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Guilty Pleasures: The Black Dragon's Revenge 

When? 1975  |  What’s it rated? R  |  Where’s it availble? DVD and Blu-ray.

Do you like 1970s Blaxploitation flicks? How about cheesy ’70s kung fu flicks? Well prepare yourself for the ultimate mash-up with The Black Dragon’s Revenge about three rival gangs trying to learn the “real” reason Bruce Lee died.

Starring Ron “The Black Dragon” van Clief and Charles “The Latin Panther” Bonet, the pair has to face off over and over against some rough customers, including poison dart-blowing, poison snake-throwing dragon lady and evil henchmen who bring swords to a fist fight.

The film was recently re-released by The Film Detective, which used the original 35mm negative. I’ve seen other DVD versions and they look like the film was transferred to DVD from a water damaged VHS tape! This new release looks amazing by comparison, but even the high quality transfer can’t help the corny dialogue, poor overdubbing, and cut-rate film techniques, but who cares? This is rapturous 1970s, do-your-own-stunts, no-high-wire martial arts action!

Van Clief is awesome! He dresses like a pimp, wears Hunter S. Thompson-style sunglasses, and is a killer martial artist—fast, powerful, and incredibly athletic. Like Shaft, he’s a bad mother fu … shut yo mouth!

HIIIII-YA!:  Ron “The Black Dragon” van Clief stars in this 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu flick about rival gangs trying to learn the mystery of Bruce Lee’s death. - PHOTO COURTESY OF YANGTZE RPODUCTIONS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF YANGTZE RPODUCTIONS
  • HIIIII-YA!: Ron “The Black Dragon” van Clief stars in this 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu flick about rival gangs trying to learn the mystery of Bruce Lee’s death.

Likewise, Bonet, aka La Pantera, is also a major ass kicker. My favorite scene is when he has to fight a gang of kung fu artists in a tight alleyway and he goes into full “cat” mode, hissing and scratching like a kitty until poison snake lady throws a snake that bites him. But does he die? Hell no! He rips his shirt off, musters his inner Bruce Lee, and fights on … until finally, sadly, the venom works its evil magic.

The heads of the three gangs are about the only other characters that register. The good gang head spouts ridiculous Confucius-esque aphorisms like, “You can heal a battle wound but you can’t heal a man’s fate.” Most of the gang members are interchangeable, and there’s so many of them it’s hard to keep track, which does confuse the plot somewhat.

Basically, van Clief demands $100,000 to travel from San Francisco to Hong Kong to find out how Bruce Lee died, but the man who hired him is actually another malevolent gang leader. When he gets to Hong Kong, he hooks up with his old pal Li Po (Bonet), and they become targets of the competing gangs. There’s a side plot about an actress and a journalist who may know the real reason for Lee’s death, but it’s basically just a loose narrative to connect one fight scene to another.

The final face-off between van Clief and the man who hired him is especially intense! Yes, this flick is cheesy, low-budget nonsense, but I love it! (90 min.)

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