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The Game of Death


"It is difficult to have a rehearsed routine to fit in with broken rhythm. You see, rehearsed routines, lack the flexibility to adapt." (Bruce Lee)


kareem abdul jabbarpagoda



"At present I am working on a script for my next film. I haven't really decided on the title yet, but what I want to show is the necessity to adapt one-self to changing circumstances. The inability to adapt brings destruction. I already have the first scene in my mind."


"As the film opens, the audience sees a wide expanse of snow. Then the camera closes in on a clump of trees while the sounds of a strong gale fill the screen. There is a huge tree in the centre of the screen and it is all covered with thick snow. Suddenly there is a loud snap and a huge branch of the tree falls to the ground. It cannot yield to the force of the snow so it breaks. Then the camera moves to a willow tree which is bending with the wind. Because it adapts itself to the environment, the willow survives."


"It is this sort of symbolism which I think Chinese action films should seek to have. In this way I hope to broaden the scope of action films." (Bruce Lee 1972)


When Bruce talked to his former student Dan Lee on the telephone in April 1972, he talked about the film that would later become "The Game of Death" and said it would be a beautiful film filled with philosophy and deeper meaning. This was prior to the filming of "The Way of the Dragon" and was to be in Bruce's eyes, his martial arts masterpiece! He was not going to let information become known about this special project which was very close to his heart. Bruce even hinted at why he had to keep this project mainly secret, "I would like to evolve in to different roles, but I cannot do so in Southeast Asia. I am already type-cast. I am supposed to be the good guy. I can't even be a bit gray, because no producer would let me." "I want to direct more films. Directing, I feel, is more creative. You really get to produce the result you want. An actor is restricted. He can only do as the director instructs. One must always strive to be better. The sky's the limit."


"A film to end all films" was how Bruce described it. He eventually settled on the title "The Game of Death."


dan inosanto



The first scene to be filmed was a fight sequence between Bruce and former student Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in September 1972. Known formally as "Big Lew" Alcindor, an American star basketball player who later played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kareem first met Bruce after dropping in to the offices of Black Belt Magazine. They soon started training together during the Winter of 1967. Bruce was fascinated by a fight between himself and Kareem who stood 7 foot 2 inches as he was only 5 foot 7 inches in height.


Another former student and instructor Dan Inosanto also appeared as an opponent in the film. Dan arrived at Hong Kong Kai Tak airport and was whisked away to Bruce's house to do some tough rehearsals. Commented Dan, "the video was great. Bruce would show me what was good for a movie and what was good for combat. Maybe a technique was too quick, or maybe it wasn't showy enough. And if it wasn't showy enough, was it realistic? So we had to go back and forth and hash it out. He was a genius." Bruce would rise early every morning, do his work out, and then get down to business after a quick bite to eat. Right through the day he would keep on going. Complained Dan, "I just couldn't keep up with him. He never stopped! In both rehearsals and during shooting he was the most intensive worker I've ever seen."


Another fight scene Bruce completed in October was against Hapkido Grandmaster Ji Han Jae and his student Hwang In-Shik filmed some outdoor sequences for the movie.


Top Bruce Lee Historian George Tan was told the following information from Robert Chan, who starred as one of the waiters in "The Way of the Dragon." He said that after Bruce had defeated Jabbar, he goes back down to the bottom floor where the bad guys have set up a surprise trap for Bruce. A massive bloodbath ensues with Bruce being victorious. Bruce wanted a stronger ending to the movie!


wong shun leung screentest

Wong Shun Leung doing a screentest for The Game of Death