite clearly being a gold-coloured golf ball. The tribe have been lured into a supernatural hoodoo by the Great Wizard, played by the great Chen Sing, who still gives it his best evil bastard routine despite sporting a ghost mask, red kimono and navel length hair, sticking a poisoned ring into his challengers.

The best supporting character is a giant ape (read: a man in a gorilla suit), who is grossly underused as the prized protection for the tribe’s alluring and sassy Princess (Dana) who, despite living in the jungle, still manages to fashion out a perm and some high heels.

Bruce and the Princess fall in love and have a child, which is when the film gets really strange. Li returns to Hong Kong, seemingly for many years, during which he is placed under a spell of celibacy which occasionally turns him into a snake. The Great Wizard puts a nasty curse on his child and Bruce must return to New Guinea to finish what he started – acquiring some obligatory Bruce Lee trademark injuries along the way.

If you find yourself losing track of this one, here’s a tip: the good guys wear flares. That’s about all you need.

AKA: Big Boss à Borneo; Bruce Lee in New Guinea; Bruce Lee in Snake Island; Last Fist of Fury

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