And now we ostensibly enter the schlock of true B-movie Brucespoitation. Eight years after his death, producer Raymond Chow and distributor Golden Harvest were still trying to milk money from the cutting-floor scraps of their cash cow. But someone kept things fairly interesting: director See-Yuen Ng.
Though there is little to no continuity between Game of Death and Game of Death II, both films share a watchable quality which teeters on the edge of this viewer’s incredulous ennui. Put simply, this film is better than it has any right to be. Which is not to say this is a great (or even good) film.
The most hilarious midnight movie aspects are the contrasts between film fidelity and definition circa 1973 (the actual footage of Lee) and 1981 (the footage of everyone else). I almost feel sorry for director Ng for the sleight-of-hand editing and shooting necessary to even attempt this picture. Back to the film stocks not matching…much of that is also evident in the lack of deft color correction. Occasionally a background matches and we must hand it to the technicians who found just the right shade of puke green to provide a shred of matching in the shot-reverse-shots.
Fortunately for all involved, Lee’s character meets his demise about halfway through the film. It’s smooth sailing from there regarding the different eras of film stock.
This film is not without messages. Some, apparently, have not been interpreted the same by all viewers. Whereas I distinctly heard the Ginza district of Tokyo mentioned as Lee’s (and his on-screen brother’s) destination, English Wikipedia tells us that the action moves to Korea. Of course, the astute spectator who added this bit of plot synopsis to the aforementioned site seems to have been oblivious that another contributor has Lee active before the end of the paragraph (the initial contributor giving away Lee’s character’s death along with the Korea location). So to clarify, Lee does not resurrect during the course of the film.
Roy Horan plays a significant role as a raw-venison-eating, deer’s-blood-drinking, bearded kung fu nut. As the name implies, Horan’s character is of white European lineage (not Chinese). There is a subtle undercurrent which implies that Lee’s friend (and consequently his own character as well) died for teaching kung fu to non-Chinese. This, of course, has some parallels in Lee’s actual life story.
For all of the professional attributes in this film, the “lion” attack (obviously a human in a lion costume) does not pass muster. It is, again, the stuff of midnight movies. Perhaps they were over budget by that point…
Tong Lung is actually pretty darn good as Lee’s brother (the hero of the film) Bobby Lo.
I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say that a multinational organization turns out to be the ultimate culprit of the two film murders in question. There are all sorts of strange strings waiting to be pulled here…fake deaths, the aforementioned cartel (this particular multinational is illegal in nature), etc.
The most interesting takeaway (take out?) was the revelation (somehow…perhaps due to the less than enthralling screen drama) that one political entity would have stood to gain from the actual Lee’s real life death. That entity would be China. Made before Hong Kong rejoined the PRC, Bruce Lee’s films and fame might have posed a significant threat to China in that (had he lived) he might well have been a unifying figure which could have fired the flames of revolution for those residents of HK not particularly excited about joining a country with such a totalitarian approach to dissent. But then again, any country which blocks the Internet (not counting Hong Kong and Macau) has far less to worry about. No information dissemination, no 21st-century speed of dissent. And it would just happen that today was July 4th…