Not your typical Bruceploitation film
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 01/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Bruce Li in New Guinea (also known as Bruce in New Guinea and Last Fist of Fury) isn't your typical Bruceploitation film. Oh, there's plenty of kung fu action, but things take a weird turn early on in this strangely enjoyable albeit rather silly movie from 1977. Bruce Li plays Kwong Lee, an anthropologist who agrees to travel with his friend to Snake Worship Island in New Guinea; the idea of studying the culture of the sects there doesn't seem to interest him very much at first, but at the first mention of the devil sect which lives there, he's more than ready to go. A couple of stereotypically goofy guides lead Kwong Lee and his buddy to the island, where they soon meet up with a reluctant sacrifice-to-be maiden who dies of poison just after they find her. The snake people, the story goes, were a good tribe under the leadership of the dead king, but now the Great Wizard of the devil sect has taken over, holding the princess Ankawa in his power. Naturally, the Great Wizard is a master of the snake fist style of fighting, and everybody around him knows kung fu. Kwong Lee and pal soon find this out firsthand, at which point Kwong Lee disappears. He turns up again several days or months later, acting strangely; the cure for this is, of course, a flashback, wherein we see him fight the Great Wizard and fall victim to one of the skeleton-masked one's "tricks." The beautiful princess Ankawa saves him by keeping him warm (and I'm not talking about wrapping him up or starting a fire in the fireplace). Love soon blossoms, but Kwong Lee is forced to leave, vowing to return.
Return he does, after practicing his defense against the snake fist fighting style (things would have been a whole lot simpler if he had just bought a gun). Several surprises await him when he arrives on the island, but he spends most of his time fighting, taking on both the devil sect and a trio of raiders out to steal the precious snake pearl. This is certainly not the most impressive display of kung fu I've ever seen, but it isn't that bad. The presence of deadly snakes in the film certainly helps it in my book, but this positive addition is more than offset by the inclusion of an ape who apparently understands Chinese and, unless my eyes deceived me, wears shoes. Curses and dark magic are fine, but there really ought to be a law against including exceedingly intelligent apes in films of any and all kinds. Perhaps my favorite oddity about Bruce Li in New Guinea comes in the form of a little love potion Ankawa slips into Kwong Lee's drink before he leaves her; apparently, any female who looks at him with anything more than friendship on her mind suddenly sees him as a great big nasty snake. Stupid - yes; but pretty cool - yes.
It's sort of nice to watch one of these Bruceploitation films and actually journey outside of Hong Kong or China, and Ankawa is an even more pleasant sight than our exotic locale. I would give this film four stars, but I always deduct a star for the inclusion of intelligent, fake apes in movies. If you like all of the Bruce Lee clone movies the way I do, you should get a kick out of Bruce Li in New Guinea; otherwise, you'll probably rebel against its sometimes silly plot."