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Fist of Fear,Touch of Death

 40th Anniversary Edition

                          review by Bobby Blakey

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There is no question that the most iconic martial arts action star of all time is Bruce Lee. While he only made a few big screen martial arts films he did have many other acting roles in other films and TV shows. After his death in 1973, director Matthew Mallinson set out to keep his legacy alive, sort of with the 1980 film Fist of Fear, Touch of Death. Now to celebrate the films 40th Anniversary they are bringing the film home.


Fist of Fear Touch of Death follows the subgenre of 1970s cinema, Bruceploitation that clung to the box office success of the Bruce Lee legacy, utilizing Lee lookalikes and archival footage from the legend himself. Carving a niche within the grindhouse market, Bruceploitation not only appealed to fans of the day, but has generated a cult status in recent years. If you don’t know anything about Bruceploitation these films were churned out for years following his death but more often than not kind of doing their own thing. It was mostly just to obviously capitalize on his popularity and believe it or not fans of the time ate it up. This film on the other hand did something totally different.


I am not sure how to feel about this film as I love all things martial arts in life and film. The film side of me loves this film for the sheer ridiculous way it came together and the cult idea of it, but the martial arts side of me finds it disrespectful to the legacy of Bruce Lee. Not sure if it was the director or producers, but they acquired the rights to the films The Thunderstorm starring a young Bruce Lee and the martial arts flick Invincible Super Chan and cut them together along with the new footage with actors Fred Williamson, Adolf Caesar, Ron Van Clief and more to create something new. It is a mess of a film but I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. Where it loses me more than anything is the Bruce Lee footage and blatant disregard of his Chinese heritage. They’ve used the “Samurai” part of the film as a story about his ancestors ignoring the fact that this whole thing would be Japanese.


I admit the idea is pretty good and could have worked had it not been about Bruce Lee himself. They say a lot of things regarding his ideals and character that come across as sometimes insulting whether the intent or not. As a guilty pleasure film it works great. The story is minimal and takes a more documentary approach to make it work. This helps to make the bizarre mix of film styles to work on some strange level. There are some fun martial arts demos infused throughout as well as weird moments to include other fights including one with martial artist Bill Louie dressed as Kato fighting thugs.


I could go on and on about how this film is horribly bad in the best way possible as well as how it bothers me as a martial artist, but at the end of the day it exists and that’s it. I will say I loved getting the chance to see Bruce Lee on screen again in any capacity even without doing martial arts. This release offers up not only a 4K restoration of the film, but also bonus content including original trailer and interviews with various cast and crew. This is a limited edition with only 1,500 Blu-ray’s being pressed, so be sure to get yours ordered before they are gone.


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