"Mysteriously BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE through his immortal inner forces," proclaims the back of the DVD box. "Bruce Lee made a spiritual agreement with the invincible and unbeatable BLACK ANGEL OF DEATH to free him from the torment of his grave. The price for his freedom was to fight to the finish THE BLACK ANGEL OF DEATH, the super-satanic force that makes the very Devil, Satan, look like an Angel of Goodness and Mercy. Can Bruce Lee defeat the invincible and unbeatable BLACK ANGEL OF DEATH? BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE provides the answer."
Wow! Sounds like a great movie, doesn't it? I mean, Bruce Lee coming back from the dead to kick a demon's ass? What a great premise! And the cover's pretty cool, too, with that snazzy "Special Collector's Edition" logo and the claw marks over Lee's image. This looks like one kick-ass flick!
Too bad the cover art has absolutely nothing to do with the movie on the DVD inside. I mean, nothing. As far as I can tell, the only connection to Bruce Lee this film can claim even tenuously is the pseudonym adopted by its lead actor, Bruce K.L. Lea. (K and L are presumably the actor's real initials.)
Lea is Wong Han, a kung-fu devotee who travels to Los Angeles to call on an old friend, only to find that his pal has killed himself. Wong spends the rest of the film kicking the asses of various underworld figures in an attempt to discover "the truth" about his friend's death. The fact that Wong carries his friend's remains around in a box slung from his neck doesn't seem to slow Wong down at all.
You can read a full review of the film at Stomp Tokyo, but the real story behind this film's creation and even its original title seem lost to the dust in the kung-fu film vaults. Many people seem to credit the film's direction to Italian shock-director Umberto Lenzi (including this box cover, which credits "Bert Lenzi"), but this seems ludicrous given the mediocre quality of the photography and the complete absence of his name in the credits. Worth owning only for the name and novelty value, and only then because it retails for about six bucks.
If you've ever wondered whether a DVD could look worse than the VHS copy of the same film, then I can tell you: yes, it's possible. The DVD version looks like a third-generation videotape copy dubbed to disc. When compared to the VHS version we used for our original review of the movie, the DVD is fuzzier, dimmer, and just plain worse. Sure, it will never degrade, but then neither will the styrofoam cups they use to collect urine samples down at the hospital.
The menus are fairly straightforward and usable, except for the fact that they put critical information like "next page" in text rotated at ninety-degree angles. The case is of that clear "jewel case" type plastic, but at least it opens like a proper DVD case instead of some sliding-cover variations I've seen.
Special Collector's Edition? Dream on, fanboy. The only extras you'll find here are a goofy interactive trivia game: five lame questions based on the movie. The questions are even duplicated on the inside cover of the disc packaging. It's also the only way in which the distributors hint at the way they've swindled you.
Question 5. What role does Bruce Lee play in this movie? a) He was Wong's hero b)He played a role as an extra c) He married Wong's girlfriend d) Nothing.
Hint: D also stands for Doofus, as in what you'd have to be to buy this disc expecting an actual Bruce Lee movie.
Chris Holland, 12/17/2001