Bruce Lee in New Guinea (Review)
Bruce Lee in New Guinea
aka She nu yu chao aka Bruce Li in New Guinea
Bruce Li (Ho Chung Tao) as Chang Wang-li (aka Bruce Lee)
Chan Sing as Great Snake Wizard Guru
Danna as Ann Kawa
Chin-kun Li as Chin Sang
??? as Tu Yung – one of the guides (shorter)
??? as The crosseyed guide
??? as Cheng Pow
Directed by C.Y. Yang
Bruce Li is Bruce Lee is Chang Wang-li in Bruce Lee in New Guinea, part of Bruce-ploitation Mania of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Bruce Li (real name Ho Chung Tao) was one of the dozens of Bruce Lee imitators renamed Bruce Something or Something Lee in the wake of the death of the King of Kung Fu. Bruce Lee ended up doing all sorts of wacky things once every other movie coming out of Hong Kong was patterned after him to make a quick buck. This is not as wacky as some of them (The Clones of Bruce Lee anyone?) but is still pretty silly. The real question is, would the real Bruce Lee bother going to New Guinea? I think not! Bruce Lee (Li) does end up on Snake Worship Island, I don’t want to give away what they worship there, but it isn’t King Kong. Let’s just say Wacking Day would be a sacrilegious event. It’s important to note that Bruce Li is not supposed to be Bruce Lee, but some guy named Chang Wang-li, an anthropologist who is not a former 1970’s martial arts star, thus the “Bruce Lee” in the title is a complete lie. Not that the producers would care after they got your hard earned money. Sometimes this film is more truthfully titled Bruce Li in New Guinea. Co-starring is the lovely Danna as the Princess, who was being pushed as an international sex symbol at this time, but soon faded to obscurity. Much like this film, except it was never pushed as anything more than a cheap buck, and it shows that, in spades.
We start out as most films of these type (Kung Fu) did in those days (1970’s) with slow motion kung fu action during the opening credits. Wang-li fights what looks like a Kung Fu Hippy dressed similarly to Conan the Barbarian. It’s also a preview of a fight later in the film, since that’s where the footage is ganked from. At least Bruce Lee in New Guinea has the balls to use it’s own footage in the opening credits. We then jump to Anthropologist Chang Wang-li, played by Bruce Li and called “Bruce” every once in a while by the terrible dubbing, is going for a nice run in the Hong Kong hills. Bruce (as we will call him for simplicity’s sake) jogs along minding his own business when a bunch of rascals decide they wish to relieve him of the burden of his wallet. Now, this is the seventies, you should know better than to rob people named Bruce, or Wang-li who are played by people named Bruce. Heck, don’t rob anyone in martial arts movies, unless you want to get stomped. And stomped they do get. After the stomping, Bruce’s friend Chin Sang then drives up with an offer for the two of them to go out to Snake Worship Island. Guess what they do on Snake Worship Island. Any better joke I could make about the name have already been used by The Simpsons, except for my assertions that the inhabitants of Snake Worship Island are solely responsible for Snakes on a Plane. So now you know who to blame. Okay, can’t resist: Too bad they didn’t go to Candy Apple Island. They still worship snakes, but they aren’t so big! Muhahahaha!
Chin Sang is after the Island’s famous Snake Pearl (How can a pearl be snake-shaped?) while Bruce is interested in the island’s unique martial arts. Now the audience learns that Bruce is an Anthropologist of Martial Arts techniques. What was his thesis, kicking the confirmation committee in 37 different styles while explaining how each style was affected by the Treaty of Ghent? I guess it’s only expectable that a small island that worships snakes and has snake pearls somewhere near New Guinea would have their own martial arts, what with being in the same hemisphere as China and Japan. This same logic expands and gives us the famous Australian Martial Art of Tai Kwon Boomerang. Bruce lets us know that the special Snake Worship style is known as the Wuna Sect, though the Devil Sect has become established on the island now. What, no Snake Sect? Some writer missed the boat, or the previous page establishing the snake connection. Snakes are only mentioned again in the next sentence, as there is a Snake tribe on the island. The two men prepare to go, but are interrupted by Bruce’s female cousin who wants Bruce to go on a picnic with her. She’s got kissing cousin fever and the movie gets disturbing.
The two head out to their adventure on Snake Worship Island. They luckily find two guides who also speak Chinese who can show them around the island, and we get a lot of scenery shots as they wander around the island heading to the village. The two guides will be our comic releif for a bit, to try to break up the seriousness of the stock shots of jungle and the scenes of people walking. If the village was near the coast, the film would be like 20 minutes long. Just how big is this island, anyway? They wander around it for a long time, and many other things happen all over the island. It must be pretty big to house all the different terrain that will be scene. Then Snake Worship Island shouldn’t be that mysterious. During a brief break, the two bumbling guides go to find some fruit, and end up stealing a boatload of bananas from two other goons who stopped their hunt for a woman to take a banana break. The music tries to play up the fact the banana-stealing is supposed to be funny, which it probably was when first done by professional comedians on vaudeville in the 1890’s. We’ve moved on to more intellectual fare these days, such as men being hit in the crotch by golf clubs. The two guides end up getting most of the bananas out of this deal, so I guess it’s their regular thing.
Later, the group hears a girl screaming for help, being chased by many men. Bruce springs into action, beating them all up after they refuse to leave. After all, it’s their right to chase women on Snake Worship Island, part of the Women Chasing Men Archapeligo. The girl is shot by a poison dart, and killed. The group finds out she was the sacrifice for the three day long Snake Feast Ceremony. Someone asks why the sect is so cruel, and Bruce replies “Just primitive and ancient people.” Good thing an anthropologist has such an open mind to other cultures. Granted, some cultures are full of morons and deserve to be eradicated, such as fans of the University of Kansas Jayhawks. Go Mizzou! Anyway, the island’s Snake Tribe has been taken over by the Devil Sect, after their chief died. The daughter of the chief is the princess, her name is Ann Kawa. She’s trying to help her people, but the Devil Sect is powerful. The band reaches the Snake Tribe, and watches a fight between their two best members for the pleasure of the Leader of the Devil Sect. Then, the Great Wizard decides to fight them both with the Snake Technique, the secret technique Bruce is looking for. The Great Wizard throws both of the men very far, and one remarks “Great Wizard, your Snake Technique is very much better than mine!” Duh, he beat you so easily. Great Wizard gives orders to find another sacrifice, which the tribe does in grabbing a different girl later. She’s tossed into the Snake Pit.
Bruce’s group then runs into a third outsider on the island besides Bruce and Chin Sang. This guy is named Cheng Pow, and he’s looking for the famous Snake Pearl as well. He challenges them to kung fu, and if he wins, Chin Sang has to leave the island. We get a really good fight between Bruce and Cheng Pow. They fight for a good while, then Bruce suggests they be friends….so they do! Well, that was easy. They head to where the Snake Tribe is, when….NATIVES WITH SICKLES ATTACK!!!
Later, the two bumbling guides are getting some water, but Cheng Pow attacks them. It’s a double-cross, and Bruce steps up to defend them. They two fight for a while, and Bruce claims they aren’t after the Snake Pearl, so Cheng Pow leaves, and is captured by natives a few seconds later. Cheng does a lot of flipping attacks as he fights them off, and uses their own spears against them. It’s a pretty neat scene, and Cheng Pow manages to escape despite being massively outnumbered. The various tribes on this island is a confusing mess, as later a Skull-masked Great Wizard Guru talks with Cheng Pow, and then a fight happens after Chen says he is there for the Pearl. The Great Wizard has three trials for Cheng Pow, and will let him go if he survives them. But after a fight that involves hopping into trees, he just stabs Cheng Pow with his poison ring.
Outside, Bruce and Chin Sang are ambushed by the same group that ambushed Cheng Pow earlier. Now it is Bruce and Chin Sang’s chances to fight them. The thugs are dressed like a cross of outfits from ancient Greece and China. The two are winning, just like Cheng Pow did alone (boy, these ambushers sure can’t do their job very well) when the boss declares that he’ll tech them a lesson. His teaching technique needs a little work, as the two students turn the tables and do some extra credit on his behind. The boss declares “I dare you to fight my master, though!” and runs away. Bruce follows him. It’s now two days later, and Chin Sang and the two guides are still waiting for Bruce to come back. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Bruce’s parents are worried, but soon get a message from Papau-New Guinea, Bruce is coming back! I guess the movie forgot to tell us that Chin Sang went back to Hong Kong. Thanks movie! I bet it was edited on Bad Editing Island.
Bruce returns, acting odd and wearing sunglasses. He keeps seeing visions of Princess Ann Kawa. Bruce’s cousin still wants to jump his bones, but she touches Bruce and has visions of snakes, causing her to faint. Back on Snake Worship Island, Ann Kawa won’t marry the useless Son of the Great Wizard, Sun Ba, what the Great Wizard needs to make his rule legitimate. The son Sun Ba (son, Sun, how fun!) will propose again, and if Princess Ann Kawa resists, she’ll be in trouble, so she needs to distract Sun Ba so he can’t ask. Princess Ann Kawa has a personal bodyguard who is a gorilla trained in Kung Fu named Keta. Keta is obviously a guy in a gorilla suit, a bad gorilla suit, a bad and ratty gorilla suit. Keta is distracted by two men with bananas as Sun Ba slips by. Ann Kawa refused to marry Sun Ba, because she is still in love with the Chinese guy, Bruce, even though it’s been a year.
A YEAR?!?!?!? A year passed and we weren’t told? Maybe it was done on Very Bad Editing Island. Plus, she seems to have met Bruce at some point where we didn’t see, but at least they explain that in flashbacks in a bit. Another cut to back in Hong Kon, where Bruce’s cousin again sees him as a cobra, and faints. Bruce then tells Chin Sang the FLASHBACK! Bruce kept chasing the boss of the ambushers, then sees Cheng Pow die. Before the end, he tells that the Great Snake Wizard does the three tricks: Snake in Road, Snake in Tree, and the poison ring. Bruce runs to fight the Great Wizard, but is beaten really badly, and left to die. Instead, girls find his body and inform Princess Ann Kawa, who seems to be in the middle of a giggle convention with her pack of tittering teenage handmaidens at the beach. Some men try to interrupt their fun, and they send the ape Keta on them. The Princess falls in love with the sick Bruce, and takes him to her place. She must keep him warm, but how? Using her fully naked body! Of course! Hey, any film with full frontal nudity of hot Asian chicks earns bonus points. She seems to be focusing on warming a specific body part of Bruce’s most of all, if you catch my drift. Soon, she’s worried that he will leave her alone, which she’s been since the Wizard killed her father. She’d resits more, but for the safety of her people she doesn’t openly defy him. Bruce wants Ann Kawa to leave with him. Outside, Sun Ba sees Bruce and Ann Kawa kissing, and tells his father. Great Snake Wizard returns with lots of goons to beat Bruce dead, and proceeds to get him within an inch of that, but when he is about to kill Bruce, the Princess begs him not to, promising to agree to anything. Also, as an aside, the Princess put Love Magic into Bruce’s wine, so he can’t be touched by other girls, such as his cousin, or they’ll freak out like she did with the snake vision. FLASHBACK OVER!
Bruce starts to practice so he can go back to the island. He must practice all of the Snake Techniques he saw. First, Snake in Road, which uses the snake stance with leg sweeps. Secondly, Snake in Tree, which involves fighting higher and higher. Back on Snake Worship island, Ann Kawa had Bruce’s kid as well. Hopefully it’s Bruce’s kid. I predict Bruce and Ann Kawa will be on Maury Povich in a few years, and Bruce will be told he’s “NOT the Father” and then gets up and dances in joy. Am I bad because I like it when they dance? I hope not. Great Wizard has some choice words for Princess Ann Kawa, and the leader of the ambushers adds: “Princess, you’re a slut!” Daaaaaaaaamn! Great Wizard will throw the baby into a pit unless Princess renounces her throne, but she doesn’t care about her throne. She’s not dethroned, since a marraige will still be advantageous. A spell is put on the baby via bad video effects. Either Princess Ann Kawa has to marry Sun Ba, or else the baby dies.
The movie was running low on bizarre segues, so now New Guinea gets some new visitors. After Bruce and Chin Sang return to New Guinea, their same two guides tell them “Last week two white men and a negro came.” Yes, they say “negro.” The Negro gets the most offensive dubbing ever to grace a Kung Fu film set in New Guinea, which is still pretty bad. With such lines as “He knows dey keep dat Sanek Pearl hidden dere!” how can you not love him? They see Bruce and his friends and try to blow them away, and then it moves to a fistfight. Chin Sang is shot in the stomach during this battle, and soon passes on. Bruce finds Princess Ann Kawa, and learns about his son, and the spell on him. The legendary Snake Pearl can counter the spell on his son. The tribesmen are rallied to try to kill Bruce, while Princess Ann Kawa tells the ape Keta to take her handmaidens and the baby to the beach and defend them. Bruce must fight a parade of Snake Tribesmen with different weapons, from sickles to spears to fists. He even fights the leader of the ambushers from before again. Bruce also kills the two best fighters from the earlier scene in the film, and Sun Ba runs to tell his father, Great Wizard. Great Wizard comes to fight, and we get a long, satisfying fight that is the highlight of the film. The fight with Great Wizard also allows Princess Ann Kawa to get into his dwelling to obtain the Snake Pearl, but Sun Ba is there. Princess tries to kill him, but he tries to rape her instead, despite having acted 100% gay for most of the film. Eventually, Great Wizard rolls aside, allowing Bruce to stop this as well, and he kicks Sun Ba into the Snake Pit, killing him.
Daddy returns just then, and he and Bruce fight again by the Snake Pit. They fight and fight and fight, and then fight some more. Great Wizard tries to jab Bruce with his poison ring, but keeps missing. The film gives us plenty of closeups of the poiaon ring, so we are all reminded that it is poisonous. Ann Kawa grabs the Snake Pearl, and Bruce knocks Great Wizard into the Snake Pit. Instead of being dead, he jumps out with snakes attached to his body! So they keep fighting. Bruce jumps on Great Wizard’s shoulders at one point, rips out his eyes, and finally defeats him, giving Great Wizard a slow, overacting death. The Princess runs to the beach with the Snake Pearl, but the two White Men from earlier arrive and take it from her. Bruce is really ticked off now, and kills one of them getting the Pearl back. THEN, one of the handmaidens turns out to be one of Great Wizard’s goons dressed as a girl, and tries to get the Snake Pearl as well! Bruce fights this guy, and then kills the other White Man who didn’t learn the lesson earlier, and finally they can cure the baby of the spell. Curing with the Snake Pearl involves rolling it on the baby’s forehead. The spell is dismissed, and that’s that! The Pearl is like Scrubbing Bubbles to evil spells, just roll and forget!
Bruce takes the Snake Pearl back to the Snake People, and then Bruce and Princess and the baby all leave for Hong Kong, and we end. Wait, who is in charge of the Snake People now? They were just freed, but lost their only leader! That’s not good Nation Building policy!
Bruce Lee in New Guinea is an example of Lighter Bruceploitation, where mostly the title was changed to reel in fans, an the script stayed pretty much as is. Some of the more extreme examples involve Bruce Lee himself doing various things, usually fighting back from the grave or Hell or being cloned. The gap Bruce Lee left has yet to be filled, and probably never will be. Jackie Chan has his own style of movies, as to other Asian stars such as Jet Li and Sammo Hung. Bruce’s Legacy is something best left for an actual Bruce Lee movie recap, so we’ll cut short this tribute to him.
Bruce Li, real name Ho Chung Tao, was renamed mostly be greedy movie producers, and not by his own choice. Ho Chung Tao was not happy with the move, and has since left the entertainment business and runs a gym. One-named starlette Danna was being pushed as an international sex symbol at this time, and was featured in several movies in prominent roles, but eventually petered out an faded away into history. I have no idea as to her current fate. Men in gorilla suits doing Kung Fu is used in several films, notably Shaolin Invincibles and King Kung Fu. One day, a genius will do an all ape kung fu film, and it will be glorious. Will you be that genius?
Rated 5/10 (Sickle Attack, Snake Headdress, Poison Ring, Badly Dubbed Black, Video Toaster Spell)
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