What is the deal with Films from the Basement? Its a pretty typical story actually. Since early 2000, I have been locked in the basement of what would eventually become The Nerd Mentality offices. I never saw sunlight or ate real food in that entire time, but I did have an allowance of $3 a week. I used this money to buy films to preserve my sanity. Unfortunately, with the budget being so low, I was only able to afford the cheapest, most terrible films and instructional videos available to mankind. The majority of people have never seen or even heard about these films. Now that I have been released from the basement, I will be able to unleash these monstrosities and take over the wor … er, I mean, I will be able to share them with the world by the power of the internet. Join me, won’t you, as we delve into Films from the Basement! This time we will be looking at the 1978 movie Dragon Lee vs the Five Brothers.
I know what you are thinking, but no, this isn’t the basis for the Batman vs Superman movie. The original language title for the film is Wu Da Di Zi, which, when translated, probably means “What the? … I’m dizzy,” as very little of the story makes sense. It is the kind of story that only someone with a deep head wound could come up with. I watched a DVD version, but honestly, you couldn’t tell it was a DVD. It looked like a very poor quality VHS tape that was recorded over multiple times and left in a toilet. Interestingly, they went all out with the dialog dubbing, and by “all out” I mean that much like early Bethesda Games, they paid one guy to do practically all the voices. He didn’t even try to mask his accent or do different voices for different characters, so it was really difficult to tell them apart. The movie itself didn’t help matters much, since the main character has to constantly meet new people in multiple villages.
In the opening scene, Dragon Lee (I still could never tell if that was the actor’s name or the character’s name) is carrying some guy over his shoulder. This guy seemed to be in some old military or police uniform, but we never find out who he is, how Dragon knows him, or how he got hurt. I felt like this was a TV show where I had missed the previous week’s episode. The guy asks Dragon to set him down some place and then proceeds to give Mr. Lee basic instructions, a ring and a note, and then promptly dies. This is all within a couple minutes of the movie starting.
The basic instructions will make up the majority of the movie’s plot. Dragon is told to go see a rebel leader, who will tell him how to get to another rebel leader, who will then lead him to the final rebel leader to deliver a message. Dragon ends up having to rescue the 2nd leader’s daughter after the first leader is killed and his daughter is kidnapped. Still with me? All of this is basically a cheap writing device to stretch out the movie to feature length. I mean, the title already tells us that we are going to watch, Dragon Lee vs the 5 Brothers (insert non-racist blaxploitation joke here), so why not get to that rather quickly? No, we have to drag out Dragon Lee travelling and meeting people and being followed. Again, with the same guy doing all the voices, it was really confusing to keep track of who was who.
The movie establishes that the rebel strongholds need a password to be able to pass into, but in later scenes they just show the entry doors wide open so that people can sneak in and out at will. The walls to the stronghold are only 5 to 6 feet tall ,and seemingly every character shows the ability to jump over them to the roof easily, therefore making entire set up scenes useless.
We are introduced to an evil overlord named Ching and 5 evil brothers, or so we think (PLOT TWIST). One of the brothers has a metal fan and a metal hand (which is really just a silver painted glove), and that is kind of funny. I never caught any of the 5 brothers names, but I guess with all the confusing characters it wouldn’t make much difference. When you name the big bad Asian guy “Ching” you know there isn’t much of a creative writing team here.
Ching really wants a name list (apparently the secret message given to Dragon at the beginning of the film, although they never tie that part up). The reason he wants it? To get a promotion. Seriously … he says that in the movie. He already has land, rules over people and has an army of super powered soldiers, but someone, somewhere, is going to give him a promotion. Does he hope to finally get that coveted role of assistant TO the regional manager?
Ching’s goons capture a rebel leader and also his wife, or daughter or sister … Dragon Lee vs the 5 Brothers never really seemed to care to let the audience know. There are more damn rebel leaders in this movie than in the entirety of Star Wars. At this point thankful the end is nigh. The big plot twist during the climax is that Dragon Lee was really really trying to be Bruce Lee. Oh and also that one of the 5 brothers wasn’t evil … it fact, she was a lady. She was trying to save someone she liked that was in prison, but that side point is quickly dropped. Following this, the 2 main characters meet outside, only to walk in different directions. Walking … just like at the start of the film, with nothing changed, nor any lessons learned by the main character. It’s like poetry, so that they rhyme. The End!
Things I learned from Dragon Lee vs the Five Brothers:
Crowds find it amazing to see a woman walk on a wire blindfolded even though it’s only a couple feet off of the ground. However, running across treetops and jumping to the roof is normal and nothing is amazing about that whatsoever.
If you wear a mask (but keep the same costume on) no one can tell who you are.
Wooden poles make noises like meta,l and moving your hands slowly also makes noise. Just ask Steven Seagal.
Hats can be thrown as weapons and they will return like a boomerang. Also, Chinese fans are a deadly weapon. In fact everything can be used to kill in this movie (including the script). The bad guys have specially made chairs that shoot poison darts, but those darts can be easily stopped with a table cloth. Apparently the clothing and furniture makers of this universe love to make everything into potential deadly weapons.
Dialog of note:
“A rather suspicious man has just passed through the town.”
“I’ve lost my house, and you’re to blame.”
“Drug seller, are you sure this stuff works?”
“Prepare the sedan chair.”
“More precious than 500 tails?”
Dragon Lee vs the Five Brothers is largely forgettable, but you could do much worse. In fact, it is nowhere near the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The bad dubbing and cheap design give a few laughs for entertainment value, but there certainly is no plot to follow. Only watch this if you have run out of other kung fu movies or, you know, are stuck in a basement.