Game Of Death

Original plot

The original plot involved Lee playing the role of Hai Tien, a retired champion martial artist who was confronted by the Korean underworld gangs. They tell him the story of a pagoda where guns are prohibited, and under heavy guard by highly skilled martial artists who are protecting something (which is not identified at all in any surviving material) held on its top level. The gang boss wants Hai to be a part of a group whose purpose is to retrieve said item. They would be the second group to try to do so as the first attempt with a previous group had failed. When Hai refuses, his younger sister and brother are kidnapped, forcing him to participate. Hai, as well as four other martial artists (two of which were played by James Tien and Chieh Yuan), then fight their way up a five-level pagoda, encountering a different challenge on each floor. The setting of the pagoda was at Beopjusa temple in Songnisan National Park in South Korea.

The pagoda, called Palsang-jon, is the only remaining wooden pagoda in South Korea. At the base of the pagoda they fight 50 people all black belts in martial arts, while inside the pagoda, they encounter a different opponent on each floor, each more challenging than the last. Although his allies try to help out, they are handily defeated, and Hai must face each of the martial artists in one-on-one combat. He defeats Filipino martial arts master Dan Inosanto, hapkido master Ji Han Jae, and finally Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who fights with a free and fluid style mirroring Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Because Kareem’s character has great size and strength in addition to a fighting style as potent as Lee’s, he can only be defeated once Hai recognizes that an unusually high sensitivity to light is his greatest weakness.

Immediately after defeating the giant guardian, Hai turns around and descends the staircase, heading out the pagoda. Despite all the talk of something awaiting up top of the (now unguarded) flight of stairs, there’s no mention of anyone going up to retrieve it. No surviving material explains how this will affect Hai or his captive siblings.

Original production

Although the pagoda was supposed to have five floors, complete scenes were only shot for three of the floors: the “Palace of the Tiger,” where Lee faced Inosanto; the “Palace of the Dragon”, where he fought Ji Han Jae; and the final floor, where he fought Abdul-Jabbar. Hapkido master Ing-Sik Whang was slated to play the guardian of the first floor, a master of a kick-oriented style, while Bruce’s longtime student and good friend Taky Kimura was asked to play the guardian of the second floor, a stylist of praying mantis kung fu.

The goal of the film’s plot was to showcase Lee’s beliefs regarding the principles of martial arts. As each martial artist is defeated (including Lee’s allies), the flaws in their fighting style are revealed. Some, like Dan Inosanto’s character, rely too much on fixed patterns of offensive and defensive techniques, while others lack economy of motion. Lee defeats his opponents by having a fighting style that involves fluid movement, unpredictability, and an eclectic blend of techniques. His dialogue often includes references on their weaknesses.

Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey

Several years later, Bruce Lee historian John Little released Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey, a documentary revealing the original footage and storyline of The Game of Death. The documentary also includes a fairly in-depth biography of Lee and leads into the filming of The Game of Death. Fans still believe there is more footage to be found. Originally meant to be a documentary in its own right, now it can be found on the second disc of the 2004 Special Edition DVD release of Enter the Dragon, along with the documentary Bruce Lee: Curse of the Dragon.

Bruce Lee in G.O.D.: Shibteki Ygi

In 2000, the Japanese film Bruce Lee in G.O.D. was released on DVD. This film shows Lee’s original vision of the film through the existing footage that was shot for the film before he died, interviews, and historical reenactments of what went on behind the scenes. A “special edition” DVD was released in 2003.


Filmed cast

Bruce Lee as “Hai Tien”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as “Mantis (5th Floor Guardian)”

James Tien as “Tien”

Chieh Yuan as “Chieh”

Dan Inosanto as “3rd Floor Guardian”

Ji Han Jae as “4th Floor Guardian”

Intended cast

George Lazenby

Robert Wall

Robert Baker

Chuck Norris

Jackie Chan

Sammo Hung

Hwang In-Shik

Taky Kimura

Bolo Yeung

Lam Ching Ying

Nora Miao

Lee Kwan

Kien Shih

Han Yin-chieh

Yuen Biao

Carter Wong

Game of Death (1978)

The 1978 version uses portions of the original footage married to an entirely new plot involving a new Jan Spears’ character, Billy Lo, struggling against a racketeering “syndicate” after gaining international success as a martial arts movie star. When Billy refuses to be intimidated by syndicate henchman Steiner (Hugh O’Brian) and his gangs of thugs, syndicate owner Dr. Land (Dean Jagger) orders his assassination to serve as an example to others.

Disguised as a stuntman, Land’s assassin Stick (Mel Novak) sneaks onto the set of Billy’s new film, and shoots Billy during filming. A fragment of the bullet passes through Billy’s face, leaving him alive but in need of plastic surgery which alters his facial features. Billy takes the opportunity to fake his death and disguise himself, exacting revenge against those who wronged him one at a time. When the syndicate threatens and kidnaps his fiancee, Ann Morris (Colleen Camp), Billy is forced to come out of hiding in order to save her. In the revised film, Bruce Lee’s fight scenes inside the pagoda are assumed to take place in the upper floors of the Red Pepper restaurant, where Dr. Land and his thugs have laid an ambush.


The revised version of the film uses only 11 minutes and 7 seconds of the footage from the original The Game of Death, and for the vast majority of the film, the role of Billy Lo was shared by Yuen Biao, taekwondo master Kim Tai Chung, and Chen Yao Po and was voiced by Chris Kent. The plot of the film allowed Kim and Yuen to spend much of the film in disguises, usually involving false beards and large, dark sunglasses, that obscured the fact that they bore little resemblance to Lee. Many scenes, including fight scenes, also included brief close-up bits of stock footage of the real Bruce Lee from his pre-Enter the Dragon films, often only lasting a second or two. These clips are easily recognizable due to the difference in film quality between the old and new footage.

Several actors associated with previous Lee movies were included in the re-shoot for the final 1978 film. For example, Robert Wall, a villain in both Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon, plays a kickboxer named Carl Miller who must battle with Billy Lo. Sammo Hung, who appeared in Enter the Dragon, served as the fight coordinator for the re-shoot of Game of Death, and also appears in the scene as a ring opponent for Miller. In order to maintain continuity with the fight footage taken from the original film, Dan Inosanto (renamed Pasqual) and Ji Han Jae (whose character was unnamed and was not shown until near the end of the film) were given small parts as additional enforcers for the syndicate. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar refused to participate in the re-shoot, with another tall African-American stand-in (renamed Hakim) included instead. Although Chuck Norris is credited as starring in the movie, his role is limited to clips from Way of the Dragon inserted into the film.

The film quality of the Clouse-directed footage was noticeably higher than that of Lee’s earlier Hong Kong films, and John Barry provided an original soundtrack. The film also featured performances by experienced actors as well as up-and-coming stars, including two recipients of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Dean Jagger and Gig Young) and several who have been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, including Dean Jagger, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Hugh O’Brian, and Gig Young.

In Hong Kong, the film was dubbed into Cantonese, and had significant changes, such as the inclusion of a fight in a green house with Casanova Wong and a different opening and closing credits sequence, featuring a new theme song, plus a couple of minor scenes. Several scenes were removed, also, including the fight in the opera house dressing room. All of the extra footage used in the Hong Kong version was included on Hong Kong Legends’ 2-disc DVD release of the film.


Bruce Lee as “Billy Lo”

Yuen Biao as “Billy Lo”

Kim Tai Chung as “Billy Lo”

Chen Yao Po as “Billy Lo”

Gig Young as “Jim Marshall”

Dean Jagger as “Dr. Land”

Colleen Camp as “Ann Morris”

Mel Novak as “Stick”

James Tien as “Charlie Wang”

Roy Chiao as “(Uncle) Henry Lo” (U.S. version only)

Sammo Hung as “Lo Chen”

Hugh O’Brian as “Steiner”

Robert Wall as “Carl Miller”

Dan Inosanto as “Pasqual”

Ji Han Jae as “Resturant Fighter”

Casanova Wong as “Lau Yea-chun” (H.K. version only)

Chuck Norris as “Fighter in Film”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as “Hakim”

Tony Leung

Billy McGill

Jim James

Russell Cawthorne

Yuen Wah

Lam Ching Ying

John Ladalski

David Hu

Don Barry

Jess Hardie

Eddie Dye

Peter Nelson

Peter Gee

Peter Chan


Liu Chia Yung

Fung Hak On

Tai San

Theme song

Game of Death ()

Lyrics: Wong Jim

Composition and Arrangement: Joseph Koo

Performance: Roman Tam

The American score was composed by John Barry.


The movie was successful[citation needed] at the box office but was not well received. Criticism of the revised version included the inclusion of scenes that could be considered in bad taste, such as the incorporation of footage of Lee’s actual funeral. Another scene, often pointed out by critics of the film, involved a shot of Kim looking at himself in the mirror, with an obvious cardboard cut-out of Lee’s face pasted onto the mirror’s surface.

However the action directed by Sammo Hung for the scenes with the Bruce Lee lookalikes and the footage that Bruce Lee shot for the original footage with the final three fights helped alleviate the problems the movie has. Apart from the cheesy techniques used to disguise the fact that Bruce Lee was being played by stand-ins, the movie enjoyed respectable production values.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports the film as holding an overall 75% approval rating based on 8 reviews, of those 6 were fresh and only 2 were rotten.

Other Game of Deaths

After the death of Bruce Lee, several studios exploited the situation by making their own versions of The Game of Death based on what they had learned of the story from production stills and magazine articles. Many of these films pre-dated Robert Clouse’s “official” Game of Death.

Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death () (1975)

The New Game of Death () (1976)

Enter the Game of Death () (1980)

The True Game of Death (1981) () (1979)

Game of Death II (1981) ( Tower of Death) (1981)

Clouse’s film had a sequel in 1981, Game of Death II, which also used footage from Bruce’s earlier films to have him make an appearance in the beginning of the film, only to be killed off midway, allowing his on-screen brother take on the role of protagonist. Aside from the English dub giving the “Bruce Lee” character the name Billy Lo, this movie would seem to have no connection with Clouse’s film.

The yellow-and-black tracksuit

Screenshot of Game of Death, Bruce Lee is wearing his iconic yellow-and-black tracksuit.

The yellow-and-black tracksuit which Lee wore in the film has come to be seen as something of a trademark for the actor, and is paid homage to in numerous other media. In the Clouse-directed remake, the filmmakers rationalized its presence by including a scene where Billy Lo disguises himself as one of Dr. Land’s motorcycle-riding thugs, who all wear striped jumpsuits.

In the warehouse scene, Billy Lo wears a pair of yellow Adidas shoes with black stripes and white shelltoes. Towards the end of the movie, Billy wears a pair of yellow Onitsuka Tiger shoes, with black stripes.

In movies

Uma Thurman wears a similar suit in Kill Bill Volume 1 when she travels to Japan to take on an underworld boss and assassin played by Lucy Liu. In homage to both the film and the remake, Thurman wears the suit and Onitsuka Tiger sneakers as part of her motorcycle-riding gear, and keeps the suit on during her battle with Liu and her gang, the Crazy 88.

In Shaolin Soccer, a similar suit is worn by the goalie “Empty Hand” (Danny Chan Kwok Kwan) who resembles Bruce Lee.

In the Jet Li film High Risk, Jacky Cheung plays a movie star who is losing his fighting ability due to his cowardice. When he regains his courage at the end of the film, he wears a copy of the yellow tracksuit. The role is generally felt to be a parody of Jackie Chan, but the references to Bruce Lee are also obvious.

The 1980s film The Last Dragon produced by Motown legend Berry Gordy centered around a Bruce Lee fan in search of reaching Martial arts enlightenment who instructed his students wearing the same tracksuit.

In Revenge of the Nerds, Brian Tochi’s character, Toshiro Takashi, wears the yellow jumpsuit while riding a tricycle during the inter-Greek competitions.

In video games

Marshall Law and Forrest Law, from the Tekken series of fighting games, resemble Bruce Lee’s with their moveset, whoops and yells and wears a sleeveless version of the tracksuit.

In Dead or Alive 4, Jann Lee’s third costume is none other than the tracksuit and his ending movie includes him watching Bruce Lee movies to help him practice Jeet Kune Do.

In the Playmore fighting game Rage of the Dragons, Mr. Jones (who already bares a striking reseblance to Kareem Abdul Jabbar) wears a suit very similar to the famous yellow jump suit.

The suit is present in the MMORPG Anarchy Online as a piece of equipment for powerful martial artist characters.

In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, one equippable item is the “kung fu suit,” which is a yellow tracksuit with black vertical stripes along the sides.

Although the suit does not appear in any Street Fighter games, Fei Long wears it in several issues of the UDON Street Fighter comic book and in Masahiko Nakahira’s Cammy manga.

In the video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, the main character can wear an identical outfit called the “Dragon Jumpsuit”.

In the video game Shadow Hearts: From the New World talking cat and drunken master Mao confronts the master of cat martial arts, the tracksuit-clad “Bruce Meow”.

In WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008, in the “Create a WWE Superstar” function the tracksuit is emulated.

In Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, the character Chie Satonaka’s Persona is dressed in the same yellow jumpsuit, and fights with a combination of spears and Jeet Kun Do.

In Street Fighter IV, the character Rufus wears a yellow and black tracksuit. The suit matches his personality of having a great love for martial arts movies, leading to his style being adopted from imitating martial arts movies and mail order courses.

In the online game Dragon Fist 3: Age of the Warrior, one of the characters from martial arts films is Billy Lo (with Bruce Lee being animated out) from this film, dressed in the yellow-and-black jumpsuit, fighting with Jeet Kune Do, using a yellow nunchaku (which is not found in the Character Editor) as a weapon, and the one inch punch as a special move.

In most servers of the Dragonica online game, the gladiator class can summon a Bruce Lee styled character named Bro Lee who wears the jumpsuit to perform some Kung Fu moves. The players can also buy the suit from the cash shop to equip on their characters.

The yellow-and-black tracksuit can be obtained in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon from the custom character creation menu.

In music

A short promotional video for the virtual band Gorillaz showed the fictional animated guitarist, Noodle, taking on a pack of thugs while dressed in the tracksuit and imitating Lee’s fighting style. Noodle has also worn this suit in the Game Of Death short clip from the Celebrity Takedown DVD.

The band Sugar Ray, in their video for the single “When It’s Over,” included a segment in which one of the band members fantasizes about having a kung fu battle similar to the fight scene between Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The band member wears Lee’s tracksuit, his opponent wears a beard, clothes, and sunglasses similar to Abdul-Jabbar’s, and the video duplicates the scene in which a seated Kareem kicks Lee in the chest, knocking him down and leaving a huge footprint on his chest.

Topper Headon of The Clash was known to wear a similar jumpsuit at live shows.

Avant-garde guitarist Buckethead is inspired by Bruce Lee in several ways and in 2006 released a song called “Game of Death” on his website to honour this movie. He also wore a yellow tracksuit while playing live and performed with nunchakus on stage.

In manga, anime and other cartoons

In “Karate Island,” a fourth season episode of SpongeBob SquarePants (which is itself a take-off of “Game of Death”), Sandy Cheeks wears a yellow tracksuit similar to Bruce’s.

In the Urusei Yatsura episode titled “The Mendo Family’s Masquerade War,” Ataru was wearing a yellow tracksuit with black stripes while trying to court Mendou’s sister who is sporting nunchakus. Both Ataru’s yellow tracksuit and the Mendou sister’s nunchakus are a homage to Bruce Lee.

In the anime/manga Tenjho Tenge, there is a short appearance of a character named “Inosato Dan” who is the leader of the “Jun Fan Gung Fu club” (Jun Fan is Bruce Lee’s Chinese name). He resembles Bruce Lee very much, and wears the jumpsuit. However, in the anime the colors of the jumpsuit are switched to a black suit with yellow stripes.

Duel #25 of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga features some references to Bruce Lee. Yugi’s fighting-game character of choice is a Bruce Lee clone called Bruce Ryu. His opponent, the villain of the chapter, wears the yellow jumpsuit and calls his fight with Jonouchi a “Game of Death.”

The second episode of the anime series Cowboy Bebop, “Stray Dog Strut,” further plays homage with the episode’s main antagonist being named Abdul Hakim (after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s character) and bearing a strikingly similar appearance.

The character Mr. Tanaka from Sonic X wears the suit in an episode.

The character Sasshi, from the anime Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, also gets a uniform called the Game of Death suit, later imitating Lee in both appearance and mannerisms.

Another reference is found in Great Teacher Onizuka, where the main character, Onizuka Eikichi, wears the same suits when performing feats of strength like breaking a baseball bat with a kick in front of his class.

In episode 18 of the anime, Gin Tama, Kagura wears a suit similar to Bruce’s suit in this movie.

The character, Mandy, from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy wore a yellow jumpsuit in the episode “Modern Primitives / Giant Billy and Mandy All-Out Attack”. The episode also had parodies from Akira (Mandy drives a bike similar to Kaneda’s in the series), the “Godzilla” franchise (there are several giant monsters that parody monsters from the franchise including the name of the episode), and Kill Bill (a check off list plus a red screened close-up mimicking the bride).

A game sprite resembling an Asian man can be seen wearing Bruce Lee’s yellow suit during the first and third season’s of ReBoot.

A Gorillabite from the band Gorillaz is titled Game of Death. In the bite, Noodle, the guitarist, dons the yellow tracksuit to take on Russel.

The cover for the third volume of the American DVD release of the anime, PaniPoni Dash!, features the main character Rebecca Miyamoto wearing a track suit similar to Bruce Lee’s. The subtitle for the DVD, “Class of Death”, also pays homage to Game of Death.

In episode 20 of Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate asks Maria is she knows “the art of assassination”. She denies it, but Hayate and doesn’t believe her and Nagi imagines what Maria would look like wearing a yellow jumpsuit and holding nunchucks.

Episode 100 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon depicts Master Splinter’s former owner, Hamato Yoshi, wearing the yellow tracksuit.

In the classic anime/manga series Dragon Ball During his early adventures, Goku enters a military base named “Muscle Tower” in the shape of a dumbbell, in which he visits numerous floors, fighting enemies that inhabit them. He fights a robot, a ninja, a beast, and a general of the military.

DVD releases

Universe (Hong Kong)

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) letterboxed

Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese

Supplements: Stars’ Files, Trailer for the film, Trailers for The Big Boss, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Legacy of Rage

All regions, NTSC

Mega Star (Hong Kong)

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) letterboxed

Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish

Supplements: Synopsis, Cast and Crew Info, Theatrical trailer

All regions, NTSC

Fortune Star – Bruce Lee Ultimate DVD Collection (Hong Kong)

Released: April 29, 2004

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic

Sound: English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English

Supplements: Original trailer, New trailer, Still photos, Slideshow of photos, Unseen footage, Game of Death outtakes, Enter the Dragon alternate opening, Celebrity interviews, 32-page booklet

Region 3, NTSC

Fox (America)

Released: May 21, 2002

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) letterboxed

Sound: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles: English

Supplements: None

Region 1, NTSC

Fox – Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection (America)

Released: October 18, 2005

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic

Sound: English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles: English

Supplements: Original trailer, New trailer, Still photos, Slideshow of photos, Game of Death outtakes, Bonus trailers

Region 1, NTSC

Hong Kong Legends Platinum Edition (United Kingdom)

Released: October 1, 2001

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2:45:1) anamorphic

Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Subtitles: Dutch

Supplements: Disc 1: Commentary by Bey Logan, Animated biography of Bruce, Biography of Bey Logan, Deleted scenes (in Cantonese) Disc 2: Game of Death retrospective, History of Jeet Kune Do, Photo galleries: Production gallery; Rare photo archive, US trailer, Hong Kong trailer, UK promo trailer, UK promo trailers for The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, TV spots for Way of the Dragon and Fist of Fury, Biography of Dan Inosanto, Biography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dan Inosanto: Warrior and Teacher – interview, Jeet Kune Do seminar, Taky Kimura: Keeping the Flame Alive – interview, George Lazenby: Reflection of the Dragon – interview, Game of Death outtake montage, Legacy of the Dragon – documentary, Game of Death revisted

Region 2, PAL

See also

Hong Kong Movie Database


Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2010)

^ Game Over! by Joe Kennedy


^ Game of Death, Bey Logan audio commentary disc one (DVD featurette). [DVD]. Hong Kong Legends, UK. 1978 (film), 2001 (DVD). 


^ BUCKETHEAD Covers ‘Game Of Death’: Audio Available – Aug. 21, 2006

External links

City on Fire: Game Over!

Game of Death at the Internet Movie Database

Game of Death

at Allmovie

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