Structurally and historically a mess, Lee’s final film had the potential to be the greatest ever martial arts movie. Unfortunately, Lee died well before filming was completed, and his vision was never finished. However, the producers managed to finish the film by taking what had already been filmed, mostly fight scenes, and make a story round it, one based roughly on the many pages of scripts and ideas that Lee had left behind. As Lee’s original story was so complex though, and probably only he could have made it the way it should have been, the finished product is a mere shadow of the what was in Lee’s head. The story sees Lee’s character, a famous martial artist and actor faking his own death so that he can uncover the corruption of those who had previously tried to kill him. Not even his girlfriend is aware that his death was a fake. As the film progresses, Lee stalks the bad guys, his girlfriend gets suspicious, and Lee reaches a pagoda where he must overcome the trials of each floor in order to reach the top, and fulfill his revenge. Lee’s original script focused much more on the Pagoda scenes, with each floor showcasing a different martial arts style that Lee must overcome, using his own ‘way of no way’ style. With each floor completed, he would achieve a higher level of spiritual and fighting skill. The fight scenes are easily some of the best ever filmed, skillfully thought out, and beautifully directed, and no-one since has been able to capture the technique, skill, or intensity of Lee. The other fight scenes are also good, including the motorcycle scene, and Shower room fight. If anyone has any of the Hong Kong Legends DVDs they feature many deleted scenes, the Game of Death one being particularly good- The glass house fight is a classic. The actors brought in to finish shooting are unsure of themselves, which comes across on camera, but this is understandable considering they were finishing a film starring a man who had died years before. The music is excellent, the story messy, but the fights stand out. The overall tone of the film is dark and ominous, as Lee’s character is almost killed mysteriously, then fakes his own death, and the ending is not conclusive. Footage of Lee’s own funeral is used, which both adds to the tone and leaves a bad taste. However, it is a vital piece of work for any fan of Lee and should be remembered for its ideas, if not for how it eventually turned out to be.
This 2 disc special edition contains many special features, and as with the other Lee films in this collection, they are all necessary for fans. There are deleted scenes and documentaries- but the real draw is the 40 minute cut of the film’s fight scenes as Lee originally planned them. A tragic glimpse at what could have been.
As always, feel free to leave any comments and thoughts on the movie- Could this have been Lee’s masterpiece?