Before he died Bruce Lee had been working on a secret film project called “Game of Death” which was abandoned when he began work on “Enter the Dragon”. Raymond Chow knew that Lee had shot many reels of footage most likely had more than enough to edit together into a complete movie. However all of the footage featuring Bruce Lee had taken place on a single set. It was suppose to be the interior of a pagoda with Bruce Lee going up floor after floor fighting each master who guarded the next staircase. It was not enough footage for a complete movie and because each fight scene too place on the same set with Lee wearing the same costume it was impossible to spread the fights throughout the Length of a movie. What Golden Harvest ended up doing is shooting a movie with a double for Bruce Lee for most of the movie and editing in footage from earlier films for the close ups to establish the character was suppose to be Bruce Lee. At least audiences were able to see the twenty minutes of fight scene that Bruce had actually shot at the end of the movie. When Golden Harvest announced that they had discovered more unused footage which they planned to use in a sequel to “Game of Death” nobody was holding their breath.
The unused footage was from “Enter the Dragon”. No fight sequences here, just some footage of him talking to the head abbot of the temple in the opening of the movie. The sequel that was eventually made was called “Tower of Death”. The spare Bruce Lee footage was used along with a double to show Bruce Lee’s character Billy Lo investigating the death of a friend. About a third of the way through the movie Billy is killed and the remainder of the movie has Billy’s brother continuing the investigation. Golden Harvest planned to release “Tower of Death” in the United States as “Game of Death II” although this time without co-producing the movie with any Hollywood studio. The distributor who did release the movie insisted on doing so only if the movie had more Bruce Lee footage. The end result was a movie that was slightly different than the Hong Kong version.
The film opens with Hwang Jang Lee practicing his Kung Fu at a temple. Billy Lo from Game of Death is also there apparently having given up his life as a movie star. His girlfriend played by Coleen Camp in “Game of Death” is also missing, although that probably has more to do with Coleen not willing to make another posthumous Bruce Lee movie. Almost every time Billy appears on screen it is either from a distance, in the shadows or from the back of his head. Golden Harvest took close up shots from every Bruce Lee movie in their vaults and used them to make scenes. A close up of Bruce Lee drinking from a tea cup taken from Enter the Dragon is used to establish a scene where Wong Jang Lee is challenged to a fight. The Bruce Lee double is in the same scene sitting in a chair watching. He is offered some tea which is why the closeup is used. In every scene Billy Lo appears in the set deliberately matches the same set from the scene the closeup was taken from. Right after Hwang Jang Lee’s fight Billy mentions that he too was challenged to a fight. The scene that follows is not in the Hong Kong version of “Tower of Death”. It is actually a scene that was edited out of the American release of “Game of Death” where Billy Lo has a fight in a greenhouse. It was created by using some close ups and photos of Bruce combined with his double fighting an opponent, the leaves of the surrounding plants constantly obscuring his face. Why its fight was edited out of the American version is not clear. Perhaps Columbia pictures felt that it was not convincing enough that it was actually Bruce Lee doing the fighting. But in “Game of Death II” it is used to meet the distributors demand for more Bruce Lee footage. Billy has a meeting with the temple’s head abbot and finally that unseen Bruce Lee footage from “Enter the Dragon” is used. It is only a minute long and originally it was the Abbot giving Lee advice on how to beat an opponent, in this movie it is re-dubbed so that the abbot is talking to Billy about his delinquent brother. The scene is only a minute long and in recent years has been edited back into “Enter the Dragon” so that from 1990 on “Tower of Death” and “Game of Death II” had no unique Bruce Lee footage.
Once again “Game of Death II” uses footage that is not seen in “Tower of Death”. Just prior to the production “Tower of Death” the prints to all of the movies that Bruce Lee made as a child actor were rediscovered in a vault. You may have seen footage from these movies in the documentary “The Real Bruce Lee”. During “Game of Death II” the abbot mentions to Billy that he was just as much of a delinquent when he was young. The movie cuts to flashbacks of Billy as a kid which is in fact the black and white footage from Bruce Lee’s childhood movies. The distributor even insisted on adding captions saying “This is actual footage of Bruce Lee at age 10” and “This is actually Bruce Lee at age 17”. Once this segment is finished we see Billy reading a newspaper article saying that his friend Hwang Jang Lee has died. Billy is suspicious as to how his friend could die so suddenly. At the funeral he attempts to approach Hwang’s body to examine it when a group of guards block him and keep him away. At the burial a helicopter shows up and using a claw at the end of a cable snatches Hwang’s coffin. Billy jumps up and grabs the coffin as the helicopter takes it away. Someone in the helicopter shoots something into Billy’s neck and he drops all the way back down to the ground. Once again footage of Bruce Lee is added to “Game of Death II” for the benefit of it’s distributor, this time it is actual footage of Bruce Lee’s body at his own funeral intercut with photos of him. Distasteful, but it extends Bruce Lee’s character’s appearance in the movie to 40 minutes and half of the movie as the distributor wanted.
The second half of the movie has Billy Lo’s brother investigating the theft of Hwang’s body and in turn investigating the murder of his brother. His investigation leads him to Bob Wall who in turn reveals the existence of the Tower of Death, a secret tower built by evil monks. To keep the tower a secret it was built upside down so that it was underground. The Tower of Death is invaded, the mystery is solved and Billy Lo is avenged. I will not say much more about the ending of “Game of Death II” as it will spoil it for those who actually want to see this movie. Actually, if you can get past the insulting beginning of this movie the second half is a decent Martial Arts adventure film. Directed by Ng See Yune and fights choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping, the team who just two years earlier had helped revolutionize the Martial Arts movie with “Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunken Master”. Once again they pull off some thrilling screen fights with one exception, a silly fight between Billy’s brother and a man in a lion costume. If you can forgive the first half of “Game of Death II” then you will probably enjoy the second half as a fun and harmless Martial Arts movie. But forget about watching this movie for Bruce Lee.