Favorite Title Theater: Game Of Death (1978)
Born Lee Jun Fan in San Francisco on November 27, 1940, later rechristened “Bruce” Lee, it’s doubtful anybody outside this wiry lithe genius himself could have foreseen his stratospheric rise to mortal deity, let alone being named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential persons of the 20th century (that’s a Sagittarian for you). Lee not only acted as a symbol for oppressed peoples, he changed the way martial arts were viewed around the world through his Jeet Kune Do. He also created the templates for modern cinema fighting choreography. His battle scenes are still marvels of physical prowess and editing kineticism. As Danny Peary stated, he’s the greatest action star in film history.
Instead of inserting a random battle, here’s the fantastic opening to GAME OF DEATH, the legendary uncompleted project he was working on before ENTER THE DRAGON (1973). Rushed to completion by Raymond Shaw and director Robert Clouse, the film is an embarassing technical disaster, such as a superimposed shot of Lee’s face placed over the actor portraying him. Poor Gig Young is barely sober and it seems Dean Jagger is given one take for his lines. Still, the inclusion of the Lee pagoda duels with Dan Inosanto and Kareem Abdul Jabbar are worth the price of admission (though longer versions are now available). The other thing that saves GAME OF DEATH from Golden Turkey status is John Barry’s awesome theme and score, one of his best (he had always wanted to work with the Little Dragon). If Bruce Lee had lived on, there’s no doubt John Barry would have been soundtracking him. Sun yat fai lok, Jun Fan.