Bruce Lee copycats -- Using variations on his name and starring in rip-offs of his films, several actors are trying to fill in the hole left by the the Dragon

By Frank Lovece
Updated May 07, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Dragon is dead. Long live the Dragun. That’s how it has been ever since Bruce Lee died in 1973 — his name lives on in the films of wanna-Lees such as Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Lea, Bruce Lei, and Bruce Lai, among others.

Look at it from the sleazy rip-off distributors’ point of view. You’re making good money in low-budget martial-arts films purchased in Hong Kong, and the genre’s first superstar dies at his peak. What else can you do but give the public something close and assume they won’t know the difference? How else to explain Bruce Le in Re-Enter the Dragon?

Le (real name: Huang Kin Lung) is one of the busier Bruce Lee clones, starring in some 20 films currently available on cable and video. His oeuvre ranges in varying degrees of credibility from Bruce Lee: Superhero to the refreshingly straightforward The Clones of Bruce Lee — which also stars Bruce Li, Bruce Lai, and Bruce Thai. Li (Ho Tsung Tao) appears in at least four dozen other films, including Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger and The Dragon Lives. Dragon was Bruce Lee’s nickname — get it? For those who might not, Li also uses ”Bruce” in his titles — Bruce and the Dragon Fist, Fists of Bruce Lee. So does Bruce Liang (Bruce, Hong Kong Master)

As if this weren’t confusing enough, the clones themselves often don’t know they’re clones: American chop-socky distributors routinely rename Far East films as well as their stars. Japan’s Tadashi Yamashita is billed as Bronson Lee. ”The Japanese producers had nothing to do with this,” swears William Connolly of the fanzine Martial Arts Movie Associates. ”Tadashi didn’t know until somebody told him. He was real upset.”