Bullet Points: The Dragon’s Snake Fist
South Korea’s gift to the Bruceploitation genre is the man known as Dragon Lee. Dragon Lee was born Moon Kyoung-Seok on August 12, 1958.
Legend has it that Moon was at a theater in his native South Korea when a man approached him and told him he looked like Bruce Lee. This man had connections with Hong Kong filmmakers and soon Moon would move to Hong Kong and Dragon Lee was born!
In this edition of Bullet Points I review Dragon Lee in 1981’s The Dragon’s Snake Fist…
- Loser Leaves Town: As the movie begins we see Master Wai (Martin Chui Man-Kwai) and Master Chu Man King (Kim Ki-Ju) walking towards one another on a secluded beach. These two kung fu Masters are bitter rivals but they’ve come to an agreement to end their rivalry once and for all. The two will fight right then and there in secret. The loser must leave town. The winner can stay and teach their style of martial arts in peace. Chu Man King’s Snake Fist style comes out victorious over Wai’s Crane Fist style. Wai’s leg also suffers permanent damage during the fight making this his worst day ever.
- Kung Fu Starbucks: The movie then jumps ahead several years and we learn what happened to the two Masters since that fateful day on the beach. Master Chu Man King’s Snake Fist school flourished and it became apparent that Master Chu Man King could be described as a visionary. Chu firmly believed that martial arts are meant for defensive purposes only and they should never be used unless provoked. Wanting to unify all the style of martial arts under one umbrella, Master Chu Man King gives his blessing to his top students to go out and open up their own Snake Fist schools across the country so more people can learn the style and discipline developed by Chu.
- Enter the Dragon: Master Chu’s #1 student is Dragon Wu (Dragon Lee). Chu wants Dragon to start his school in a near by town, where it just so happens Mr. Chan, the father of the woman that Dragon has been arranged to be married to lives. As luck would have it this is also the town that Master Wai ended up moving to after that fateful day on the beach. When Dragon gets into town there is immediately trouble as he encounters Master Wai’s son and daughter and some of the students of Master Wai’s school. A fight breaks out and we get our first taste of the Dragon in action. This trend continues… Dragon and his bride to be are going around town hanging up posters to promote the new Snake Fist school that will be opening and another fight breaks out with some of Wai’s boys…. Then when Dragon is signing up students for the school another fight breaks out… so much for the Snake Fist/Crane rivalry being over.
- Spoiled Brats: To Master Wai’s credit he does try to keep the peace. Wai’s son and daughter are starting to get the feeling there is something that their father is not telling them about his past with Chu Man King or the reason he walks with a limp to this day. When Wai’s son and daughter come up with the idea to throw their father a huge 60th birthday celebration and invite all the other Masters to help celebrate, Master Wai shoots down the idea. But Wai’s son goes ahead and sends the invite to Chu Man King and it is then that he discovers the truth about his father’s injury. Things escalate quickly and before it is all said and done, Wai’s son and a bunch of the students from the Crane Fist school invade the Snake Fist school killing most of the students (they even poke one of the student’s eyes out!) and then the ultimate insult.. Wai’s son kills Master Chu Man King to avenge his father’s injury.
- Enter the Tiger: Master Wai does not condone what his son and the other students from the Crane Fist school did… but with the damage done and knowing that Dragon Wu will be looking for revenge, Wai calls in a favor from his heavy hitter friend The Invincible Tiger (Chang Yi-Tao). To further stack the deck against Dragon Wu, Wai’s son kidnaps Dragon’s bride to be and kills her father Mr. Chan. Wai’s hope is that Dragon will realize the odds are not in his favor and give up and join the Crane Fist school. But that plan backfires and Dragon uses all the dastardly deeds of the Wai clan as the provocation he needed to go to the Crane Fist school and kick some ass!
The Dragon’s Snake Fist allowed Dragon Lee to be the star of the movie without it feeling like he was trying to be Bruce Lee the whole time. Dragon Lee still did some of the things you’d expect a Bruceploitation actor to do (like the thumbing of the nose) but it was next to nothing compared to his work in a movie like The Clones of Bruce Lee.
The Dragon’s Snake Fist also benefited from telling its own story. It did not feel like the rehashing of the plot of a Bruce Lee movie and instead gave Dragon Lee something original to work with. But it is the action where The Dragon’s Snake Fist really shines. One poster I saw for the movie touted that the fight sequences were some of the best ever captured on film, it is hard to argue that because the fights were top notch all the way and many featured some unique weapons that I had not seen in any other Bruceploitation flicks.
Now let me present to you something you have seen in my other Bruceploitation reviews, some Bonus Bullet Points…
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Dragon Lee fight (and fight successfully) with both arms tied behind his back, then this is the Bruceploitation movie for you.
- Favorite Quote: “You stupid asshole! I want to hear the real reason why you left!” – Son of Wai
- Favorite Kill: On the way to final battle, Dragon Wu finds himself up against a fire eating student of the Crane Fist. At one point the bizarre fire eater dumps out a bag filled with shards of broken glass. Dragon kicks the shards in the direction of his foe and they fly up in the face of ol’ fire breath killing him in gruesome fashion.
- Full Circle: The movie ends in the same place as it began, but this time it is Dragon Wu and his lovely bride to be on that secluded stretch of beach to give us the happy ending.