Steel Fisted Dragon
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
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