Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980)

Posted in Reviews by - January 21, 2013
Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980)

Even if Mallinson’s outrageous Bruce Lee ‘mockumentary’ started out with the best of intentions, there is no hiding from the filmmaker’s complete lapse in concentration as this barmy movie slowly unfolds. The more bizarre scenes actually work in the film’s favour – the objective being to tell the life story of Bruce Lee with dubbed archive footage and a list of B-movie actors as they watch a big fight between Louis Neglia and John ‘Cyclone’ Flood at the 1979 World Karate Championship. This footage is intermittently disturbed by a running commentary from Oscar-nominated actor Adolph Caesar, who reads his lines directly from a script as if he has been handed them two minutes previously. This adds to the film’s glorious ad-hoc sensibility. Interviews with Aaron Banks (who seems disturbingly convinced Bruce Lee died from a fatal kung fu ‘death touch’) and Fred Williamson (the only one talking sense when he describes the set-up as an “insult to Bruce”) appear like ringside encroachments on their viewing time. They are each provided with back-story skits are even funnier, with Williamson waking up late for the tournament after sleeping in with a mistress (“Ain’t five times enough for you?”). Then Ron Van Clief arrives following a strange damsel-in-distress scenario. The Bruce Lee element, which takes up the majority of the film, is fabricated with stolen footage from Lee’s early Cantonese film, The Orphan, and clips from The Invincible Super Chan, which shows Bruce as “Karate mad” living in a repressed household and wishing he could break out and become a kick-ass fighter like his “Samurai ancestors”. Anyone who can tell their arse from their elbow will be able to see through the film’s glaring inaccuracies. As a pure novelty item, the film is far too confused to ever be insulting. And in some scenes, they even make it look like they are talking directly to the real Bruce Lee – incredible!

AKA: The Dragon and the Cobra.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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