Friday, November 9, 2018

True Game of Death

True Game of Death
Steven Harries, Chen Tien-Tai

Ah, Bruceploitation, it battles Naziploitation for being the lowest rung of exploitation sub-genres. Made entirely to capitalize on the untimely death of Bruce Lee, and the public’s undiscerning hunger for kung-fu in the 1970s, these films would cast someone given a similar stage name (Bruce Li, Dragon Lee, etc.) and have them actually playing Bruce Lee (or the nearest equivalent). The films would often directly involve Bruce Lee’s actual death in the plot. Tasteless to say the least, but there are still some boundaries to cross here and True Game of Death happily does it.

Opening with scenes from Bruce Lee’s real funeral, True Game of Death announces its intentions  as a crass cash-in on a real-life tragedy. A mysterious narrator informs us that there is a “New actor who looks quite like him.” This fellow is Hsao Lung (Lung Tien Hsiang) and he doesn’t just look like Bruce Lee (actually he doesn’t look like Bruce at all), he acts like him and dresses like him. Lung is also prone to having dreams about Bruce Lee which look mysteriously like long clips from Bruce Lee films edited in to fill up some time.

"Hsao Lung here for Action Slacks™."
True Game of Death wanders around from fight to fight as a gang tries to coerce Lung to be in their movie, they even force his girlfriend, Alice (Alice Meyer) to poison him, which results in a scene of him writhing around and dying in a grotesque parody of Bruce Lee’s actual death. This is the low point for True Game of Death, but it is also its most memorable scene. Shortly after this, the not quite as dead as we thought, Lung is back in action and fighting to rescue his girlfriend in set-piece after set-piece, the last one cloning the level by level battle of Game of Death, but for much cheaper of course.

True Game of Death is cheap looking and feels like it was edited with a brick. The dubbing is so terrible it almost becomes an art form, my favorite being a gang member who inexplicably speaks like Dean Martin. The fight choreography is often passable, but, I’ve never understood why Brucesploitation films never cast anyone who actually uses Jeet Kune Do, Lee’s actual style. If I had to pick a favorite element of True Game of Death, it is the infectiously funky bass riff that plays through the entire film.

"This is not the true game of death that I signed up for..."
True Game of Death is the bottom of the Bruceploitation pit, so it might be worth watching just for that fact. If you are planning on watching it for any other reason, I can’t in good conscience recommend it, there are far better kung-fu films, and there are (help me) much better Brucesploitation features out there. True Game of Death exists purely for atrocity tourism, but in an age of film when CGI versions of deceased actors are being resurrected for appearances in multi-million dollar franchises, it might be in good company.

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