· (1978)
Way of the Black Dragon

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 07/13/2010

cecilia wong is kidhapped by a gang and taken to hong kong, where she is forced into prostitution. after a while, she is sold to carter wong, a dock worker, as a wife. when cecilia explains what has happened to carter, he is furious. then, when cecilia is snatched away from him, he teams up with interpol agent ron van clief and sets off to thailand to get her back...

now, i'll admit it, i'd never heard of ron "the black dragon" van clief until this dvd landed on my doorstep. born in brooklyn, in the 1950s, ron began learning karate in his teens, going on to win many titles with his own 'chinese goju' style; an amalgamation of gogu-ryu and chinese martial arts. during the 1970s and '80s, ron starred in numerous films, both in hong kong and the usa, although he is probably most famous for his roles in the black dragon films. 'way of the black dragon' is the third film in the black dragon series and, to be honest, it's nothing to write home about.

'way of the black dragon' is a film of two distinct halves; the first is a drama, the second is all about the action. the first half chronicles cecilia wong and the other kidnapped women, as they are taken from thailand to hong kong; it is pretty exploitative fare, which adds an uncomfortable air of titillation to the plight of the women. if i hadn't been watching it to, subsequently, write a review, i'd have fast-forwarded through the first half of the film. things change considerably in the second half of the film...

as if out of nowhere, at around the forty-two minute mark, ron van clief appears, investigates and then sets off to kick some ass. the result is simply a string of fights between ron, carter wong, hsaio ho and various members of the thai gang, including mang hoi, with a couple of chase sequences thrown in for good measure. the quality of these sequences varies but, on the whole, the second half of the film is a fairly decent watch and the fights are pretty good. ron, who like jim kelly, was friends with bruce lee but, unlike kelly, ron has his own style; he's less flamboyant, yet he brings speed and power to his fights.

at the end of the day, i wouldn't recommend this heartily, but it's interesting to see a forgotten (well, in my house) legend do his thing...

when a dvd has a disclaimer on the box, telling you that they every effort has been made to find a decent print, but this was the best they find, you don't get your hopes up. still, respect to kung fu theatre for doing this; as it happens, i've seen much worse (without warning). the transfer is a 4:3, fullscreen and it is suffering from some damage. it looks like a pretty beat-up print was transferred to video, then that has been transferred to dvd. the sound is dolby digital 2.0 (dual-mono) and is as good as you could expect it to be; a bit of a shame as the funky soundtrack, which backs the english dub, sounds like it could've been pretty good.

the dvd also has a selection of ron's own footage from behind the scenes, accompanied with a commentary from ron (moderated by george tan). the film itself also has a commentary from ron and george, which is very entertaining; i'm not sure how much is ron's bravado (most of it, i reckon), but he tells some fine stories and he isn't afraid to give his opinion on everyone from jim kelly to tony ja and jackie chan.