13 July 2007 | mjscarface
A total hack job, but still quite entertaining
'Game of Death' is the equivalent of having your dog swallow a gold ring - you've got to sift through the cr*p to find the polished stuff.
Completely different to Bruce's original vision, the 1978 version is hugely controversial. To some, it's a shameless cash-in and insult, to others it's a curiosity. To me personally, it's a guilty pleasure. Obviously, with such limited footage of Bruce Lee to use, the film was always going to suffer. Not only that, but how do you incorporate the footage into a film and give it context? The stand-in's that are used to fill the time leading up to the Lee footage are never going to fool anyone. Even as a kid, I could tell it someone else. The techniques used to have Bruce Lee on screen range from awful (superimposed heads) to tasteless (his real funeral) to fairly good (quick cuts from old footage). The disguises that Billy Lo and Bruce's doubles wear throughout the film are hokey but nothing that we haven't seen in Lee's films before (Fist of Fury), so that didn't bother me too much.
Despite some awful dubbing and a poor script, 'Game of Death' is still watchable for it's action. Fight choreographer Sammo Hung makes the non-Lee fight scenes entertaining even if the doubles don't match Bruce Lee's speed or technique. However, they do capture some traits of Lee's fights including the slow motion finishing move. Also, the film's budget allows for a number of locations ensuring that Billy's quest for revenge keeps moving. In this regard, the Hollywood frills that are added give the film a degree of watchability, especially the classy score which appears throughout and heightens the final scenes.
But of course, the main point of watching 'Game of Death' is to see Bruce in action. Although criticised for cutting down the "pagoda sequence", I think it still contains enough to satisfy. You have to remember that this original footage included two companions of Lee's who don't feature in the 1978 film, meaning a lot had to be left out. The nunchuk duel is unique while the fight with Kareem Abdul Jabbar is bizarre but thrilling.
There are some moments of bad taste, but on the whole the film is a cheesy and quite fun attempt to build up to the final 20 minutes. Whether you think this was a cash-in or a tribute, you still need to see it in order to understand the 'Game of Death' phenomenon.