The Game of Death

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As Brandon Lee once said, Game of Death has 40 minutes of footage and the rest is junk. Before Bruce Lee died he worked on scripts for Game of Death and shot some 40 odd minutes of footage including test screenings and actual fight sequences. The central theme of the film is an illustration of Bruce Lee’s own personal martial arts philosophy, which ponders the superiority of martial arts styles, ultimately questioning the need for any style at all.

The film’s plot is a mishmash that was strung together posthumously. Bruce Lee portrays Billy Lo, a Hong Kong based movie actor who is a box office star much like Bruce Lee himself. Triad gangsters attempt to “convince” Billy Lo to join their management firm, but Billy knows they will only exploit him and turn him out like a $10 Ho, so he resists. After they attempt to assassinate Billy, the ass kicking commences.

Unfortunately, the film we know of today as “Game of Death” is simply a mash-up of stock footage, overwrought story lines and Lee stand-ins. Bruce Lee died before filming was completed. The footage that Bruce Lee did shoot, was far more intriguing than virtually anything else that this film’s creators cobbled together for release.

The film’s main plot was to be based in Korea. Bruce Lee would be forced into storming a 5 story Pagoda which is said to hold a infinite treasure within each level that is guarded by a master of a different martial arts style. The first floor is guarded by hundreds of Karate students (much like the ending of Enter the Dragon). The second level: Praying Mantis. The Third level is guarded by a Philippino style artist with escrima sticks. Level four: A Hapkido master. Level five contains the mind blowing appearance of Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Little survives today of the original footage and what is leftover has been slashed to bits by producer/director Robert Clouse. Though the original plot of the film has been distorted, some of it’s spirit remains. It is still a joy to watch Bruce fight, and his power and skills shine through, despite all of the distractions. Please enjoy the action packed 40 minutes of Bruce Lee clips from the original film. Thomas DiSanto

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