Fist of Unicorn (1972)

Posted in Reviews by - November 09, 2014
Fist of Unicorn (1972)

On the face of it, this standard revenge film seems generic and innocuous – apart from the bizarre moments when Bruce Lee appears on screen in crude, candid, behind the scenes footage. Lee had taken time out of his busy Game of Death schedule to choreograph the film’s fight scenes as a favour to his childhood friend Unicorn Chan, who was being promoted to leading man status following supporting roles in the Lee films The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon. Lee even released Hapkido expert Ji Han-jae from the Game of Death shoot to appear in one of the film’s fight scenes; a quality encounter with ace bootmaster Hwang In-shik. Unbeknownst to Lee, he was being filmed and the illicit footage ended up in the movie, as well as being used in much of the promotional material. Lee, believing he had been the victim of subterfuge, filed a law suit against the Xing Hai production company which remained unsettled even at the time of his death in 1973.

The brief Lee footage adds nothing but does explain the depths to which producers were willing to plummet in order to acquire even a glimmer of the superstar in action. It also brings into question how complicit Unicorn Chan must have been to help exploit the good name of his famous friend. Bruce Lee’s image even appears on screen every time Chan prepares his fists for another one of his deadly magic palm strikes.

It should be said the choreography is actually very good given the particularly low standards of kung fu films from around this period, and the list of famous young talent in the film is relentless: Mang Hoi as an acrobatic child fighter; Mars as a stuttering street performer; Yasuaki Kurata as a young henchman; the film’s director Tong Dik as the thieving boss who kills Unicorn’s family when he’s a child; familiar Bruce Lee co-stars including the weaselly Paul Wei and Gam Dai as a sex-obsessed rich kid; and even Jackie Chan appears as a blink-and-you-miss-it background extra. The film caused a rift in Lee’s friendship with Unicorn Chan who was subsequently omitted from the original Game of Death footage and would play no part in Enter the Dragon. Chan later died in a car crash in 1977.

AKA: Bruce Lee and I; The Unicorn Fist; The Unicorn Palm

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 laptop in London, UK.

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