Bruce Running Wild
Trashy as it is fascinating, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is an odd cultural artifact, the golden age of martial arts cinema’s death throes after the passing of Bruce Lee. It’s a genre suffocating on screen, gasping for air as look-a-likes stand-in for one of the greatest.
Pages of material could concern the advent of Brucesploitation, a wonky sub-genre of kung-fu mimicking the name, look, and talents of the real Lee. In tow, the tawdry side of exploitation cinema: Bruce’s Deadly Fingers features gaudy rape sequences and nudity. Cornball kills send men to their death by way of an 8-ball to the mouth. Whiffed kicks and punches send foes reeling.
Getting to the sleaze means enduring an incoherent lark of a story. Lee left behind the “Kung-fu Finger Book,” of which the dub mentions in full no less than 25 times, containing the key to a secret technique. Everyone wants it, notably Bruce Le, meant to be confused with Lee. There’s the martial arts tradition of teaching, learning, and bettering ones self, split between outrageous dialog exchanges and barren reasons for brawling. Meanwhile, women spend the movie cowering, kidnapped, and helpless. It’s hard to track whether they’re free or locked in a room at any given juncture. Or, worse, being sexually exploited with a cringe-worthy casualness.
The credulity is difficult to avoid…
The credulity is difficult to avoid…
To its credit, despite rotten edits and obvious flubs, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers’ choreography has pep. There’s variety in staging and the final, multi-tiered brawl involves a slew of weaponry. Bruce Le snags a small footstool, wielding it with the sureness of Jackie Chan. Plus, the great Bolo Yeung pops up, muscling his way through opposition as a key villain. It’s fun, colorful, and lively, with the movement and enthusiasm this genre needs.
It’s fascinating to a degree. There’s clear adoration for Bruce Lee and what he meant to martial arts, yet Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (like the others in this ‘70s pop-up genre) never grasps the aura that made Lee special. Bruce Le mimics the mannerisms. At one late stage, he directly recalls Fists of Fury. Close-ups hone in on an open mouth screech. That’s fine, but it’s trying and offensive in the sense of using an artificial replacement to make a buck. The special philosophies and unique perspectives on living and life – that was Bruce Lee. Somehow, he transferred that to a screen even as he wailed on stock bad guys.
Bruce’s Deadly Fingers merely toys around and manipulates. The credulity is difficult to avoid, saved by a cheap, fast hokey flick with an admitted stream of action energy. It’s worth a guilty smile.
VCI drops Bruce’s Deadly Fingers to Blu-ray with a widescreen print from (according to the box art) a 2K scan. Time takes its toll though, fading the image in terms of color, consistency, and depth. Contrast blows out on occasion. Flesh tones skew toward an alien-like chalky paste. There’s a surreal quality to the imagery, slightly yellowed from age.
In terms of the transfer, artifacting doesn’t have a place to hide. Shadows show macroblocking regularly. Print damage is within acceptable parameters for a weak exploitation outing from the ‘70s. Specks and scratches dot the screen and before the first reel is out, a significant scratch runs along the right side of the frame. Graded on a curve, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is still clean enough.
Light detail is offered in the environments. Facial detail falls to filtering, in certain scenes more so than others. Most of the grain is cleaned, or compressed away. What remains is clear but flat, if still a better presentation than a majority of low budget martial arts on Blu-ray.
The best guess says the PCM audio track – an English dub only – was run through a mulcher before being processed for Blu-ray. Between the ear-piercing score and muffled dialog, little is left to say about this outing. Coarse treble and muddy bass rot into audio mush.
Sound effects fare worse, the stock wooshes of punches and kicks cruddy as they exit speakers. Turn on the subtitles for a slew of typos and a hilarious reveal of song lyrics inside a club.
Micheal Worth pops in for a knowledgeable commentary track, and it’s preferable to listening to the movie itself. Some deleted scenes look great, running for six minutes. A slew of trailers and a photo gallery join a short clip show titled Bad Kung-fu Dubs, but it’s only a collection from Bruce’s Deadly Fingers.
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