One of the crassest of an already crass genre was The Clones Of Bruce Lee (1977), a wildly episodic car crash of a film featuring not one but FOUR of Bruce Lee’s most prolific imitators: Bruce Le, Bruce Lai, Brice Tai and our old friend Dragon Lee. It starts with the death of the “real” Bruce – but not before a secretive organization known as the SBI contacts Professor Lucas and ushers him to the hospital slab to extract a syringe of Lee’s DNA, in order to create a trio of Bruces in his secret lab. The three Lee-alikes are brainwashed by a disco light known as a “Magnitator” and are trained to a stolen Rocky theme, by the more stocky (and therefore un-Bruce-like) Yang-Sze, better known to world as Bolo Yeung from Enter The Dragon.
Before long, the three Bruces are sent on their secret missions: Bruce One (Dragon Lee), is sent to the kung fu sausage machine set of film producer Chai Lo, a dodgy front for all kinds of nefarious un-Lee-like activities. Chai Lo suspects the new Bruce is a narc, and plans to literally “shoot” him in front of the camera! Meanwhile in Thailand, Bruce Two (Bruce Tai) and Three (Bruce Le) team up with a fourth Lee-alike “Chuck” (I presume this is Bruce Lai) on the trail of Dr Nai, a Thai narcotics smuggler who sweats maniacally into his three dollar suit and plans on world domination with his formula for turning schmucks into invincible bronze warriors. The three Lees chase him from one border laboratory to the next; the sight of them rubbing up against tough martial artists fighters in y-fronts and easily removed shiny paint is, in a word, GOLD.
The increasingly insane Professor Lucas decides to use the Clones for his own purposes, and pits the Brainwashed Bruces against each other in the ultimate Bruce-Off. Which is exactly the way to read this movie: four wannabes trying to out-Bruce each other. As they’re actually meant to be Bruce Lee, they devolve into the most grotesque of caricatures – animal howls, thumbs to the nose, biker sunnies, and the always-popular ripping off the shirts. In the final tally, EVERYone’s a winner – or loser, depending on your political persuasion.
The Clones Of Bruce Lee comes courtesy of Dick Randall, the American exploitation genius and distributor who literally ran amok in South East Asia in the Seventies: he returned to Thailand to make the Z-grade horror Crocodile (1979), discovered Weng Weng in the Philippines and sold him to the world. Here, in one of his first excursions into bad kung fu territory, he actually threatens to rip the very fabric of film reality itself: Clones… plays like a shonky mad doctor opus like Randall’s King Of Kong Island (minus the gorilla suits, of course), a second rate James Bond and a third rate chop socky, with some random nudity thrown in – because they can. Call it Bronzefinger or Bruce Only Lives Twice, or call it completely out of its mind – prepare yourself for one of the most bizarre Bruceploitation epics, The Clones Of Bruce Lee.