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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Steel Fisted Dragon

Steel Fisted Dragon


Picture: C-     Sound: C-     Extras: C-     Film: C



Steve Lee was yet another Bruce Lee wanna-be who was not related to the greatest martial arts cinema star of all time, but he certainly helps to deliver lots of graphic violence in The Steel Fisted Dragon, made towards the very end of the martial arts cycle that was launched in 1973 in the U.S. markets with Five Fingers of Death.  That is a solid ten-year run, but many began checking-out of the craze when Disco and Star Wars began catching on.  The death of Bruce Lee caused a permanent damage to the trend that no film could fix.


As always, the leads mother/girlfriend/best friend (mother in this case) gets killed brutally/unnecessarily as an excuse for him to kill off dozens of evil men (and a few women where applicable) who are hired assassins of sadistic killers and “deserve to die”.  Once that criteria is settled, anything goes, and this film certainly earns its R rating.  Some of the body mutilations and showings of blood are still shocking, even when it seems a bit phony.  Major Hollywood studios have rolled-back such action in their infantilizing of product in the 1980s and 1990s, so this is actually a nostalgic throwback to action filmmaking that was at least honest about what the audience was there to see.  As always there is not any kind of story to be had here, but the action is good.


The letterboxed 2.35 X 1 image is from an old analog transfer and print that aged more than you might expect from a 1982 film, but it is still good enough to see all the action.  Colors are on the muted side, with day shots looking like dusk, likely a problem with then-problematic Eastmancolor stocks.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is of the badly dubbed English soundtrack, offering the usual sound problems and obvious post-production recording.


The extras not only include a couple trailers for this film, but over 10 minutes of trailers for Bruce Lee films, plus one with Brandon Lee.  The twist is that they are usually NOT subtitled, so collectors may want the DVD just for this section alone.  However, this is not the only reason to get the DVD.  This is the last authentic film of its kind in the martial arts cycle.  These kinds of films would never be seen again, while the Hong Kong revival with John Woo leading the way, would be more highly stylized.  Purists would even consider such style dishonest and a way to somewhat censor the violence.  It led to some of the most pathetically stylized fighting in film history, as seen in The Matrix franchise.


Steel Fisted Dragon features the monster’s last fiery gasp and the end of one of filmmaking’s most undervalued cycles.  A rare case of open, uncensored filmmaking that only came back in the guise of Quentin Tarantino.



-   Nicholas Sheffo

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