It was right around Thanksgiving in 1975 that the indie-produced martial arts thriller, Black Dragon’s Revenge, hit theatres in the Los Angeles area. It would have normally been no big deal, but back in the 1970s that period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was death — a real dead zone.
The Hollywood studios avoided releasing anything during this period on the calendar. Indeed, it wasn’t until Paramount broke this vicious cycle with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 that struggling independent theatre-owners were finally able to put patrons in empty seats in at the end of November until Christmas day.
The exception to this was if you just happened to be running a theatre that catered to the action crowd. The Black Dragon’s Revenge, directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Tommy Loo Chung was like Gone With the Wind in Huntington Park, California and the California Theater. Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon during the summer of 1973 and every chop-socky film that followed found a home there. Throw in Blaxploitation films and there was always something to see at the California … Black Dragon’s Revenge fits neatly into both film genres.
It could get a little rough on Saturday and Sunday back then, I speak from first-hand experience as the VP of Operations for the chain that ran the California. So you can imagine my surprise — a pleasant surprise to be sure — when The Film Detective announced this past week that The Black Dragon’s Revenge would be their kick-off film restoration (from the original 35mm film negative and properly formatted with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1) for 2017!
The street date is Jan. 31 for both DVD and Blu-ray product offerings.
The film, which stars Ron Van Clief (Bamboo Trap, Fight to the Death, Way of the Black Dragon, etc.) as “The Black Dragon,” spins around (loosely) a hunt for the late Bruce Lee’s secret diary relating to his special “Kung Fu” skills. Plot wasn’t important … action was, and The Black Dragon’s Revenge delivers that in spades! And with this new restoration on the way, you can already hear those previously released DVD editions hitting the trash cans!!!
In other restoration news this week, Nov. 29 will see a light load of just five new DVD releases. These are North of the Border (a program Western released in 1946 starring Russell Hayden), director Joseph Kane’s 1937 mob thriller, Paradise Express (teaming Grant Withers with Dorothy Appleby), director Robert F. Hill’s 1936 boxing saga Prison Shadows (starring Edward J. Nugent), 1936 pre-Stagecoach Western starring John Wayne, Rainbow Valley and another from filmmaker Joseph Kane, his 1942 Western, Romance on the Range, starring Roy Rogers and Linda Hayes, with a stable-full of Republic Pictures “bad guys” of the period — Roy Barcroft (close to 400 film credits, including Retik in Radar Men from the Moon … he got to be a “good guy” in Oklahoma), Glenn Strange (as “The Monster” in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) and Harry Woods.