Shortly before his untimely death in 1973, Martial Arts superstar Bruce Lee began a pet project that was to be called GAME OF DEATH. Five years later the American director of ENTER THE DRAGON, Robert Clouse, plus a handful of American actors were employed to create a new Bruce Lee movie using only minutes of footage of him (two stand-ins substituted for most of the screen time) and 1978's GAME OF DEATH was an embarrassing affair. But that didn't prevent anyone from concocting a sequel, GAME OF DEATH II (aka TOWER OF DEATH). The results of the latter are actually better than that of the former.
Again using stock footage of the long-deceased Lee (mostly outtakes from ENTER THE DRAGON), GAME OF DEATH II brings us up to date with his character of Billy Lo. When Billy's friend and master Chin Ku (Wong Ching Lei) dies mysteriously and suddenly, he becomes suspicious of the circumstances and does a little perilous investigating. At Chin Ku's funeral, a helicopter claws up his coffin and takes off, prompting Billy to grab hold of the vehicle, getting hit by a poison dart and falling to his death in the process. Billy's funeral is then illustrated using real footage of Lee's tragic event. Lee's presence is here represented by close-ups of his face, shots of him walking around and talking, as well as scenes of his childhood movie performances. There's no actually bits of him fighting--it's all done by an unconvincing substitute with longer hair.
It's a good thing that they kill of Lee's fabricated presence a little past the 30-minute mark. Now, the film can stop pretending that it's a Bruce Lee film and move in, and it does so in entertaining "old school" martial arts style. Tong Lung (aka Tai Chung Kim, who stood in for Lee in the first GAME OF DEATH) plays Billy's little brother Bobby, who's out to find his brother's killer. Bobby is introduced as a loaf obsessed with girly magazines, but soon proves himself to be an expert fighter. His investigation takes him to the temple of American martial artist Roy Chiao who hangs around with wild animals and eats raw venison for breakfast. It all leads to a showdown in an underground hide-out that resembles something out of a James Bond film. There's some incredible fight scenes, some nudity, a hilarious attack by a guy in a lion costume, a twist ending, and Tong Lung is able to career the film fine without the help of bogus Lee inserts. If you go into this knowing that Bruce Lee's actual presence is a gimmick and just want to kick back to a 70s style martial arts film, you're sure to enjoy GAME OF DEATH II.
On DVD, GAME OF DEATH II looks like how most "old school" martial arts films should look on the format--excellent. Presented in the 2.35:1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the transfer obviously uses the original elements, as the film is in near-flawless shape, unlike other releases of this sort which are usually culled from badly beaten grindhouse prints. Colors for the most part are nicely saturated, fleshtones appear natural, and there are only hints of grain--mostly when the older Lee footage is inserted. The English-dubbed sound is presented in 5.1 Dolby or an optional DTS track, so dialog is very clear and background sound effects are given a nice boost.
two GAME OF DEATH II trailers: the original theatrical version, and a newly
created one. There are also trailers for other martial arts films on Fox DVD,
including the recently-released THE YOUNG MASTER and THE PRODIGAL SON. (George
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