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In 1973, Bruce Lee was in the middle of filming the film that was to showcase his personal style of Jeet Kune Do, The Game of Death when he received an offer to star in Enter the Dragon. The first kung fu film to be produced by a Hollywood studio, and with a budget unprecedented for the genre, it was an offer Lee was unable to refuse. He was slated to resume filming The Game of Death as soon as that was finished. Alas, before EtD was even released, he died.
So the uncompleted footage for The Game of Death sat and collected dust, with some of it being misplaced and Lost Forever. Greedy producers weren't about to let this stand, so in 1978, they enlisted the director of EtD, Robert Clouse, to make a new film using the surviving footage, footage from other times in Lee's career, and newly-filmed footage. The result is known simply as Game of Death.
TGoD was to be about Korean thugs coercing Lee's character, Hai Tien, into helping them retrieve a treasure from the top of a guarded pagoda, wherein they would have to fight a different martial artist on each of its five floors. GoD does away with this and features an entirely new plot. Billy Lo (played at various stages by Yuen Biao, Kim Tai Chung, and Chen Yao Po) is a renowned martial arts movie star. A trafficking syndicate wants his aid, and he refuses. When they fail to intimidate him, they order his assassination instead. Lo makes the attempt look like a success, and then uses the cover of supposedly being dead to bring the syndicate down.
The film uses only 11 minutes of footage from TGoD, in which Lee is genuinely the actor used to portray Lo. This fight scene is one of the most treasured in the history of martial arts movies, and probably the only reason to watch the film. In addition to it being the last time audiences would ever see Lee fight, it is also known for the costume Lee dons during it: a bright yellow track suit with black stripes up the sides. This suit has come to be seen as something of a trademark for the actor; homaged numerous, numerous times. The homage to it that you most likely know of, however, is when Uma Thurman dons the same one whilst fighting the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill.
An unrelated movie made due to high demand for more Bruce, using recycled Lee footage as well as deleted Enter the Dragon footage, new scenes choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping and Kim Tai Chung, called Tower Of Death, was released in 1981 and in some markets called Game Of Death II.
This film provides examples of:
- Bruce Lee Clone: GoD was put together predominantly to milk cash out of Lee's death.
- And before then, two films made to capitalize on the legend of Game Of Death were made, Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game Of Death (1975, starring Bruce Li) and Enter the Game of Death (1977, starring Bruce Le)... and one after, The True Game Of Death (1981, starring "Bruce Lee Siao-Long"), which ripped off the general plot and sometimes whole segments of the film were redone almost shot for shot.
- David Versus Goliath: Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Fake Shemp: Korean tae-kwon-do expert Kim Tai Chung played Bobby Lo for most of the movie, his face partially obscured by fake beards, large sunglasses and cardboard cutouts. Notorious Bruce Lee Clone Bruce Li was also offered the role in tandem with Chung, but he declined because he didn't think he should be officially filling Bruce's shoes.
- Faking the Dead
- Intimidation Demonstration: When Billy and Pasqual (Dan Inosanto's character) both draw their nunchaku, they spend a good amount of time showing off their respective skills with them before getting around to fighting.
- Me Love You Long Time: Inverted. Lo's girlfriend is a white woman living abroad in Hong Kong.
- Missing Episode: Much of the original footage for TGoD is still missing, and it will probably never be found.
- However, a documentary called Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey made in the early 2000's managed to find and piece together as much of the footage as they could find (which includes all of the fight footage from the upper three levels of the pagoda) but also reveals for the first the the movie's original plot, based on Lee's outlines and sketches. Really, it's a better use of your time to just look up the documentary than sit through the Robert Clouse version.
- Narm: Did Lee absolutely have to be so noisy during the aforementioned fight scene?
- Neck Snap: Bruce Lee does this to the escrima specialist with his nunchaku.
- Nunchaku: The movie has a nunchaku vs. nunchaku battle between Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto.
- Reason You Suck Speech: The whole concept of the movie is nothing more than heroic version of this trope. Five masters with five different styles and Lee uses his style to show the holes and weaknesses in theirs. Styles included a escrima specialist (3rd), Hapikdo (4th), Kareem was at the top and used Lee's style. The other two styles were going to have a kicking master (1st) and a master in a mantis based martial arts (2nd).
- In Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey, during the fight with the escrima specialist (played by Dan Inosanto, a real life Filipino Martial Arts master and a friend of Bruce Lee), Lee points out that escrima's "rehearsed routine" doesn't have the same flexibility as his own Jeet Kune Do and thus can't adapt to "broken rhythm".
- Real Men Wear Pink: In western eyes yellow is associated with cowardice but Lee seems pretty proud of that suit. Also the 4th master is pretty bishie, his suit seems to be more for attraction than practicality and he has lacey veils around his bed-throne. But he is NOT a Sissy Villain.