I can not decide. Is this a cleaver parody of Bruceploitation movies, or is it a shameless attempt to cash in on Bruce Lee’s name with a mess of a movie. “Fist of Fear, Touch of Death” is no more than an hour and a half of padding with no actual payoff. Don’t be fooled by the poster which only conceivable purpose is to lure unsuspecting novice Kung Fu movie fans into the theater believing they are about to see some sort of lost Bruce Lee classic. Bruce Lee had nothing to do with this movie and was long dead when it was put on film.
It starts like an episode of the old “ABC Wild World of Sports” with what is suppose to be live coverage of a sporting event; a martial arts match which is to determine who will be Bruce Lee’s replacement as the King of Kung Fu. The promoter of the event, Aaron Banks, is given a brief interview outside of Madison Square Garden where he says that he believes that Bruce Lee was killed by a technique called the vibrating palm, better known as “the touch of death”. Once someone has mastered this technique all they have to do is touch their victim and a few hours later they will drop dead. After the opening credits we see a recap of last years Karate championship where Bill Louie ends a match by pulling both eyes out of his opponent and flicking them into the audience. We cut inside the Garden and to the real star of this movie, actor Adolf Caesar, who is given 8th billing behind Bruce Lee and others. Adolf lets us know that not only will we be seeing the match but an interview he did with Bruce Lee before his death and a special documentary of Bruce Lee’s life story. As for the interview director Matthew Ernest Mallinson found few seconds of footage of Bruce Lee talking. The footage is dubbed into English and intercut with Caesar asking the footage questions. This way an entire fake interview is created out of nothing and is enough to give Bruce Lee top billing as the movies star.
After the interview Caesar’s co-host and the movie’s other star, Fred Williamson. is introduced with a five minute flashback of Williamson on his way to the arena where everyone mistakes him for Harry Belafonte. More padding. Pre-written interviews with Aaron Banks and Ron Van Clief, more padding. A thirty minute that is suppose to be Bruce Lee’s life story is one of the black and white movies Lee made as a child actor in his teens re-dubbed into English with new dialog added by scriptwriter Ron Harvey.. This is intercut with scenes from a color martial arts movie. The color movie is explained to be flashbacks of Bruce Lee’s grandfather who was once a heroic Chinese samurai. The black and white footage explained as Bruce Lee’s teenage years. Periodically during his teenage years either he or one of his relatives reminisces about grandfather and we flash back to the color footage. This is enough to create thirty minutes of padding. The Bruce Lee story ends with some footage of him as an adult intercut with Aaron Banks talking to him. It also has one of the dumbest moments in the movie. Adolf says that Bruce was cast in a movie and says “Here is a scene from that film.” I suppose that the producer had intended to edit in footage from one of Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts movies but was unable to get the rights. Instead there is a few seconds of a man jumping off a roof. There is a segment with Bill Louie dressed up as Kato and beating up some thugs, more padding. Finally the movie shows the match that is suppose to determine who will replace Bruce Lee as the king of Kung Fu. It is between Louis Neglia and John “Cyclone” Flood. And do you know what? Who cares. I will not spoil it for those who actually want to watch this movie but tell you that after the match the movie ends with Adolf Caesar giving a speech about how Bruce Lee can never be replaced.
And that is the movie in a nutshell. Plenty of padding, pointless comedy sketches, enough public domain footage of Bruce Lee re-dubbed into English to legally give him star billing, all intercut with actual karate exhibition fights. Not exactly something anyone would willingly buy a movie ticket to see, hence the misleading movie poster. Here is my problem with this movie. There is no doubt that this is crap. And watched the way you would watch an Ed Wood movie it is laughably bad. But was it deliberate crap? Was the makers of this movie trying to make a statement about Bruceploitation films? If so then this would be a clever artistic statement. On the other hand if this movie is what it claims to be then what you have here folks is garbage on a grand scale.