Bullet Points: Way of the Black Dragon
Over the past year or so I have become an avid podcast listener. I am convinced my car now runs on two things, gasoline and podcast audio.
One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is The Clones Cast, a show devoted to the world of Bruceploitation Cinema. The Clones Cast is hosted by Matthew Whitaker of Cinema Bushido fame and the man I believe to be the foremost expert on Bruceploitation, Michael Worth.
The Clones Cast has been a great companion piece as I have gone on my own personal Bruceploitation journey. Each episode focuses on a different movie from the Bruceploitation Genre and offers two perspectives (one from a newbie, the other from a longtime fan). Each episode is also chock full of interesting tidbits of trivia about the actors, the movies and the people behind the scenes who made them happen.
When the guys covered Black Dragon’s Revenge starring Ron Van Clief, I realized two things. One, I had never seen a Ron Van Clief movie in my life. Two, I had to see a Ron Van Clief movie as soon as possible. The search for a Ron Van Clief movie was on and 1979’s Way of the Black Dragon got the nod…
- Skin Trade: The movie begins with the lovely Allison Wong (Cecilia Wong) and three of her friends on the way to watch Allison’s brother compete for kickboxing glory. As the ladies are on their walk to the arena, they are approached by some thugs who call out Allison on a debt Allison’s mother owes a local loan shark. When Allison informs the thugs she has no money, things get physical, two of the girls manage to get away, but Allison and another friend are kidnapped by the thugs and soon find themselves in a nightmare situation. The movie establishes the hell out of the nefarious activities that the bad guys of the movie (hereinafter referred to as The Syndicate) are into. The Syndicate is not only trafficking women from Thailand to Hong Kong as prostitutes and mail order brides, they also turn these poor women into drug mules sticking condoms filled with heroin up their coochies. To get the ladies through customs, they have the women insert tampons into their coochies to give the illusion that it is that time of the month so the customs agents won’t take any strip searches too far. (Why am I talking about tampons on an action movie website?) Then once the women arrive in Hong Kong there is an old guy who tells the women to take off their “trousers” and another guy who fishes (or fists) the condoms out of them… from there they are whored out or delivered to the men who ordered them to be their brides. Allison actually gets off pretty easy after her extraction, she is the arranged bride of a hard working laborer named Chen (Carter Wong). Chen was clueless and believed this mail order bride operation was on the up and up and is mortified when he learns the horrible truth.
- Forty Minutes Later: At about the 39 minute mark in the film I found myself saying aloud “I was told a Mr. Ron Van Clief was in this movie.” Then around the 40 minute mark Van Clief finally shows up playing Special Agent Bill Eaton. Eaton is from the United States and is working with Interpol to investigate The Syndicate and their human trafficking of women from Thailand to Hong Kong. Eaton tracks down Allison at the home of her husband to be Chen. Eaton tells Allison he is going to get her back home to Thailand, she is reluctant at first as she doesn’t want to leave Chen (it did not take her long to get attached apparently). But Eaton tells her it is too dangerous for her to stay… and his words quickly ring true as The Syndicate shows up at her door and we get to see Special Agent Eaton kick some Syndicate ass. Eaton and Allison narrowly manage to get out of Hong Kong and back to Thailand. But shortly after Eaton and Allison arrive in Thailand, The Syndicate is waiting for them. This time around Eaton is not able to save Allison, she is abducted and Eaton now finds himself on the hunt.
- Guy Walks Into A Bar: Eaton starts asking around to see if anyone knows where Allison is. When he asks at a local bar, Eaton starts getting the third degree in return from the bartender. The bartender tells Eaton she can get him a girl if that is what he wants, but he insists it has to be Allison. When the bartender asks him why, Eaton, not wanting people to think he is some sort of cop, proclaims nobody is better in bed than Allison. A guy sitting a few feet away at the bar takes umbrage with Eaton’s statement about Allison… and why shouldn’t he? It was Allison’s kickboxing brother Ai Chang (played by Hsiao Ho)! Chang was looking to fight Eaton after his disrespectful remarks about his sister and the two tangle in a short alley fight until Eaton is able to explain the situation… then the next thing you know Eaton is riding bitch on the back of Chang’s motorcycle. And that’s when they run into Chen, who was tricked by The Syndicate into believing that Allison and Eaton were actually the bad guys in this scenario and nothing more than a couple of grifters who stiffed Chen out of $16,000 . So Eaton once again finds himself in a fight due to a misunderstanding. And once again Eaton is eventually able to reason with his opponent. When it is all said and done Eaton, Chang and Chen are all on the same page with one goal in mind… rescue Allison!
With the exception of the title of the movie (an obvious take off of Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon) there really weren’t any of your typical Bruceploitation elements in this movie. Way of the Black Dragon differed from most Bruceploitation flicks as it featured more than your typical martial arts action.There is a pretty awesome motorcycle jump (one of my favorite moments in the movie), some speedboats and even our heroes giving chase on jet skis! But martial arts purists can take solace in the fact that the movie’s finale is a martial arts melee with our three heroes taking on a wide variety of foes.
I am not sure that Way of the Black Dragon was the best introductory film to Ron Van Clief I could have selected since Van Clief did not appear in the movie until it was half over and then when he finally did he had to share the heroic spotlight with Carter Wong and Hsiao Ho. But I am sure I will be watching more Ron Van Clief movies in the future.
And if you want more Way of the Black Dragon bullet points, look no further than these Bonus Bullet Points…
- Love and Marriage: According to Chen the whole point of getting married is to have a woman to look after your home. How romantic!
- Stereotypical Question: “How can a Thai girl not know how to massage?”
- Name That Tune: You can add Way of the Black Dragon to the list of Bruceploitation movies that borrowed liberally from Herbie Hancock’s Death Wish score.
- Best Insult: “You f*cking useless cow!”
- Syndication Deal: When The Syndicate learns that Eaton, Chang and Chen have joined forces, they call in a ringer named Stone. Stone was played by Charles Bonet or as he is known in some circles The Latin Panther. Bonet only starred in eight films over the course of his short career but the highlight had to be his starring role in Death Promise.