Posts Tagged ‘yuen beuo’

bruce-lee_game-of-death

Made in 1972 Game of Death would be Bruce Lee’s final hurrah into the world of cinema but being only partly finished at the time of his death it would also prove to be one of the weirdest mashes of film that ranks up there with some of the best WTF moments in motion picture history.
It all started out well enough, as one would expect we had a pretty cool idea of a tower of death in which competitors would face some of the greatest martial artists in a fight to the death to the top. On paper it sounded like it could be a great showcase of the legendary skills of Bruce Lee.  Scenes were being shot and all was on schedule. With about 100 minutes of footage in the can it looked like another hit could be in their hands. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately the very worst was set to happen.  Part way through filming Lee went to work on a film of a  much grander scale ‘Enter the Dragon’ which was shooting at the same time. This would be the last complete feature he would film before his untimely death.  His death unfortunately did not deter the finishing of ‘Game of Death’. The creators decided to have a stand in (the also great Yuen Biao) for the scenes which Lee hadn’t filmed (which was a fair amount). The story dramatically changed until all that was left of Lee’s performance was a mere 11 minutes of the final section of one of the only remaining parts of the original story, the fight up the tower. These 11 minutes are as great as you’d expect but should the film have been finished in this fashion?
The film has numerous sections drawn from previous Lee film ‘Way of the Dragon’ to try and help push that this is a ‘Bruce Lee’ film and not just a cash in attempt to make the best of the worst situation possible.  These scenes stand out so incredibly badly that they only highlight the fact that what we are watching on screen is a mish mash of other films and dodgy camera tricks. From reverse shots to crudely implemented shots in different locations, we are greeted with a patchwork vision from a production which doesn’t have a clue of how to save itself.  The cut and paste nature is so evident that it detracts from some not bad martial arts that are going on in front of camera by the admittedly good Yuen Biao who is a great fighter in his own right, but unfortunately a shadow of the master he is meant to be portraying.
Part way through the film the main character supposedly gets killed, but it all turns out to be a rouse, he is merely disfigured facially and is unrecognisable as his previous self. This is quite a clever but utterly ridiculous way of hiding the fact that we are still not actually watching Bruce Lee. They even make the comment that he will no longer look like himself thus allowing Yuen Biao to not find it necessary to wear sunglasses in every other shot.  It still doesn’t help the cut and paste feel of the film which is highlighted by a conversation in a restaurant where the actors aren’t even in the same location.
It all is reminiscent of the works of a director named Godfrey Ho (who goes under many other names as well) who was doing lots of work during the 70’s and 80’s. He would film half a movie and then splice it with footage from an unreleased martial arts film that had been gathering dust. It really proved a great money making tactic and allowed him to continue working. His films were so hilariously inept that they create their own amusement. Whereas here they are desperately trying to make something more serious and it doesn’t do anything other then being cringeworthy for the most part.
What isn’t as amusing is the use of footage from Bruce Lees actual funeral (at least it is apparently from his funeral) I personally feel this is bad taste even if the filmmakers may have been doing it as a tribute to the legend.  I understand the want to include a memorial piece but doing it this way especially when they are trying to fool the audience into believing that it is still Bruce Lee that we are seeing on film is just wrong.
As this is a martial arts film in its heart, there is very little in the way of fighting. What we do get other then a terrible fight in a warehouse featuring motorbikes, isn’t that bad. Its mainly the sort of stuff you will have seen before, but its well choreographed and at least breaks up the otherwise dull and tiresome picture. When at the 1 hour 20 minute mark we actually get to see the real Bruce Lee in action, it is like a breath of fresh air. For the next 13 minutes we are treated to some of the best martial arts from his short career. It is stunning how well this climatic battle in the tower plays out. Its just a shame that until recently the other 40 mins of this battle up the tower remained unseen (the extra footage is on the dvd and blu rays unfortunately not integrated back into the film) this unseen footage entirely out-ways what was actually turned into the film. I would happily watch those 40 minutes over the actual film any day.
When all is said and done is it a good final film for the great Bruce Lee? No. Is it a good film? No. Is it worth watching? No (apart from the actual Bruce Lee fight sequence)
So you may ask what the point is in putting down all this information about a film that I personally don’t like. Well I feel that it is from a behind the scenes perspective a fascinating picture. I hadn’t seen this kind of cut and paste and doubling done to this scale before this film. Its becoming more the norm nowadays For example the famous use of CGI to complete the scenes in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ featuring Oliver Reed. Even more recent films such as ‘Fast and the Furious 7’ which features the amazing Paul Walker in his final on screen performance. His scenes were finished using doubles, cgi and footage from the library of Paul Walker movies. This was done again as a kind of memorial and a kind of goodbye to such a great actor, but even now it isn’t seemless. On the whole though it got away with it far better then ‘Game of Death’.
Game of Death for me was kind of a turning point in cinema and experimenting with technologies and techniques that may have been used prior but never quite to the extent (there is a high probability that you may know other times these cut and paste techniques were used before but this is the first time I remember noticing it. Especially considering there is only around 13 minutes of Bruce Lee in a Bruce Lee film that is pushed as starring the man himself throughout.)
This is a film that I am glad to have seen and I would recommend it to those that may find this sort of thing interesting. I would say that anything other then that it really doesn’t hold up well and is actually a pretty sad end to a magnificent, if sadly cut short career of the master of martial arts.

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