Bruce Lee in New Guinea (1978)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-01-26
Summary: Avoid
“Bruce Li in New Guinea” is a waste of a good title on a terrible movie. It has a few decent fight scenes to its credit—otherwise it is just dreadful. The best fight was between two supporting characters played by Bolo Yuen and Lee Hoi-Sang very early on, an energetic and creatively choreographed battle that gave one a bit of hope that this would be worth watching. It isn’t. Bruce Li’s later confrontation with Bolo was short and not convincing and even the ultimate battle between Li and the Great Wizard, played by Chan Sing was a by the numbers exercise.

Evidence of shoddy work was everywhere. A scene began at night and switched to daylight with no transition at all. Another scene with several characters started in a temple—the next shot was not only outside but WAY outside, somewhere in the trackless wastes. The jungle looked about as wild as an urban park and probably was. The costume budget might have hit triple figures. While Dana as Princess Ankawa looked fetchingly ridiculous in a leopard patterned minidress with matching boots the sexiest outfit was saved for the Great Wizard, short silky robe with matching shorts, the robe worn open to the waist, accessorized with gladiator sandals that lace up the calf and (I am not making this up) feathery pom-poms. Bruce Li and his buddy wore bell-bottomed trousers and shoes with chunky heels in almost every scene, whether they were trekking through the phony jungle or hanging around in Li’s apartment back in Hong Kong.

Li is told by a dying friend that the Great Wizard has three ways of killing an opponent. The first (and the one used on the friend) is his poison ring. He breathes his last before he can say what the other two are but neither Li nor the audience has to worry about them since they weren’t mentioned again. Either the Great Wizard forgot to use his other two deadly techniques or the screenwriter forgot they had been mentioned—most likely the latter. When Li returns to the island after what seemed to be a short trip back to Hong Kong he meets his son, a strapping lad at least one year old. Since Princess Ankawa couldn’t have been more than one day pregnant when he left about two years have passed. The filmmakers didn’t seem to have any idea of how much movie time would have elapsed for the gestation, birth and first year of life of an infant.

“Bruce Li in New Guinea” begins with Bruce Li (costumed in only partially like his namesake, wearing the emblematic yellow track suit top with black stripes but blue sweatpants) while out for a run is confronted by four tough guys. He dispatches them without breaking a sweat just as his friend arrives. Li and his buddy meet in Li's book-lined study--Li is an anthropologist while his friend studies martial arts. His friend wants Li to accompany him to New Guinea. They discover that several groups of evildoers are trying to find the legendary Snake Pearl—a prize that ultimately resembles a large, polished ball bearing. The props budget must have been less than what was allocated for costumes.

Among the contestants for the Snake Pearl is one group led by someone who looks like a low rent Barry Gibb, the Devil clan run by the Great Wizard, the Snake Sect headed by the Princess, a free lance treasure hunter from Hong Kong who winds up dead early on and a group of indigenous people who seem to be there for comic relief but whose portrayal is one of the more cringe worthy aspects of this sorry enterprise.

If forced to pick one outrageous aspect of this movie it would be the effect on Li of a potion given to him by the Princess at their farewell dinner. It is a concoction that will keep him from falling in love with anyone else—his very attractive cousin, for example, with whom his parents have been trying to set him up. It works by making him look like a snake to anyone with strong feelings toward him, so when the cousin runs into Li on the street, instead of his manly countenance she sees the head of a hooded cobra. Li himself isn’t affected, only those around him.

This movie doesn’t deserve a rating of 1
Reviewer Score: 1