POSTED JULY 21, 2008
July 21, 2008

BRUCE LEE AND ME (part two)

Media Asia giving me access to the Bruce Lee archive was like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank. I was IN! The crypt keeper down at the vault where MA stored the materials it had inherited from Golden Harvest was a little fellow named Larry. He showed me what they had on the Bruce Lee films. I was surprised how few photographs of Lee they owned. Apparently, Harvest boss Raymond Chow only bought from the unit photographer the photos he specifically wanted, and all the rest remained property of the cameraman himself. (This explains why private collectors in the US have more photos than the studio does!) I asked Larry if he had any unusual Bruce Lee footage stashed away. Hmmm, he said, I do have some stuff I’m not sure about… And he shuffled off to find it.
Much has been made, on some of the Bruce Lee Internet forums, about what happened next. First, though, some history…
For those not in the loop, Bruce Lee had, before his untimely demise, shot scenes for a film to be called Game of Death. He interrupted shooting on this project to make Enter the Dragon, and died before he could return to finish it. In 1978, Golden Harvest hired Enter’s director, the late Robert Clouse, to create some kind of framing device that would allow the unseen GOD footage to be exploited. This is the film that most fans know as ‘Bruce Lee’s Game Of Death’. For most of the movie, the ‘Bruce Lee’ character, Billy Lo, is played by various doubles, and by shots spliced in from other Bruce Lee movies. The finale sees the real Bruce Lee, in his yellow tracksuit, fighting his way up three levels of the villain’s lair. This is a heavily edited version of the footage Lee had shot for the original Game of Death project.
Obviously, Robert Clouse and the other people responsible for the 1978 film had viewed all the ‘original’ footage shot by Lee. Clouse vowed openly that he would use as little of it as possible. At around the same period, shots from that original footage were edited together for a documentary, Bruce Lee, The Legend. After that, the original footage went back into the Golden Harvest vault, where it remained. It’s quite possible that, during the intervening years, various people screened the footage, or even took copies. If so, they did this privately, and none of the footage was ever released commercially. That is why, when Larry started showing me his ‘mystery’ Bruce Lee footage, I was stunned to see that it consisted of almost all Lee’s dailies from the original Game Of Death.
Some Bruce Lee experts have taken issue with the claim that I ‘discovered’ his footage. Let’s set the record straight: I no more ‘discovered’ the footage than Columbus discovered America. It was already there. He just stumbled onto it and shared it with the rest of the world. I did much the same with this footage. Nothing of it had been seen, in public, since 1979, until, in 1997, I, as a Media Asia executive, found the footage, and started making deals to license it. We did a very lucrative deal with Artport in Japan for them to edit together their own ‘Game of Death’. (It has a lot more real Bruce Lee footage, but is otherwise not that much better than the 1978 film!) I licensed it as bonus footage for the British company Hong Kong Legends when they re-issued Game of Death on DVD. I sold the footage to John Little, a Canadian Bruce Lee expert who was then representing the Lee Estate. John edited the footage into his own docu-drama, Warrior’s Journey. (This, too, had more Bruce Lee, but was otherwise not that much better than either the 1978 Game Of Death or the Bruce Lee, The Legend documentary.) Everyone knew that the footage was gold dust. No-one really knew how to make it into jewellery…
As a side line, I began working in Japan as a Bruce Lee vocal impersonator. I did the voice of Bruce Lee heard on the Artport Game Of Death and the HKL DVD, and that used for a Japanese Bruce Lee typing game (no, really…) My childhood dream to ‘be’ Bruce Lee had been temporarily achieved (even though I looked more like Bruce Willis.)


Bey, clear up something then; on the updated enter the dragon dvd bonus disc, there is footage from game of death which I don't remember ever seeing that some of the footage you found in that archive?
- Mark, Monteal | 2008-08-12 08:41:48
I actually have all the bruce lee dvds. In Game of Death 2, they used the same stunt double that shown in most parts of Game of Death. In the second one, as you probably said, the editing shows because they just paste bruce lee's expressions from old photo's onto the stunt double's face. Tell your son to keep up with the martial arts! Later.
- Keaton Williams, Albuquerque, New Mexico | 2008-08-18 15:07:00
Thanks for the post Bey. Hey Mark, I think I've got the same re-issue of "Enter the Dragon" that you were asking about. All that footage is featured as part of John Little's documentary which Bey mentioned here, so I guess it would have been based on Bey's findings..
- Ben, Sydney, Australia | 2008-08-20 06:05:27
Are we going to definitely see Bruce in the Dragon Dynasty collection?
- Mitch Mack, Hawthorne, CA | 2008-08-24 15:02:02
Im a die hard fan of martial arts, and the past few years, i've been watching nothign but Donnie yen movies. from his old ones to his recent ones. but ine movie i cant find any where is Ballistic Kiss. I saw some clips online, but cant seem to find a way to add that to my collection. Also i collect every dragon dynasty titles that ever came out, and i would like to know if that can be one of your future release?
- John, Huntsville, AL | 2008-09-28 19:31:32
- RICH, London uk | 2008-09-29 14:55:18
What about the hours of outdoor Game of Death Footage, Or the log scene with Inosanto and Chieh Yuan? Or the Screen tests with Lee on trampoline and shirtless Jabbar? There are dozens of stills to suggest footage was shot! More importantly, there are snippets of this in the Bruce Lee the Legend Documentary. Why have you not mentioned any of this?
- Jn, NY | 2008-10-17 21:39:04, there is footage that the public has yet to see
- 107, Pueblo | 2008-12-19 20:31:08
Bey, Some years ago, I saw you in a short documentary, preceding a TV showing of Enter the Dragon, where you visited the HK ETD filming locations, including the famous stepped tennis courts. How can I get hold of a copy of this doc and does the footage still exist, at all. Many Thanks
- Andy Thorn, London, England. | 2009-02-02 10:40:48
Thank you Bey for sharing the previously "lost" Game of Death footage.
- Wilson, New York City | 2009-02-17 11:38:01
bey just what is the latest on the game of death footage ? i remember years ago when u wrote for combat magazine, that you had a contact that had seen footage of game that included bruce fighting a girl with 2 swords and other inseen fights !! did this just turn out to be another dead end ?? thanks.
- kenny, scotland | 2009-03-10 10:39:08
Dear Bey, is there any more news on the plans for the Bruce Lee museum in Hong Kong
- Bevan Castle, Perth Western Australia | 2009-04-24 07:30:52


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