September 17, 2020  (Web Review)

Dynamo

MVD, 96 min., R, In English w/ optional Spanish subtitles, DVD/BR Combo: $29.99, May 12

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

After the death of Bruce Lee in 1973, Far East cinema released a flurry of sometimes-tasteless “Brucesploitation” kung-fu B-movies that traded on the tragic Lee name with soundalike, lookalike actors (Bruce Le, Bruce Lo, Bruce Li, etc.) and plot lines that referenced Lee in one way or another. Director Hua Shan’s Dynamo, from late in the trend, is better than most, distinguished by considerable nudity, the tune “Disco Baby,” and a self-aware plot line concerning rival Hong Kong ad agencies rather than the usual opium warlords and gangsters. Flying into the island to reverse the fortunes of the failing Pacific Agency, a dragon-lady executrix (Mary Han) latches onto upcoming martial-artist and carefree cabbie Lee Ting (Bruce Li, also seen that year in Image of Bruce Lee) to get a makeover as a Bruce Lee successor, with the ultimate destiny as a lucrative commercial pitchman (Richard Nixon having been jokingly rejected as a possibility). Complete with Bruce Lee-trademark sunglasses and yellow Game of Death track suit, he trains gruelingly and almost loses his longtime girlfriend thanks to studio-arranged public love affairs. Moreover, a nemesis ad company seeks to destroy Lee Ting during his globetrotting travels and appearances. The narrative is episodic and ramshackle but still a notch above loads of fellow chopsocky quickies. The original 16mm version has been remastered, and disc extras include a short look at an LA business doing painstaking digital restoration work on such Z-grade fare, making a point (that has become dogma in cult-movie circles) that films like this were literally pulled from trash bins by devotees and saved for posterity; exhibitors never dreamed such grindhouse fare would ever have a second life. An extra is enthusiastic commentary (recorded internationally over the internet) between UK DJ and kung-fu fan Iain Lee and US author-scholar-fan Michael Worththe latter of the opinion that the corporate-intrigue stuff is boringand he prefers the edited TV-broadcast version for centering on the fights. An enclosed pamphlet by Worth explains the virtues of Dynamo in the context of its time. A strong optional purchase. (C. Cassady)