Hello. My name is Joe and I love martial arts. When I was asked to write reviews of kung fu movies I was excited. I immediately found myself in an unnecessary flashback to the death of my master… no wait… wrong flashback. I was taken back to Friday nights after karate class with my friends, watching the best and the worst kung fu movies we could find. Kung fu Fridays became a staple. Great times were had with guest stars and recurring characters. Debates raged: like could Jackie Chan take on Jet Li? And why the @#$% are they showing Jean Claude’s butt again?!? I still find myself quoting the great ones. They were great times and now I get to share them with you! Welcome to my haven. Welcome to my Kung Futopia!
In the interest of fitting the theme of the ridiculous, I chose for my first review the original and most ridiculous of kung fu Friday movies. Fist of Fear, Touch of Death. This “film” is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of ridiculousness. Used in the military for the purposes of extracting information from prisoners of war, this movie represents 90 painful minutes of my life that I will never get back.
Having seen it before, I knew what I was getting into, and yet, suppressing the rising nausea in my gut, I pressed play. Hearing the fateful ovation of trumpets, I felt a shudder of terror run down my spine. I am not a squeamish man. I have seen my share of terrible things in this world and I have come through and yet, facing this task before me, to sit through this travesty once again, to once again gaze into the abyss, I tell you honestly and without shame, I was afraid. I steeled my resolve. I had to complete my task. I do this for you, the reader, so you won’t have to.
The film represents the ultimate in Bruceploitation (films following the formula Bruce Lee + anything = $$), the premise for which is a documentary, featuring Adolph Caesar, investigating the world martial arts championships and who will be the successor to Bruce Lee’s non-existent title of king of kung fu. It opens with Adolph Caesar interviewing Aaron “Mr. Karate” Banks telling of how he thinks Bruce Lee was killed by the touch of death or “vibrating palm” a technique in which you “touch a particular part of the body to reverse or change the normal bodily functions” resulting in death in 3-4 weeks. Seriously, this is what he says. I couldn’t make this up in that I am a reasonable and sensible human being. Thus setting the tone for the remaining 87 minutes of terror.
Flash ahead to after the opening credits and we see scenes from the tournament itself. We hear Caesar commentating, in an Al Michaels play-by-play fashion, to what is obviously stock footage of a self-defense skit, as if it was a heavyweight title fight. “And suddenly Bill Louie lunges for his opponents eyes… ripping them from the sockets and in a great display of showmanship he tosses them to the crowd.”
Jump cut to a series of “interviews” with Bruce Lee. Dubbed over stock footage of Bruce.
Jump cut back to another “match from the past.” Again we see stock footage of a self defense skit in which a young woman (Bad a$$ Bunny Lee) is fighting a large man (The Flying Fatman) complete with exaggerated “boing” sound effects.
At this point in the film senses begin to reel. Questions enter the mind regarding your state of existence. How could a world possibly exist in which this piece of crap made it onto DVD? But this is only the beginning.
Adolph Caesar notices celebrity Fred Williamson signing autographs. We are now taken on a flashback to Williamson’s difficulty getting to the tournament. Mistaken for Harry Belafonte, he received his wake up call two hours late. As he gets up, his scantily clad lady friend asks him to “make it a six pack” before he leaves. At this point he says the only sensible dialogue that I have been able to glean from the film. “Who ever heard of fighting for Bruce Lee’s title that doesn’t even exist. It’s kind of absurd, isn’t it?” Once he does make it out of the hotel he encounters Jasper Milktoast, played by the writer (unbelievably there is actually a writer) who causes him to lose his cab. Fortunately, Fred catches a ride with our very own Adolph Caesar, followed by (no exaggeration, no joke) a full three minute “drive to work” montage complete with bass driven soundtrack!
Side note: At this point I looked at the timer thinking “how much more can I take?” only to discover that I was only 15 minutes in! My hypothesis is that the film is so bad that it causes fluctuations in space-time, hence the ability to fit an inordinate amount of awful into a 90 minute film.
The film continues with a dizzying series of jump cuts, flash backs, and stock footage following a non-existent storyline until we get to the half time show. Caesar treats us to his rendition of Bruce Lee’s history in the martial arts stating that he was “the first to spot Bruce Lee’s talent” (I actually had to go back to hear it again).
Caesar tells of Lee’s great grandfather, the greatest Chinese samurai of the 19th century (apparently the only one, given that samurai are Japanese, but let’s not get lost in the details) and how he influenced Bruce Lee’s career complete with scenes from a cheesy 70’s samurai movie.
Jump to a dubbed over Asian drama attempting to depict Bruce Lee’s family life. They talk about how Bruce is “Karate crazy” and actually flash back within this flash back to another old samurai movie! That’s right, a flashback2! At this point my tenuous grasp on reality began to slip away. Thoughtful dialogue like the following:
Bruce Lee’s Dad regarding Bruce’s karate: We must talk. We must clear the air.
Mom: Well it’s about time. Now I’ll be able to sleep at night.
Dad: I hope so. Then you won’t be such a royal pain in the a$$. Right?
was the only thing that kept me going. It can best be described as a series of non-sensical 70s kung fu movie clips strung together at random to tell a made up story about Bruce Lee’s home life culminating in Bruce’s great grandfather being attacked by a man wielding an abacus! This went on for 30 more minutes! Any Bruce Lee fan is at this point is likely enraged to the point of violence. Just keep in mind, what I have written is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that I don’t have time or desire to put here.
The movie ends in much the same way it began. A ridiculous blur of jump cuts and flash backs accounting the end of the tournament and the final match with two competitors never mentioned anytime previously in the film.
A farewell from Adolph Caesar and the trial is complete. My advice, never see this movie for any reason. EVER! This is possibly the worst movie ever made. Personally, I feel less secure knowing that human hands are capable of creating anything this terrible. It currently stands atop my “Worst of the Worst” list. If you do feel compelled to test you mettle, to see if you are capable of surviving, do not do it alone. Bring a friend if for no other reason than no one will believe you when you tell them how bad it truly is.
Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit to my kung-fu-topia and I hope it helps you to avoid the disaster that is this movie. Feel free to leave your own comments and any suggestions for future kung fu reviews.