I like netflix. I’m a fan. I quit using their DVD service this fall and lately I’ve been streaming the content instead. I was a bit concerned about lack of access to new releases (especially since Blockbuster seems to have vanished entirely from the face of Long Island) but the truth is, I’ve been trying to read more lately anyhow and there’s a LOT of content available for streaming.
So I’m cruising through the menu a few weeks ago when I saw a Bruce Lee movie I had never seen. It’s called Game of Death. Fans of martial arts movies are already groaning. That’s because they know what I didn’t – that Game of Death is the sorriest excuse for a kung-fu film ever.
How? How could this be?! How could a movie with the MASTER himself reek like yesterday’s provologne? Simple. He didn’t finish it. He left the story to pursue something better.
Bruce Lee was several weeks into filming Game of Death when he was offered the lead in Enter the Dragon. At that time, kung-fu movies were strictly the domain of Saturday afternoon tv. Sudden closeups, bad dubbing and punches that sounded like whip cracks were the order of the day. There were, and still are, many people who enjoyed these films but they weren’t really taken seriously by Hollywood.
Enter The Dragon was the first Hollywood kung-fu movie ever made. It had a huge budget and remains, in my humble opinion, the best in class of it’s genre. Making this movie was a no-brainer for Bruce Lee and Game of Death was put on hold. He planned to return to it after wrapping up ETD.
Unfortunately, Lee died before he could return to complete the project. On the evening of July 20th, 1973, he died of a cerebral edema. His death, oddly enough, came shortly after a meeting with the then current James Bond, George Lazenby. ** See previous blog post on Bond.
Game of Death, it would seem would have to remain incomplete. Or would it?
In a shameless attempt to cash in on Lee’s popularity, Game of Death was released 5 years after his death. How did they finish the film without him? They used stand-ins, archival footage of him in other locations cut into the original shots and in one truly incredible instance, a cardboard cutout of his head pasted onto a mirror. Think I’m kidding? Watch this:
Game of Death was not an altogether useless movie. The footage filmed before his death includes some epic stuff, including a fight with Chuck Norris and a journey through several levels of a warehouse facing increasingly difficult opponents until reaching ‘the boss’ – a model that proved to be the basis of countless video games in the coming decades.
But taken as a film, it should never have been attempted and is now almost universally though of as ‘in bad taste.’ This is also due in part to the fact that the film used actual footage of Lee’s funeral. Don’t even get me started.
So. Teaching points? There are probably several, but at the moment I see two.
1 – Know when to change course. Be a man or woman of your word, but don’t be a martyr. There are times in life when you need to cut your losses and make a new plan. 7 years ago I was serving God as a youth pastor in a local church and things were going great. When I left, there was a lot of stress and strife attached to it. Sadly, for some, there still is. Leaving that position to plant True North was indisputably a wise move, just as Leaving Game of Death for Enter The Dragon was an indisputably wise move for Lee. There was a cost attached to it, but the payoff was huge. Are you missing something huge because you’re asleep at the wheel? Is there something in your life you need to bail out on?
2 – Walk with integrity. I don’t personally know anyone involved in the filming of Game of Death, but from my point of view, the release of this film didn’t honor the legacy of excellence Bruce Lee maintained in his life. I think he would have been disgusted by it. There’s more to life than money, ya’ll. Maintain your integrity and make sure you like who you’re becoming as the years roll on.
Got another take on this whole thing? I’d love to hear it!! Hit me with a comment.