The Black Dragon's Revenge (1975) Poster

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Solid martial arts action throughout in a blaxploitation/kung fu cross
Leofwine_draca23 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As martial arts movies go this is a pretty solid offering, hardly original or surprising, but nonetheless offering a pleasing action-boredom ratio (about 5:1 in my view) and plenty of amusing incidental moments – after all, this was made in the mid '70s, where wide-collared shirts and flares were all the rage, where guys wear vivid tanktops and skin-tight t-shirts for all the world to see and where the hero has a huge afro and lamb-chop sideburns bigger than a normal man's hand. Yep, the hero of the piece is the unlikely-monikered Ron Van Clief, a big, brooding kind of hero who displays his admirable martial arts skills in a series of violent punch-ups and show-downs in a range of street locations. The resulting movie is a fitting combination of the blaxploitation and martial arts genres.

As is the case with a small handful of films, the low budget actually works in this film's favour, giving it a street vibe of sweaty realism missing in bigger and slicker offerings. Although the Bruce Lee angle of the plot has obviously been tacked on by producers in a hope to sell it to a wider audience (thus adding it to the surprisingly large sub-genre of "made to cash in on his death" Bruce Lee films), the straightforward plot is just an otherwise excuse for a series of fights, battles and open street wars. Despite the ill-defined characters, the inaudible accents (dubbed or not dubbed? that is the question) and the less-than-impressive acting, this is for the most part worth watching. The second half of the film is by far the better, featuring as it does a lot more action than the fairly slow opening, and the excellent climax involves a series of violent showdowns resulting in the death of one or more characters.

Watch out for a nasty eye-gouging moment which comes as an unpleasant surprise, and see if you can spot the homosexual subtext between Van Clief and his best "buddy", a guy who closely resembles Jools Holland and who spends most of his time hanging around half-naked with his pal. The ante is upped for the film's finale, in which a nasty snake woman lobs a venomous adder at the good guys. The final one-on-one fight is actually very well choreographed, taking place on a lonely beach and very exciting with it. But for the most part this film just offers straightforward martial arts action – not great but definitely better than average and that means its not bad at all.
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A fun martial arts action romp
Woodyanders24 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ace martial arts champion Ron Van Clief is paid $100,000 dollars by some rich guy to find out exactly how the legendary Bruce Lee died. Fellow karate champ Charles Bonet, the star of the hilariously horrible cheapie "Death Promise," helps Van Clief out. Moreover, several other folks also investigate Lee's death. Of course, a bunch of evil people lead by a wicked bald guy try to stop our heroes. Director Chin-Ku Lu maintains a constant snappy pace throughout and stages the copious exciting fight scenes with a reasonable amount of flair. The villains are a truly mean and hateful bunch of no-count individuals; my favorite was the nasty lady who brandishes poisonous snakes. Van Clief's likable and charismatic presence rates as another plus; the engaging chemistry between Van Clief and Bonet really keeps the picture humming. The fairly polished cinematography, a generous sprinkling of brutal violence, the urgent, driving, wildly dramatic score, and the inevitable amusingly cruddy dubbing are among the other goodies to be relished in this hugely enjoyable chopsocky exploitation outing.
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An Exploitation Combo
kirbylee70-599-52617916 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In the seventies the martial arts craze took solid hold on movie theaters. With the release of Bruce Lee's ENTER THE DRAGON the demand increased. His sudden death called for a replacement and while none could quite compare the list of stars made on his popularity was vast. Not only that, a number of films came out with the term "dragon" in them to capitalize on his nickname.

At the same time there was another huge player on the exploitation scene known as Blaxploitation films. These movies featured African-Americans in the lead roles and had themes more inclined towards urban audiences than most. While some would consider these stereotypical in a bad way at the time they were highly praised. Characters most often were pimps and mobsters taking on the man in charge.

But there was a different sort of black hero on the rise that found the merging of these two genres. The black martial arts star was a combination that drew audiences in. Jim Kelly was the first of these stars, having been featured in Lee's ENTER. But another on the scene was Ron van Clief. A former US Marine who went on to study martial arts and win numerous competitions, Clief parlayed that ability into a film career. While that film career was short lived, it did produce enough movies for fans to enjoy him in the role of hero.

Which brings us to BLACK DRAGON'S REVENGE. In the film Clief is hired by a billionaire to find out who was responsible for the death of Bruce Lee, a common theme after Lee's death in movies like this. He heads to the orient to pursue what few leads he has and gets an assist from an old friend named Charles (Charles Bonet). As the two begin to search for the assassin of Lee they find a mysterious organization trying to thwart their efforts. What follows is attempts on their lives, plenty of martial arts action and some incredibly weak story building.

Let's face the facts here, martial arts movies at the time with the exception of Lee's were pretty much low budget with the least amount of money being spent on the scripts. These were mostly tossed together with little more than finding a way to progress from one fight sequence to the next with enough story to make it seem plausible, though sometimes not even worrying about that. Fans wanted to see the fights and that was the focus.

But there were two sorts of films that featured those as well. One set was made in China and featured some amazing abilities captured on rather poor quality film stock. These films featured high wire effects and were performed more by acrobats than by actual martial arts stars. Their leaps would provide them with the ability to jump over walls and into trees. It was a fast paced choreography that has led to countless stars since that time including Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

The other sort featured actual martial artists like van Clief. These films tended to have decent fight sequences but were played more for reality and the choreography in these tended to be much slower and more an attempt to show the styles and result in less actual damage to the stars and stuntmen involved. It's not that they were bad, just that in comparison they were less eye popping for viewers. Perhaps the worst example of this was the TV series KUNG FU which featured David Carradine moving so slow that slow motion effects were used during the fight sequences to make it appear that this was why it seemed that way. It doesn't make it bad, it just makes it different.

So how does this movie fare in the end? It offers an evening's worth of entertainment for fans of both martial arts and Blaxploitation genres. Van Clief fans will be glad they can find a quality copy of the film to add to their collection. Film Detective is offering a quality print of the film on blu-ray, at least as clean as you can get considering the source material available, the original camera negative. Perhaps the most important thing is that in doing so they've preserved a part of film history that many may have chosen to ignore of forget. But for fans this means they can add another film to their collection to enjoy when they fondly remember these types of films. For those fans you'll want to pick this one up.
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The Ron Van Clief show
ckormos111 January 2020
For me, Ron Van Clief came to my attention in the 4th Ultimate Fighting Championship when he managed to survive four minutes in the ring against Royce Gracie at age 51, the oldest fighter ever in UFC. When UFC started everyone expected the karate guys to win everything. They had the reputation for the one punch kill and the physical conditioning to endure almost any attack. What no one expected was that real fights almost always end up on the ground and Jiu Jitsu had every advantage and won everything in the opening years. But this was 1975 and the movies and the audience paid to see fighting upright with punches and big kicks. Ron delivered the goods.

To see Ron in action is probably the only reason to watch this movie. You can also watch it to count the side kicks. Anytime a non-Asian choreographs a fight sequence the side kicks dominate. Yuen Siu is also worth watching as I consider her the best female martial artists of the golden age from 1967 to 1984.
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Golden Age Kung Fu Epic
Falconeer30 November 2019
Ex-Marine Lee Van Clief commands the screen, along with his sidekick Chrales "El Pantera" Bonet, in this eye-popping, colorful Kung Fu extravaganza. One of a number of movies produced around the time of Bruce Lee's death, that offer hunches and conspiracy theories about Lee's demise. Story-line takes a back seat to the action, the colorful Hong Kong cinematography and especially the great energy that flows between the two leads that make this one of the most fun 'buddy cop' movies ever. Both Van Clief and Bonet, (aka the Puerto Rican Panther" are New York natives, and it is so obvious that the two had an absolute blast in Hong Kong, making this crazy flick.,and that energy transfers to the viewer, who should have a great time with this one. Fans of the genre will recognize Charles Bonet from the cult Grindhouse flick, "Death Promise." For so many years "Black Dragon's Revenge" was somewhat of a 'lost film,' meaning that it was only available in the most rotten, virtually unwatchable prints. Because of this, many of these movies were thought to be cheaply or incompetently made junk. Having had the opportunity to see a pristine, fully restored print of "Black Dragon's Revenge," I can attest to the fact that this is a well made movie, featuring some stunning cinematography, artistic camera angles and very impressive fight choreography. And this time voice dubbing is kept to a minimum, as the main players speak in their own voices with live recorded sound. This is the second entry in a trilogy of "Black Dragon" movies featuring Van Clief. All three movies are very strong entries in the Kung Fu genre. I'm hoping to see a restoration of the first "Black Dragon' and the third, "Way of the Black Dragon,' as these movies deserve the attention.
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One of the best Bruce Lee death stories (that's not saying anything)
Elbow10 July 1999
This movie was one of many to supposedly offer theories as to the mysterious death of the ultimate kung-fu superstar Bruce Lee, and undoubtedly for him just another reason to roll over in his grave.

This movie contains a popular theory that Lee was killed by greedy film producers, and from there the film is simply a springboard for countless fight scenes with then rising Kung-Fu hero Ron Van Clief (The Black Dragon)

Boring after awhile, but entertaining in the nostalgic sense which envokes memories of all the wild conspiracy theories surrounding Lee's death at the time, and of all the martial arts hopefuls who wished, in vain, to fill Lee's shoes in the movies.
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Achingly funny experience on DVD!
roybatty-121 May 2008
I saw this as a part of THE RON VAN CLIEF/CLEEF COLLECTION, which also has WAY OF THE BLACK DRAGON included. DEATH OF BRUCE LEE is absolutely hysterical in terms of its cruddy presentation. The print used on the DVD seems to be close to the definition of "worst imaginable." As wrecked as possible while still telling some semblance of story and having images accompanied by sound --- barely. It is filthy, scratched, faded, littered with brutal jumpcuts, and at some point was transferred over to video, which is what was used for this DVD. You can see tape damage rolling in some scenes! On top of all of this is the spastic, nauseating panning & scanning throughout. The operator was REALLY INTO IT and whips his lens all over the original frame, often LOSING TRACK of characters, or unsure of where to focus, especially during conversations when a character unexpectedly begins speaking and the lens bangs over to frame right only to jar suddenly back left to capture the response (often too late). The panner also exhibits moments of squeamishness and will often pan AWAY from a moment of violence on screen! The print's audio track was also at some point clumsily edited to exclude all spoken references to "Bruce Lee," resulting in jarring jumps in dialogue, bad grammar, and general plot confusion. All the characters seem to be investigating the death of "Bruce," or "Him." It is almost impossible to tell if the film was well-made to begin with. I somehow doubt it, if the corny cackling villains and absurd zooms in-and-out are any indication. But the cast, especially the 2 male leads, are magnetic and charming, and super cool. This is the first "Ron Van Clief" (spelled "Cliff" in the credits and "Cleef" on the box art!) film I've ever seen, and it makes me wonder why he is not more famous; he's a cool dude who looks like he could break me in half. He's fast and HUGE and dresses like a pimp crossed with Hunter Thompson. His fight scenes and honestly his mere presence light up the screen and demand attention. His final confrontation with the bad guy was truly remarkable and savage. The fact that the film's merits can survive the ravages of abuse and technician interference noted above should be compelling evidence enough to give it a shot if this is the kind of thing you like.
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