Film reviews

#548 – Bruce Lee Against Superman (1975)

Bruce Lee Against Superman (1975)

Film review #548

Director: Wu Chia-Chun

SYNOPSIS: A scientist, Dr. Ting, has invented a formula that can produce food out of petroleum, thereby potentially solving world hunger. A foreign country has their eye on the formula though, and hire a crime boss to kidnap Dr. Ting and secure the formula for themselves. There plans are being thwarted however, by the superhero The Green hornet, and in response, the villains hire the martial artist Superman to deal with him…

THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Bruce Lee Against Superman (Also called Superdragon vs. Superman) is a 1975 martial arts film. The story is a fairly standard one, with a scientist called Dr. Ting inventing a formula that will apparently solve world hunger by making edible food out of petroleum (although I’m not sure using more fossil fuels will really solve the world’s problems). Anyway, Dr. Ting’s inventions have drawn the attention of a foreign country, who wants the formula for their own nefarious purposes. For this reason, they hire a crime boss and his goons to kidnap Dr. Ting and force him to hand over the formula. It’s all very typical for a martial arts film that came out around this time, as the popularity of the genre exploded, and companies were eager to crank as many of these films out as possible to capitalise on that popularity. But here’s where things go beyond that “standard”: The villains are stopped by none other than the Green Hornet (yes, the superhero) and his sidekick Kato, who after the opening scene, are instead dressed up in the red and black jumpsuits used by the Three Supermen in the film series of the same name (albeit with a hornet on the front). With the villains frustrated, they turn to hire Superman (no, not that superhero), a highly skilled martial artist, to defeat the Green Hornet, who barely appears in the film. The whole experience feels like it is a bunch of Western characters and names put in a blender with some martial arts action stringing them together.

To be fair, there is some justification to most of these things, but the sheer complexity of it all for a simple martial arts film is enough to make your head spin. Bruce Lee starred as Kaito in the 60′s Green Hornet TV series, which was edited into a feature-length movie, which explains why the Green hornet shows up. The “Bruce Lee” in Bruce Lee Against Superman is actually Bruce Li, a lookalike for the actual Bruce Lee who starred in a number of knockoff films due cash in on the popularity of the real deal. The red and black jumpsuits that Kato and the supposed Green Hornet wear occasionally are clearly, as mentioned,  the suits worn by the main characters in the Three Supermen films, with the picture of a hornet on the front. These were probably left over from one of the Three Supermen films that had been released before which were produced as an Italian/Hong Kong co-production. The Superman thing…I have no justification for. he doesn’t even look like Superman: he’s just a martial artist with a black and white cape and some goons wearing masks.

The martials arts and action is underwhelming for the most part: the choreography in the fight scenes is fine, but bad camera angles and being unable to frame a shot makes watching them difficult. The car chase has the cars going really slow, as clearly no one knew how to do them properly. There’s also a bizarre scene halfway through the film where a guy is chased through street after street for about five minutes, resulting in the anti-climax of the hero just jumping on him from above when they reach an abandoned building. The film is a wild ride in terms of how mixed up and janky it is, and for that reason it might be worth a watch; just don’t expect anything amazing or serious.