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Game of Death (1978) Poster

(1978)

Trivia

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In this movie, Bruce Lee's character is shot with a prop gun by stick (Mel Novak) that was secretly made to fire a real bullet and kill him. Lee's son, Brandon Lee, was killed on the set of The Crow (1994), when a prop pistol accidentally shot him in the abdomen.
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Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Muhammad Ali refused roles in the film because they felt it exploited Bruce Lee's death, and because of the low pay Golden Harvest was offering.
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Chuck Norris threatened legal action against Golden Harvest for giving him screen credit for this film. Norris appears in archive footage from The Way of the Dragon (1972).
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Bruce Li was offered the role of Billy Lo, but declined because he said it was disrespectful to Bruce Lee, as it was his movie.
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The funeral scene includes footage of Bruce Lee's real-life funeral.
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Bruce Lee had filmed over 30 minutes of fight scenes for this film when work was suspended to allow Lee to work on Enter the Dragon (1973). However, Lee died before he could return. Six years later, director Robert Clouse fleshed out a feature around the original footage with a new cast, including two stand-ins for Lee, who faces are hidden by dark sunglasses and shadows. Close-ups and stills of Lee's face, including a cardboard cut-out, were also used.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared in the original version, but refused to appear in the new version. In the new footage, his role is played by a double.
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Dan Inosanto was the only cast member in the original 1972 footage shot by Bruce Lee to shoot scenes for the 1978 version of the film. The rest of the actors, James Tien, Han Jae Ji, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, only appear in archive footage. This footage can be seen in its entirety in Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (2000).
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In Bruce Lee's original story plot, he was to play a world-renowned martial artist named Hai Tien. Tien was to be approached by the Korean underworld and told about a mysterious treasure at the top of a pagoda. Tien would want nothing to do with it, but would co-operate after his sister and younger brother are kidnapped. Although the name Hai Tien came up at least once in the archive footage, his name was changed to Billy Lo.
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Robert Wall had also been slated to appear in the early 1970s version, as intended by Bruce Lee.
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Hapkido Master Han Jae Ji, who plays the second guardian Bruce Lee battles in the Pagoda/Restaraunt, gets no screen credit in the 1978 version of the film.
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Sammo Kam-Bo Hung almost didn't appear in the film. When Bruce Lee personally asked him to be part of the film, Hung waited for eight months without follow-up and eventually went to film projects in Korea and Thailand. He flew back to the set in China when promised that filming his part would only take a few days.
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George Lazenby was originally meant to be in this film and was due to meet Bruce Lee on July 20 1973, the day Lee died. For other reasons, Lazenby was not involved in the final project as directed by Robert Clouse.
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For years, only 11 minutes of footage from 1972 was deemed usable for the 1978 version.
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Chuck Norris was considered for the role of Steiner, but turned it down.
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This film was the final role for actor Gig Young.
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Director Robert Clouse wrote the script under the pseudonym Jan Spears.
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The inspiration for progressively ascending a pagoda tower to fight opponents was originally featured in Have Sword, Will Travel (1969), written by resident Shaw Brother screenwriter Kuang Ni.
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In the film Game Of Death, Bruce Lee's character is shot with a prop gun by Stick the Assassin (Mel Novak) during a take. Tragically, this scene would prove to be a premonition of the death of Lee's son, Brandon Lee, who was killed on the set of The Crow, when a prop pistol accidentally shot him in the abdomen two decades later.
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It was rumored that Bruce Lee planned to shoot some of the film on location, outside a pagoda. There was to be a scene where his character and his team of martial artists were to fight an entire Karate school.
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Don Barry, who played the boat's captain, was also the stand-in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the newly shot footage. If you look closely, you'll notice he's about the same height as Kareem.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #1,036.
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Italian censorship visa # 72254 delivered on 9 August 1978.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The movie has three different endings. The US/international version cuts to the credits montage right after Dr. Land falls to his death. In the Cantonese version, the police arrest Billy Lo after Dr. Land dies (a Hong Kong movie requirement at the time). In the Mandarin version, Billy Lo escapes on a boat with Ann Morris. The Cantonese and Mandarin versions also have completely different end credits and music.
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The Chinese version of the film features an extra fight scene: Billy Lo vs. a Korean challenger played by Casanova Wong. The fight was later inserted into Game of Death II (1980). It's considered the best "non Bruce Lee" fight scene in the whole film.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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