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The Game of Death was the film Bruce Lee had planned to be the demonstration piece of his martial art Jeet Kune Do. 100 plus minutes of footage was shot before his death, some of which was later misplaced in the Golden Harvest archives, and has not yet been recovered (such as one fighter attacking Dan Inosanto with a thin log). The remaining footage has been released with Bruce Lee's original English and Cantonese dialogue, with John Little himself dubbing Bruce Lee's Hai Tien character as part of the documentary entitled Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey. Most of the footage which was shot, is from what was to be the centre piece of the film.
While in the middle of filming The Game of Death, Bruce Lee was given the offer to star in Enter the Dragon. The first kung fu film to be produced by a Hollywood studio, and with a budget unprecedented for the genre, it was an offer Lee couldn't refuse. Unfortunately, Lee died of cerebral edema before the film's release. At the time of his death, he had already made plans to resume the filming of The Game of Death.
After Lee's death, Enter the Dragon director Robert Clouse was enlisted to direct additional scenes featuring a stand-in which, when pieced together with the original footage as well as other footage from earlier in Bruce Lee's career, would form a new film (entitled Game of Death (traditional Chinese: ????; simplified Chinese: ????; pinyin: Siwáng Yóuxì) which was released in 1978, nearly 5 years after his death, by Columbia Pictures.
The original plot involved Lee playing the role of a retired champion martial artist who was confronted by the Korean underworld gangs. They tell him the story of the pagoda's treasure and guns are prohibited. When Lee refuses, his younger sister and brother are kidnapped, forcing him to participate. Hai Tien (Bruce Lee's character), as well as four other martial artists (two of which were played by James Tien and Chieh Yuan), fight their way through 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 10 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 Lee 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 Lee recognizes that an unusually high sensitivity to light is his greatest weakness.
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