Bruce Lee Double Feature: The Way of the Dragon/Game of Death Bruce Lee & Robert Clouse

Bruce Lee Double Feature: The Way of the Dragon/Game of Death Bruce Lee & Robert Clouse
4
Here we have the awkward coupling of one of Bruce Lee's best films with his worst. Actually, to even call Game of Death a Bruce Lee movie is a bit misleading. Put on hiatus when American money appeared to fund Enter the Dragon, catapulting Lee the rest of the way to international superstardom, the original Game of Death was completed after the charismatic martial arts master's death, whereupon it was warped into a crass, exploitative mess of a kung-fu thriller. Cobbled together using archival footage and extremely inadequate doubles, Robert Clouse (who also directed the hit that derailed this flick) cashed-in on the Lee brand with all the delicacy of a doctor performing brain surgery with a jackhammer. On one hand, it's so overtly bad that it's a little funny to look back on; on the other, it's incredibly disrespectful to Lee's legacy. (That John Barry score is a humdinger though!) It's such a contentious movie (remember the zealous conspiracy theories spun from the plot elements that mirror circumstances surrounding the deaths of both Lee and his son, Brandon, during the filming of The Crow?) that it would be a far more valuable experience with the aid of a few extras. But there are documentaries for that (many of them) and this is a Bruce Lee Double Feature, so there's a reason to own this disc that's not based on smug derision: The Way of the Dragon. Along with Enter, Way represents Lee's peak work. As usual, the story barely matters: Lee is another outsider defending his people against foreign aggression, this time gangsters shaking down a restaurant full of karate students that convert to kung-fu after seeing Tang Lung (Lee) fight. The only film Lee also directed, Way goes out of its, um, way to showcase the expressive performer's unique talents. As is typical of martial arts movies, it's a bit propagandist — somebody's fighting style is always presented as being ultimately superior — and the only form of significant character development comes via the exquisite torture on Lee's face whenever he kills a foe. But as a staged way to demonstrate the impressive mastery of a discipline in front of as many eyeballs as possible, The Way of the Dragon delivers, especially with the impeccably choreographed confrontation between Lee and a young Chuck Norris, who's sporting an impressive back-mane of nappy ginger fur. The flamboyantly gay Chinese henchman who brings East and West together is just campy icing on a very silly cinematic cake. Sadly, only the dubbed English audio is included, so both movies feel more farcical than they are. Well, not Game — even with those awesome inserted fight scenes against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that hatchet job remains unpalatable. (Shout! Factory)