The Turkish Bruce Lee
(film, martial arts) a genre of exploitation film that exploits the legacy of Bruce Lee through copycats
Bruce Lee is a martial arts movie legend who made dozens of films all over the world despite, in many cases, having the rather serious misfortune of being dead at the time.
In fact Lee only starred in four movies during his tragically short lifetime. Rampant mistitling and retitling of his films in English, plus a slew of movies starring such dubiously-named copycats as Bruce Le, Bruce Li, and Bruce Leong, produced an enormous amount of confusion. These ersatz kung fu cash-ins — Big Boss II, Enter the Game of Death, Fists of Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave, etc. — flooded the market after the star’s death in 1973. And it wasn’t just the Hong Kong studios that got in on the action.
Enter Nihat Yiğit, the Turkish Bruce Lee. Trained in karate, taekwondo, and Shaolin kung fu, Yiğit made his movie debut in 1982 as a ninja opposite “Turkish Star Wars” star Cüneyt Arkın in Son Savaşçı. After he put his ample martial arts talents on display in a few more films, producers quickly realized they had a genuine Turkish Dragon on their hands. Thus, in 1984’s Ejderin İntikamı (“Revenge of the Dragon”), Yiğit was in full-on Bruce Lee mode, haircut and all. The flick is replete with all the standard chop socky trappings, including a sparring scene and fatherly kung fu master straight out of Enter the Dragon — plus music stolen from that very same film:
The clip also lifts music from the popular TV series “Kung Fu,” and it’s perhaps no coincidence that Yiğit later starred in “Kung Fu” clone Ölüm Vuruşu — doubly fitting, as “Kung Fu” was originally conceived as a vehicle for Bruce Lee.
In the 1986 Bruce Lee pastiche Aç Kartallar, even more emphasis was put into Yiğit’s “look,” so over the course of the film he’s thrust into just about every iconic Lee outfit short of the yellow track suit:
Unfortunately, Turkish “Bruceploitation” fizzled out along with the rest of the Turkish film industry by the end of the 1980s. However Yiğit was not quite finished with filmmaking. In the late 2000s he made his return to movies, beginning production on the stylized historical action film Mokan.
Coincidentally, just as Bruce Lee developed martial art Jeet Kune Do out of his dissatisfaction with the traditional martial arts, Yiğit would go on to found Turkish martial art Sayokan in 1999 for the same reasons.
As a longtime fan of Turkish action cinema, I’ve included below a couple of lobby cards for Aç Kartallar from my personal collection. Click for higher-res versions: