Bullet Points: Enter the Game of Death
When it comes to Bruce Lee movie title mash ups, you aren’t going to get any better than Enter the Game of Death. The only Bruce Lee movie title mash up that would even come close would be Fist of the Big Boss, which surprisingly was never used as a title in any of the Bruceploitation movies.
When it comes to Bruce Le movies, you aren’t going to get much better than Enter the Game of Death. Produced in 1978 but released in the United States in February of 1980, Enter the Game of Death stars Bruce Le (The Clones of Bruce Lee). Le was born in Taiwan as Kin Lung Huang and was one of the actors who found himself thrust into the Hong Kong movie spotlight after the untimely passing of Bruce Lee in 1973. Le probably had the longest run of any of the Brucesploitation actors, with Bruce Le starring Bruceploitation movies still being released in the late 80’s.
- The Premise: Enter the Game of Death did not just borrow the names of two of Bruce Lee’s films and mash them up, it also borrowed heavily from (ripped off) Bruce Lee’s Game of Death concept (and wardrobe) with our hero having to square off with a different martial arts master on each level of a pagoda. Enter the Game of Death puts a unique spin on the concept, by setting the story back before the second World War when tensions were extremely high between China and Japan. A top secret document that is vital to the national security of China has been stolen and is being guarded in the aforementioned pagoda. A secret organization known as The Blue Robe convinces Chang (Bruce Le) to retrieve the document so the local bad guy Wang (who procured the document by nefarious means) does not sell it to the Japanese bad guy Kawasaki for three million American dollars. The Germans are involved in here too (in the form of Mr. Keegan played by Michael B. Christy) and in all honesty, the “unique spin” really muddies the waters and makes for a a pretty convoluted story line.
- Bruce vs. Bolo: One of Enter the Game of Death’s big selling points for me was the fact that Bolo Yeung was in the film. Bolo plays Yang Chen. Yang Chen is playing for both sides of the Chinese/Japanese rivalry and as you might expect he tangles with our hero Chang on numerous occasions through out the movie. Some could actually argue there is actually too much Bruce vs. Bolo in this movie. The two men first battle in the woods very early on in the film, which surprised me… not only that the fight was happening so early on in the movie, but that kung fu fights apparently could break out in the woods. Moments after the first Chang vs. Yang Chen forest fight, we see Yang Chen competing professionally taking on a series of opponents. After Yang Chen has dispatched of three opponents, Chang shows up and beats Yang Chen in the ring and everyone is all excited. The nefarious Wang even offers Chang a job as his new bodyguard. But how much of an accomplishment was it really considering Yang Chen had fought three opponents in a row and then Chang showed up and beat a not at 100% Yang Chen? Was this just some sort of Yang Chen open challenge? Was there a sanctioning body overseeing this martial arts competition? This was another part of the plot that was confusing.
- Game of Death: Plot holes aside, the real meat of the movie is when Chang enters the pagoda to retrieve the document. This is where the movie and Bruce Le really shine. For me the level that steals the whole show was the second level. It is on level two that Chang battles the Snake Man. When Chang enters the room, the Snake Man just starts throwing snakes at him. The Snake Man whips Chang with snakes, they have a tug of war with the snakes, they are choking each other out with the snakes… The Snake Man at one point even slithers around the floor on his belly like a freaking snake. But the Pièce De Résistance is when the Snake Man bites the head off of a snake and starts spraying what seems like gallons of snake blood in Chang’s direction! There were additional levels that Chang fought through… but to me nothing was going to top Chang vs. The Snake Man, the look on Bruce Le’s face below says it all about that fight…
Now logic would dictate that the finale of the movie would be when Chang got to the top of the pagoda… but you are probably realizing that Enter the Game of Death did not concern itself with things like logic or continuity. So after Chang completes the pagoda challenge there is pretty much an entire third act filled with even more kung fu fighting action bringing in all the key players including Kawasaki, Wang, Mr. Keegan, The Blue Robe and Yang Chen.
If you’ve made it to this point in the review you have completed your own pagoda challenge of sorts and just like Enter the Game of Death, there’s more to come! Check out these Bonus Bullet Points…
- Music Mash Up: The opening credits feature Bruce Le showing off his martial arts skills while at least three different songs mashed up into one clunky song plays. It really sets the mashed up tone of Enter the Game of Death.
- AKA: Enter the Game of Death is also known as The King of Kung Fu here in the United States. Bruce Le would later star in a film with a similar title, Bruce, King of Kung Fu. Bolo Yeung makes a guest appearance in Bruce, King of Kung Fu.
- Forgettable Quote: Chang was not instantly convinced to accept the mission to retrieve the document. At one point, members of The Blue Robe try to shame Chang into taking the job by hurling some hurtful words his way. They tell him “You’re a cold blooded bastard! You’re not Chinese!” Later that night (and the very next scene in the movie) when Chang is lying in bed, he recalls his confrontation with The Blue Robe earlier in the day and in his flashback he is now a “dirty bastard” instead of a “cold blooded bastard.”
- Location, Location, Location: The pagoda used in Enter the Game of Death, was the very same pagoda that Bruce Lee planned on using for his film, Game of Death
- Fact Check: IMDb lists Steve James of American Ninja and Avenging Force fame as the “Black Martial Artist” in Enter the Game of Death. I did not notice the James listing on IMDb until after I had finished watching the movie and I found it peculiar since I think at this stage in the game I would have noticed Steve James and would not need IMDb to tell me that Steve James was in a movie. I went back and watched the scenes with the “Black Martial Artist” and he did not look like Steve James to me. I asked Bruceploitation expert Michael Worth and he confirmed that the “Black Martial Artist” was NOT Steve James.