I only learned of the existence of Blood And Steel when it was announced SRS were issuing it on DVD. At the time of writing it still doesn’t have an Internet Movie Database entry despite this revival. Presumably that will be fixed soon but it shows how obscure this flick is. Blood And Steel was the working title for Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon and this film, swiping that, is dedicated to Bruce Lee.
Shot in Buffalo, New York, the opening looks more like a regional horror with a woman in a swimming pool having her throat cut. Then a guy gets killed slasher style. Writer, director and star, Mark Swetland - playing himself - is the brother of one of the victims and he goes after the killers. The death of Swetland's screen sister at the get-go in this movie appears designed to resonate with Bruce Lee’s sister - played by Angela Mao - committing suicide to avoid being raped by the bad guys early on in Enter The Dragon.
Swetland gets a lead via a photograph that a martial artist from a local dojo is involved in the murder of his sister. So like Bruce Lee busting up the Japanese dojo in Fist of Fury (Chinese Connection in the USA), he lays waste to this martial arts school with his kung fu skills.
Ransacking the fight school’s office, Swetland gets a lead to an industrial company. Turns out both operations provide cover for drug dealing. The industrial company invokes the ice factory in Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss (Fists of Fury in the USA) which is a front for an illicit drugs operation. Meanwhile the bad guys hire an outside fighter to take care of Swetland - just as Chuck Norris is called in by the gangsters in Way of the Dragon to deal with Bruce Lee.
The stakes escalate as Swetland attempts to free his kidnapped girlfriend, He defeats the martial arts killer hired to take him out in what looks like a school hall with a stage - guess there is no equivalent of Rome’s Colosseum in Buffalo, the venue for the Bruce Lee/Chuck Norris fight in Way of the Dragon (although in reality and glaringly obviously mostly shot on a Hong Kong film set).
As the film is sprinting toward its finish, Swetland gears up in a yellow jumpsuit like Bruce Lee in Game of Death and besieges the bad guys' HQ. Of course, Swetland triumphs, avenging his sister’s death and freeing his girlfriend. Imagine an all American college jock who is also a Bruce Lee super fan acting out his hero worship by trying to role elements from five Little Dragon flicks into a single script which he also directs and stars in, and you'll have a pretty good handle on this movie.
The martial arts and action stunts - some involving motorcycles fights/chases rather like those added to Game of Death after Bruce Lee's death - are surprisingly good for an American no budget flick. Swetland’s Bruce Lee muggings during breaks in the fights are too restrained - he's too much the good guy college jock to indulge in nose thumbing levels of cockiness, although that has proved in the past to be a sure-fire route to Brucesploitation schlock of the first water.
In terms of content this would make the core of the Brucesploitation genre as I theorised it in my book Re-Enter The Dragon. However being core is also dictated to a degree by being known to Brucesploitation enthusiasts since genre is socially negotiated - and because it isn’t, Blood and Steel slides back into being part of the periphery. That could change but there’s a shortage of groovy seventies stylings on show here - it was made a decade too late - and I'd say this film will ultimately prove to be of more interest to those who dig American regional film than martial arts fans.