I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Game of Death II

tn_godiibruceleeiconGAME OF DEATH II is a weird proposition. How the hell do you make a sequel to Bruce Lee’s unfinished final movie and pretend he’s still the star? It’s like if they tried to figure out how to keep Paul Walker in FURIOUS 8. It’s a little different because some of the best fights Lee ever shot were for GAME OF DEATH and they didn’t bother to use all the footage in the first one. But I guess they thought it would be cheating to use that stuff. Instead they took a bunch of his closeups from ENTER THE DRAGON and cut them into scenes of a lookalike always shown either from the back or at a distance. Lee’s character Billy Lo is worried about his brother being too into sex and not enough into practicing kung fu. He finds his kama sutra and leaves him a letter and a Jeet Kun Do manual to counter its harmful influence.

Also Billy talks to his master, who tells stories about his youth, illustrated with clips from Chinese movies Lee made at 6 and 15. Instead of letting you figure it out (like Soderbergh using clips from POOR COW as flashbacks in THE LIMEY) they use onscreen text to tell you, breaking any illusion that this is the character Billy Lo, famous movie star who faked his death. In the younger one he’s picking on an old man, headbutting him in the gut, pointing a gun at him and saying he’s gonna kill him. Weird.

But then Billy’s friend gets killed, and to make matters worse a helicopter flies over the funeral and scoops up the coffin with a big metal claw like those arcade machines where you try to win a teddy bear. Have you ever gone to a funeral where that happens? I tell you it is SUCH a bummer.

Billy obviously thinks it’s a rude thing to do so he chases and grabs on…

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…but someone shoots him with a poison dart and he falls and dies. In part 1 they tastelessly used a montage of Lee’s real funeral and photos from his career to represent Billy faking his death. Now they re-use some of that stuff (including real footage of bawling mourners and Lee’s body in the coffin) to represent Billy dying for real this time. Nobody complains about already having gone through all this or accuses him of crying wolf.

After Billy’s death it’s the story of his horny brother Bobby (Tong Lung, Bruce’s double in the first GAME OF DEATH and his ghost in NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER) trying to avenge him, and that’s a much better movie. Bobby suspects a white dude named Lewis (Roy Horan, writer, producer and bit player in NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2), a kung fu master who lives on his own safari and walks around with a baby monkey on his shoulder. As soon as Bobby comes to talk to him he wants to show off his trained peacocks:

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They never do anything, though. I wonder if there was supposed to be a peacock attack scene but it turned out too silly? Anyway he also has a pride of lions who he says get to eat the people who lose to him in his many challenge fights. They have footage of the actors in safari jeeps with real lions climbing on the hoods.

Lewis seems like a supervillain, but he admires Bobby’s balls for coming there, and it seems to me like he truly is being a good host, not a bad guy faking friendly like his obvious spiritual predecessor, Han from ENTER THE DRAGON. He even offers Bobby some of his breakfast of raw venison and deer blood (Bobby declines).

But there’s also a guy sneaking around in a spooky mask who fights Bobby, and a white girl who comes into his room and takes her clothes off. This scene is crazy. As he decides that yes, he would like to put his penis in her vagina, a split screen shows us that he’s remembering his sex books. But then he remembers his brother’s letter about kicks before chicks, just as she tries to poison-needle him.

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So he follows his brother’s advice, he practices his kung fu on her.

But that’s not all! Just then the lights go out and a lion jumps through the window and attacks them! Only it’s not a real lion like we saw before, it’s a martial artist inside a lion costume. But I’m pretty sure within the world of the movie it’s a real lion. Bobby kicks him and flips him and breaks a chair on him and he leaps nimbly out the window.

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Some other intrigue happens that I won’t give away, but it’s all leading Bobby to a place called The Tower of Death, described as an inverted pagoda underground. That sounds inspired by Lee’s original concept for GAME OF DEATH (please check out the documentary BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR’S JOURNEY to learn about that) but it turns out to just be an elevator down to a two-room, one-hallway James Bond villain lair. That’s cool, though, because it’s a nice colorful background for some inspired Yuen Woo Ping choreographed fights that include scarf vs. sword and magic trick vs. double team. Ng See-Yuan (THE INVINCIBLE ARMOUR, BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH) is the credited director, but IMDb claims Sammo Hung and Corey Yuen as uncredited co-directors because of their work on the fight scenes, I believe.

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He fights a whole bunch of guys and also has to figure out how to get through a deadly hallway that will burn him alive if he steps on the floor. He could be on the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE team.

I gotta SPOIL the ending too. He finds the stolen coffin on a platform, but when he approaches it it spins around to reveal his friend, still alive, in a chair. Apparently he faked his death Billy Lo style to keep Interpol off his secretly-drug-trafficking ass. He says now he can live a life of luxury, which I guess means this underground lair with a coffin and a throne with a golden eagle on top in front of a light up map of the world.

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Admittedly any one of us would feel pretty good about that lifestyle too so I’m not gonna fault him. Actually I’m surprised I never saw that throne and map on MTV’s Cribs. That would go well with Ice-T’s shark tank.

I don’t really get why he kept the coffin around, but I’m glad he did, ’cause it’s a cool ending for Bobby to kick him into it, shut it, and strut out.

After it gets past the Bruce Lee exploitation sections at the beginning, this turns into a whole lot of fun. Lions, monkeys, peacocks, underground lairs, light up maps… that’s what we want to see, right? I was skeptical so thank you to whoever recommended this to me in the comments a while back. I never considered watching it before that, and it was definitely worth my time.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 at 9:54 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Game of Death II”

  1. Well, shit. I bought this one a few years back because it was cheap but never thought I’d actually get around to watching it. Now I can see from that still of the Cowardly Lion that I was wrong.

  2. I love this movie. It’s the best Godfrey Ho movie he never made. Good luck, Paul, finding stuff in this one complaining about without sounding dumb. It is bullet proof dumb.

  3. So, who wins in a fight, the bear from KARATE BEAR FIGHTER or the lion from GAME OF DEATH II?

  4. Shoot – I highly doubt I’ll be looking for this one any time soon, although if I come across it I’ll give it a go. But I’m sure I’ll find something. I’m going to take a week or two “off” movies until I can get into a happier, more tranquil state of zen-like open-mindedness. Then I’ll be fit to give you my usual contrary but snappy self – or at least stop sounding like I’m stuck in some kind of parallel world where every film is a toxic miasma of suck.

    Anyway, GAME OF DEATH 2, eh? That’s a thing. I never did get a chance to check out the extra footage from GAME OF DEATH 1, by the way. I’m not sure if I have it. If not, it’s a pity.

  5. Funny, I just watched this one a week or so ago. Here’s a tip: don’t try watching any of the Matrix films immediately after this one, because by comparison the Matrix crew will appear to be fighting under the influence of sedatives. The speed of the GOD2 fights is really fantastic and that last fight was great. Didn’t care for the English dub though. I like Bruce Lee as an actor. They guy who did the dub sounded like some hybrid of John Wayne and Bing Crosby.

  6. Yeah, I’m a big fan of this. I own it on DVD (which is weird because I’ve got none of Bruce Lee’s other films).

    The bit at the beginning with Billy Lo is super poor taste but kind of hilarious for how inept it is. I’d hope Bruce could have a chuckle about it up in heaven (or wherever).

    But yeah, as soon as he dies and Bobby takes over, the film really switches gear. That fight scene at the end is awesome. Hwang Jang Lee is probably my favourite HK villain.

    I love the James Bond vibe of the set design too. I’m sure some clever editor could splice this into the end of Dr No or You Only Live Twice.

  7. This sounds pretty awesome. I would have never guessed. I am going to have to check it out.

    I have watched a number of more obscure martial arts film recently (FORCE: FIVE, ALLEY CAT, & DEATH PROMISE to name a few) and I highly recommend DEATH PROMISE. I think it is right up Vern’s alley. It has all kinds of crazy and unintentionally funny bits, it deals with class and wealth, and has a funky soul soundtrack with a catchy/hilarious theme song.

    Death Promise trailer

    Finally, Landlords get what they truly deserve!!!

    It looks like the entire film is on YouTube, but Code Red also has a DVD of it for sale.

    PS: I love the run of part 2 reviews your doing.

  8. Here is the amazing DEATH PROMISE theme. “I’m gonna getcha. That’s a promise!”

    Bill Daniels & Mike Felder - Death Promise - 1977 Unreleased Kung-Fu Soundtrack Funk - Title Theme

    Bill Daniels & Mike Felder with the funky theme to the 1977 kung-fu blaxploitation film Death Promise. Blaxploitation Funk. (All rights reserved by the copyr...

  9. Charles- You won´t regret it. GAME OF DEATH 2 is crazy fun. I´ll have to check out DEATH PROMISE. ” Death. Life´s true promise”

  10. Wow, this one is so much better than the first one. Other than the climax and the motorcycle scene, that one is a largely unwatchable waste of time. This one is full of fun and color and ridiculousness the whole way through. The slapdash re-edited opening is hilarious. My favorite bit is how it cuts from footage of the real Bruce talking to a monk to shots of the fake Bruce talking to the same actor in a completely different costume. His robe switches from bright orange to bright red from one shot to the next, and his beard changes length and color. Genius.

    But then the rest of it is solid eighties kung fu. Good moves, lots of color, and surprising production values. This was clearly a fairly major production for HK at the time, with big sets and top shelf talent in the fights. The frequent WTF moments like the lion costume and the sex manual put it over the top. It’s a nice balance of genuine impressiveness and hilarious incompetence. That’s what I watch this kind of movie for in the first place.

  11. Does anyone else’s DVD not have the flashbacks from Bruce’s earlier films in it? I was pretty disappointed but other than that it’s a good non-dubbed print.

  12. The only Bruce Lee film Ive seen is THE BIG BOSS and, admittedly, I sprung to watching that one cos its like the video game Metal Gear, having a ‘big’ ‘boss’ and all that. I didnt hate it, I appreciated the llallo in the ice and the food stand and the way Bruce Lee pulls his pant legs up and does kicky stuff but I still remember it being a bit of a bore thru-out much its running time. I also got frustrated not being able to settle on one language track cos there were cats speaking Mandarin and dubbed Cantonese and fellas speaking Cantonese dubbed Mandarin or should I just do go with the English dub bully to the whole thing? Very stressful for my neurotic young mind and thankfully I have since relaxed about things and come to accept and appreciate every experience as wholly unique and special. After all, if I watch one thing one way, I will never know what its like to watch it any other way. And if I watch it again it isnt the first time anymore and is another thing entirely. Hell, even you go see something and I go see something with the same clean slate, fresh eyes, we know nothing about the folm

  13. I watched this and it was a lot of fun. It feels like what you would get if Enzo Clastellari had made a Shaw Brothers film. It is colorful, fast paced, and jam packed with crazy ideas or wacky touches. There is just some much to enjoy. One part that made me smile I don’t think anyone else mentioned was when Bobby was creeping up on the tower of death and he knocks out a monk/guard then removes the sweet shades he is wearing and puts them on the unconscious monk before letting him slump to the ground with the shades still on. At first I thought Bobby had removed his own shades and put them on the monk as the first step in switching outfits with the monk so that he could sneak into the tower undetected, but no he doesn’t switch clothes with the monk. Bobby just put his sun glasses on the guy he knocked out to entertain himself. Also as far as we know they never show him go back for those glasses, he left them on that unconscious monk.

  14. Mr. M, I watched it on the Fortune Star import Bluray. It had the footage from when Bruce was 6 and 15, and the picture quality was outstanding on the transfer but it only had the English language dub. I was surprised considering it is a Chinese import.

  15. “Enzo Castellari”

    Sorry for the extra L.

  16. That’s weird. Mine is one of those cheapjack kung fu imports they sell up front of your finer porn stores, the kind that come in slightly-wider-than-normal cases. It’s missing that footage but it has both English and Chinese audio tracks. The print is non-anamorphic widescreen and looks pretty decent, so it’s not some butchered old VHS dub. I can’t imagine any distributor took a look at this movie and said “Needs less Bruce Lee” so I can’t figure out why that footage was cut. I’d guess it’s a rights issue, but I’m pretty sure no one gives fewer fucks about rights issues than Hong Kong-based video distributors. So it’s a mystery.

  17. The Bluray is also titled TOWER OF DEATH but the title on the film is GAME OF DEATH 2. Normally I would be more bent out of shape about it not having the Chinese audio, but in this case the English language dub only adds to the overall charm of the film.

  18. The GAME OF DEATH 2 version I own is the amazing HKL release. 5.1 surround sound (weird to hear kung fu punches in stereo, I know), anamorphic widescreen and audio commentaries. If memory serves me right Roy Horan was in the commentary track.

    Majestyk: “your finer porn stores”. You guys over there get all the breaks. We don´t even have the sleazy ones where I live.

  19. Sadly, most of the stores I’m talking about, which used to be scattered all over Manhattan, are closing down. It’s just not that sleazy a city anymore.

  20. I chuckled that the Bluray I watched presented the film in 7.1 DTS HD audio. It sounded fine considering the source material, but you can only polish a turd so much, it is still a turd. I wouldn’t be surprised if more time and money went into the GCI animated DTS audio tag that plays at the start of the film on Bluray then went into the original production of the film itself.

  21. As a deleted scene on the HKL dvd was a fight in a glasshouse that actually was a sequence deleted from GAME OF DEATH 1.

  22. And as I understand it, the greenhouse fight was retained in the Hong Kong version of part 1 so obviously it would not do to reuse it in the Hong Kong version of part 2.

  23. The more I think about it I will have to double check but all the title cards and captions on the version of the film I saw were in English. Including the 4th wall shattering caption that spells out you are seeing Bruce Lee at age 6 & then at age 15. That combined with the fact it doesn’t even have a Chinese language audio track despite being a Fortune Star import makes me wonder if I saw a cut of the film made for American audiences.

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