Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (1976) Review

"Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth" US Theatrical Poster

"Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth" US Theatrical Poster

AKA: Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth, Bruce Lee – True Story
Director: Ng See Yuen
Cast: Bruce Li (aka Ho Chung Tao, James Ho), Unicorn Chan, Chu Chi-Ling, Fung Ging-Man, Alan Chui, Lynda Hirst
Running Time: 85/90 min.

By Joseph Kuby

Fun Filler!

Like The Dragon Lives (a.k.a. He’s A Legend, He’s A Hero), Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (a.k.a. Bruce Lee: The True Story) shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

The film practically steers away from his life as a father and husband, so whilst Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story would win out in that regard (as well as being, cinematically, the superior film) the latter is just simply an expensive version of the Bruceploitation movies made in a bygone age (as Bruce Thomas {member of Elvis Costello’s band} rightfully so pointed out and argued in his book Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit).

It provides good hokey comedy value and whilst the film isn’t a comedy laughathon riot like Dragon Lives, it still has its fair share of comic moments like the old caucasian man Bruce meets at the car wash and the scenes where we see Bruce working out in resembles a laboratory than an exercise facility and his training room (which is certainly nothing like Bruce had ever worked out in…and at one point it even resembles a medieval weaponary chamber/S&M-esque room)!

Whilst there is some basis in reality in that Bruce had done weight training, jogged and did electro-shock therapy; I doubt Bruce performed a contemporary/post-modern version of the training Jimmy Wang Yu’s character anticipated in for the film The Chinese Boxer i.e. dipping your hands onto a hot substance (in Jimmy’s case, it’s iron and in Bruce’s case it’s some kind of stereotypical foaming-at-the-seams laboratory chemical basin).

What did it for me (humour wise) was when it depicts Lee punching into these increasingly smaller holes in a giant mechanical device that beeps and lights up these varied coloured bulbs as it registers the force of his hits – it foreshadows a similar scene in Dragon Lives.

Come to think of it, the only scene that’s portrayed with the most accuracy is Bruce’s death scene as Betty Ting Pei, Raymond Chow and her respective doctor try to wake up Bruce before calling an ambulance to take him to the Queen Elizabeth hospital.

With all the moments of inaccuracy and conjecture that drown the film, it’s a wonder that they even bothered to find out that Bruce had been selling his script of The Silent Flute to Hollywood film moguls.

Astonishingly, they were even spot on with the original idea for Game Of Death where Bruce was to fight 7 martial arts champs! (check out the features section on this site to read the Bob Wall interview for more information)

The dubbing was very different than all the usual Kung Fu movies because the recording sessions were done in America. In some ways this film is similar to ‘Exit The Dragon, Enter The Tiger’ in that not only is the dubbing more unique & better but the soundtrack is composed with more originality than usual and with better choice of tracks (again, one cue from a 007 flick), though it frankly doesn’t compare to the brilliant soundtrack that permeated James Ho’s other flick. However, the war cries used for both Bruce and his assailants is laughable and in some occasions badly synched. Other similarities are the high production values as the film was shot in Seattle, San Francisco, Long Beach, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Rome (they actually did location shooting in the colosseum). Of further note is the feel of a Western feature as there are lots of caucasian actors and it’s pretty clear that a lot of the dialogue scenes were originally shot in English.

Of course, it’s the fight scenes which sell the picture as they are neatly choreographed with a very tight feel to them with little sense of rehearsal (something which reflects Bruce Lee’s philosophy of realistic fights not being rehearsed routines) thus the fight scenes have a natural feel to them.

As you can imagine from the geographical scope of the story, there’s a welcome mixture of styles such as Karate, Thai boxing, traditional Kung Fu and Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (the stylized version anyway).

Speaking of scope, the film has a pool of talented faces and we even get cameos from people who appeared in Bruce Lee’s Big Boss and Way Of The Dragon. Just to list a few examples: Billy Chong co-star Carl Scott can be seen as one of Bruce’s students in the American section of the film. Alan Hsu (villain in Wong Jing’s Last Hero In China and senior of the protagonists’ Kung Fu school in the Joseph Kuo/Yuen Woo Ping collaborative effort ‘Born Invincible’) has a cameo along with Jackie Chan’s best friend Mars (who can be seen in Dragon Lord) and I think even Lo Wei as himself during the shooting of The Big Boss.

Directorially, the film has its moments such as when Bruce thinks back to a conversation with a Hollywood executive producer as he’s in a dark room at night time where the whole screen darkens & lightens before and after the flashback. Another nice touch was a juxtaposition sequence prior to this challenge match where Bruce’s challenger is being told how to fight Bruce by his cohort while Bruce is telling his assistant about the very last fight scene which needs filming.

Conclusively, there’s one scene towards the very end of the film which gestures to how Bruce could have died as it alludes to the mere notion that he had been ambushed by street thugs armed with machetes. The way the scene is filmed half-way through the slaughter seems to have been lifted from a Shaw Bros. movie directed by Chang Cheh as the whole screen turns red, the quality of the print is shiny and it’s played in slow motion with a wise choice of camera angles to accentuate what is an otherwise grisly and somewhat tacked-on scene.

My personal disappointment with this release of the film (UK DVD) is the quality of the film print (which is one of the worst I’ve experienced DVD wise though there are worse prints out there e.g. prints where the image is completely damaged {numbers, cigar burns, scratches} and where colours are hardly existant and all you see is one hue of a particular colour plastered all over the screen making everything seem single-coloured and rather monotone).

To rub salt onto old wounds, there’s even a nunchaku scene which has been trimmed (ironically when the film details Bruce’s making of Way Of The Dragon, ironic because just like in the original UK version of Bruce Lee’s classic movie, as soon as James Ho takes off his jacket we immediately cut to what happens after the nunchaku encounter). It’s kind of a shame really as the concept of the fight scene seemed ace: Bruce utilizing a nunchaku to counteract the mace of a Karateka.

Missed opportunity on behalf of the filmmakers to add some depth to the film if they took the film more seriously (i.e. make it as credible as it is incredible), but still a fun effort that should please Bruce Lee fans and chop-socky aficionados who don’t seem to mind watching films where a star is exploited for the gain of big bucks and shallow entertainment – though having said that there’s much better in that regard (especially within the realm of Bruceploitation fare…or really farce)!

UK fans beware, the UK DVD entitled Bruce Lee: True Story is not the same as the American disc as not only are the special features related to the film absent, but it’s not even the same film (it’s Bruce Lee’s Secret which is also available in the UK as The Bruce Lee Story and will be released on a new disc entitled Bruce Lee’s Secret) despite featuring the same cover art and even stills from this film (e.g. the electro-shock therapy bit).

Josephy Kuby’s Rating: 7/10


By Numskull

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS!!!

Check this out… I’ve just learned all about my new idol Bruce Lee (sorry Mr. Spock, you’ve been replaced!) from this badass movie, BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH. I’m telling you, it’s DA BOMB!!!

Bruce Lee is from a place called “Hong Kong.” You with me so far? And he practices… nay, EMBODIES the awesome art of KUNG FU!!! What is kung fu, you ask? Well basically it’s used to beat up bad guys by hitting them hard and fast… even more hard and fast than the X-Men when their sense of teamwork is at an all time high! There are other kinds of fighting out there like “karate” from Japan (home of Voltron!) and “thai boxing” from a place called Siam, but KUNG FU beats them all! Wherever Bruce goes, people who study these weenie fighting styles challenge him to prove that their style is the best but Bruce beats them all without breaking a sweat! It’s even more one sided than if Superman fought Batman without all of his stupid gadgets he uses since he doesn’t have super powers. The other really cool thing about Kung Fu is that it’s also the name of a totally rad Nintendo game I have where you control a guy named Thomas. He can punch AND kick AND jump! I’m not past the first level yet (that guy with the stick is really hard!), but Bruce never gives up so neither will I!

Anyway back to the movie. Bruce goes to Seattle for his education and he teaches some of his fellow students some kung fu, and since he’s such a sport, he does it for FREE, and pumps gas to earn money! After college he gets a sidekick named Butchie. Well I guess every great role model needs a sidekick. The Lone Ranger has Tonto, Snoopy has Woodstock, and even after Superman beats him up Batman will still have Robin with his sexy green underwear. Bruce wins a fighting tournament in Long Beach in a building where everything is orange, and he develops a super powerful form of kung fu called jeet kune do, and he gets married and has two children, and he makes his own movies, and he fight bullies who pick on the little guy wherever he goes, most notably a fat old white guy who is going bald! And he proves that he’s the real deal when he says one of the greatest movie lines of all time: “I’m not doing the talking here, kung fu is!” WOAH! Move over, Dirty Harry!

The fights in this movie are unbelievable! I’ve never seen anyone move so fast…. not even me, when I got chased out of the girls’ bathroom! Right punch! Left punch! Jump kick! TAKE THAT! HIIIIIIYYYYAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!! Sorry I got a little carried away there! But who could blame me? This is a movie that now has a permanent home in my brand new Betamax VCR, and I am proud to have the video box displayed on my shelf. It looks so cool sitting there surrounded by my Star Wars guys; Chewie on one side and the Fett-man on the other! Yeah, baby!

I think my favorite fight scene is the one in Rome where Bruce fights three guys in the Coliseum. The Coliseum is where gladiators fight! I beat Bruce could beat Russell Crowe with both hands tied behind his back, and he could do the same to a modern day gladiator, Hulk Hogan! The Hulkster may be a true American and Hulkamania definitely rules but Bruce has the awesome power of jeet kune do on his side! Anyway Bruce fights these guys and when it becomes obvious that they are no match for him their boss throws one of them a light mace. Well that’s no good! Doesn’t he know that a light mace only does 1d6 damage, plus or minus the user’s Strength modifier? I bet not even a Fireball cast by a level 20 wizard could kill Bruce. He’s just that damn good! So in response to the mace Bruce pulls out these two sticks connected by a chain and wields them with incredible skill! Soon he wins the fight and earns the respect of everyone watching, especially ME!!!

Now for the shocking part: the movie ends on a sad note as Bruce suddenly gets a splitting headache and DIES… or does he? According to the movie, many people believe that Bruce is living in seclusion (in spite of his tombstone… which, by the way, is RED!!!) and will make his triumphant return in 1983, ten years after his death was announced. I’m marking off the days on my Dukes of Hazzard calendar already! But in the meantime, I wonder what Bruce’s wife is up to and whether or not receiving his mighty jeet kune seed gave her jeet kune powers of her own and increased her physical performance to its full jeet kune capacity? If so I would not want to mess with her. She would beat me up even worse than the girls on the playground!

Now I know what you’re thinking! “Wait a minute…if Bruce Lee is dead or in hiding, then how did they make a movie about him?” I’m glad you asked! You see, Bruce Lee had amazing powers of foresight in addition to his phenomenal combat skills. BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH is pieced together from footage shot of Bruce by the cameraman who followed him everywhere while he was still around and they even made sure we could hear everything by having some other guy do his voice so it wouldn’t be obscured by the sounds of traffic and everything! I just wish that they included every single piece of footage ever shot so the movie would be 35 years long (Bruce was around from 1940 to 1973)!

In conclusion I would just like to say that this is the greatest movie ever and LONG LIVE BRUCE LEE!!!

Numskull’s Rating: 2/10


By Joe909

This was the film that marked Bruce Li’s rise from mediocrity to capable on-screen fighter. Instead of unconvincing mimicry, Li suddenly evolved into a lightning-quick martial artist. The irony is that this is an outright Bruce Lee biopic, instead of the usual run of the mill, early Bruce Li movie, where he just pretends to be Bruce Lee but fights like a drunk clown.

The reason behind Li’s advanced style is due to the fact that he trained like a demon for this role, practicing jeet kune do from morning to night. Bruce Li toiled as hard as a Mexican day worker for his movies. Nowhere is that more apparent than in his sudden excellence in on-screen combat. Just watch “The New Game of Death,” from 1975, and then watch this, a movie released two years later, but probably filmed in 1976. It’s like night and day.

Of course, this being a Bruceploitation flick, you’re treated to a large number of fights. More than can easily be digested in one sitting. Bruce fights muggers, Japanese opponents, Mafia thugs, irate kickboxers, cocky extras, and even a metal wall with flashing lights. “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” has been dragged through the mud over the past few years, but it’s still a more realistic depiction of Bruce Lee’s life than this. “Dragon” just overdoes the PC element with its portrayal of a jilted Bruce struggling against racism, whereas The Man, The Myth overdoes the “greatest fighter in the world” element with Bruce fighting anyone and everyone in his path.

As a matter of fact, the producers are so intent over showing Bruce fight that they even skip over things an audience might find important, like Bruce getting married and starting a family. Literally, Bruce’s wife and kids just appear midway into the movie, without any introduction. As a side note, the actress playing Bruce’s wife is a dead ringer for the real Linda Lee Caldwell.

An interesting thing about this movie is that it features several familiar faces from past Bruce Lee movies. There are a few actors and extras from “The Big Boss,” a fat thug from “Way of the Dragon” shows up as an English Army sergeant (who of course challenges Bruce), and most notably, Unicorn Chan (Jimmy in “Way of the Dragon”) shows up as himself.

I’ve always wondered about this. Unicorn Chan was one of Bruce Lee’s oldest friends. They had a falling out in late 1972, when Unicorn starred in a movie called “Fist of Unicorn.” The reason for the falling out: Bruce agreed to do choreography for the film. But, unknown to him, Unicorn and the director filmed everything Bruce did, and then, without his approval, injected this behind-the-scenes footage into “Fist of Unicorn.” Bruce was outraged and betrayed, and never spoke to Unicorn again. He was even in the process of pressing charges when he died. So I’ve always wondered if Unicorn’s appearing in this biopic (and, should I mention, Unicorn himself was soon to die, in a car crash a year later) was maybe his way of paying a debt to the real Bruce Lee. Or hell, maybe he was just making another buck off of exploiting his dead friend.

Another interesting note is that for one scene near the end of the flick, a different dubber takes over Bruce’s voice. Maybe the US/British prints got jumbled or something. I have the US-dubbed version, and throughout Bruce sounds like some 1970s Chicano from New York. He really does. But then, in the scene where he meets Betty Pei at her apartment, Bruce is suddenly dubbed by one of those Shaw Brothers voice actors. It’s pretty weird, and I wonder if this is in every US version. Maybe the US producers forgot to dub this scene.

Probably my favorite part of the movie is the end. “There was much mystery surrounding Bruce Lee’s death,” announces the narrator, “and many legends arose over how he might have died.” This leads you to believe that the producers are about to shun these ideas. But no, because right after that the narrator says “Here are a few of those myths.” So we’re treated to a variety of scenes of how Bruce might have “really” died.

In one, he’s murdered by thugs who chop him up with knives. In another, he’s killed in an ambush. But in the best of all, the last one, Bruce doesn’t die, but instead goes off into seclusion, where he will live alone until 1984, at which point he will return to the world. Why? Because a Chinese mystic tells him that the whole world must think he is dead, even his wife and children. And only after ten years has past may Bruce safely walk in public again. Never mind that Bruce died in 1973, so ten years later would’ve been 1983, not ’84. Dates and numbers weren’t much on the producers’s minds; they even say that Bruce was 36 when he died, when we all know he was only 33.

All in all, this is more of a chop-sockey than a serious Bruce Lee biopic, so don’t let the revisionists fool you. “Dragon” is still the superior film.

Joe909’s Rating: 7/10

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One Response to Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (1976) Review

  1. James says:

    “Another interesting note is that for one scene near the end of the flick, a different dubber takes over Bruce’s voice. Maybe the US/British prints got jumbled or something. I have the US-dubbed version, and throughout Bruce sounds like some 1970s Chicano from New York. He really does. But then, in the scene where he meets Betty Pei at her apartment, Bruce is suddenly dubbed by one of those Shaw Brothers voice actors. It’s pretty weird, and I wonder if this is in every US version. Maybe the US producers forgot to dub this scene.”

    On the UK tape, this scene is dubbed by the US dubers

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