Saturday, January 21, 2012

Game of Death - Ever Wonder About that Yellow Kill Bill Jumpsuit?

If you saw these outfits, what movie comes to mind?

I believe most of today's generation would say Kill Bill, but this screenshot actually hearkens back to one of Bruce Lee's posthumous films: Game of Death

Billy-Lo (play by Bruce Lee) is a Kung Fu movie star adored by millions. When Billy dismisses the threats of a crime syndicate, they attempt to assassinate him during a film shoot. Although Billy survives a shot to the head, he keeps his survival a secret so he can plan for revenge. After days of gaining reconnaissance and taking down obstacles, Billy must come out of hiding when his girlfriend's life becomes endangered. Forced to undergo grueling fights on a multi-tiered pagoda, can Billy reach the top and stop the crime syndicate's tyrannical actions once and for all?

If you are relying on dialogue and story, this movie is not for you. However, considering the circumstances of how this film was made, the plot is driving and the action is fantastic. Prior to his death in 1973, Bruce Lee had spectacular fight sequences filmed and later archived. Although Game of Death's story changed from it's original plot, Director Robert Clouse successfully pieced together archived footage with newly acted sequences to make a coherent action film. Even though it can be easily dismissed, you can't help but laugh when Lee's onscreen presence is substituted by cardboard cutouts, actors with large sunglasses, and porcelain dummy heads.

Besides the "Kill Bill" lackeys Bruce Lee must face on motorcycles, the final pagoda act is an adrenaline rush of action. Almost like a video game, Bruce Lee fights his way to the final boss, each level a little harder than the last:
  • Level 1: Nunchaku Master
  • Level 2: Judo Master
  • Level 3: The Giant
  • Level 4: The Boss's Right Hand Man
  • Level 5: The Crime Boss
The nunchaku battle was my favorite, even inspiring me to learn the art (I'm quite terrible at it, but luckily I have a pair covered with soft foam). Another favorite is the battle with the giant, or should I say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Towering over Lee, Abdul-Jabbar's long arms and legs remind me of Dhalsim from Street Fighter. It's truly an eye spectacle as "David takes down Goliath" with his quick agility and prowess. When Lee finally confronts the crime boss, it's a rather anti-climactic scene as Dr. Land (played by Dean Jagger) cowardly runs away and falls to his death. However the journey to the top of the pagoda will be one of the most memorable feats to ever happen in Kung Fu Cinema.

After watching this film, I have an even bigger appreciation for Tarantino's O-Ren Ishii battle. It's a symbolic metaphor of Bruce Lee's final cinematic performance defeating his beginning television roots as Kato. Just as I enjoy rewatching "The Yellow Jumpsuit" battle the Crazy 88, I now have another fighting sequence I will continually revisit.

So on Death List Five, Game of Death ranks #4.


  1. Hi James (I am French and I can't speak English well),

    It's a good review (I'm happy, I'm not alone to love this movie), but you didn't say anything about the soundtrack. It's one of the most impressive music I have ever heard.

    1. Thanks for the compliments Philippe!

      Sorry I didn't mention the soundtrack, but you are right! Especially during the final fight scenes up the pagoda, the music drives the story and action as Billy fights one boss after the other.

      John Barry's score and majestic horns remind me of a Shaolin Kung Fu Temple. However it also has the subtle 70's spy sounds reminiscent of a James Bond Film.

  2. To me, GAME OF DEATH, it's a mixing of ENTER THE DRAGON and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, but the result is jubilant.

    When I hear a James Bond soundtrack, I imagine golden boys with playmates living in a comics world. The music of GAME OF DEATH does not sound like easy listening. It's powerful and tragic.

    Your final verdict for the movie : good?, very good?, masterpiece? To me: very good, despite the mistakes done by Clouse.