AKA Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death, Goodbye, Bruce Lee
Starring Bruce Li (Ho Tsung-Tao), Lung Fei, Mang Ping, Wei Hung-Sheng, Wang Ching-Ping, Tsai Hung, Shan Mao, Lee Keung, Shih Yin-Yin, Wong Hoi, Ma Cheung, Kuslai, Sandus, Ronald Brown, Johnny Floyd
Directed by Lin Bing
Expectations: Low, but I do like some good Bruceploitation.
Technically speaking, The New Game of Death isn’t a Shaw Brothers movie, and it really shouldn’t be a part of my review series. The Shaw Brothers picked up various films for distribution on occasion, so this is probably what happened with The New Game of Death, although I can’t find any real info to support that. In any case, it was the only film produced by the Yu-Yun Film Co., somewhere along the line Shaw Brothers got the rights to the film, and then when Celestial Pictures remastered the Shaw catalog and released them on Region 3 DVDs they gave The New Game of Death the same treatment. Given this circumstantial chance to check out an early Bruceploitation film in its raw, original form — it was edited and released in the US as Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death — I just had to take it.
The New Game of Death opens with Bruce Li playing himself (I think), picnicking with his fiance and practicing martial arts. A film producer approaches him and asks him to help complete Bruce Lee’s unfinished film The Game of Death. Bruce Li doesn’t know if he should do it because it’ll postpone his marriage, but of course he accepts, and it doesn’t matter anyway because once the movie-within-a-movie starts, we never go back to this frame story. Once he agrees, the producer sits him down to screen the film they have so far… which oddly stars Bruce Li instead of Bruce Lee, and is apparently complete! Logic has never been Bruceploitation’s strong suit. 🙂
The action, though, isn’t even that satisfying. For most the movie the choreography is bland and very average, even with Bruce Li showing a good amount of martial skill. There’s a fight in a playground that might remind fans of a similar situation in Police Story 2, but the setting is where the similarities end. The series of fights up the tower are by far the best in the movie, but don’t expect anything spectacular. Like the film itself, the ideas are better than the execution. Regardless, pitting Bruce Li against opponents like a samurai, a wrestler, a boxer and a nunchunk-weilding yogi comes with a lot of inherent fun, even if the choreography is nowhere near as good as the best Shaw films. To be honest, I should probably watch this section again, because I have a feeling it would play better on its own when I didn’t sit through the rest of the film and its incredible amount of inane telephone conversations.
Fans of Bruceploitation will probably enjoy this anyway, but even then it’s a pretty poor Bruceploitation movie. It actually feels more like an attempted homage than a true case of exploiting his legacy. Despite throwing an awful lot of Bruce-isms at the screen, The New Game of Death does not feature footage of Bruce’s funeral, which always felt to me like the true line that defined the Bruceploitation genre.
Next up in this chronological journey through the Shaw Brothers Martial Arts catalog is the final 1975 Shaw film in my series (which is actually another old film held back until 1975): Wu Ma’s The Protectors! See ya then!