True Game of Death (1981)
Director: Steve Harries, Chen Ten Tai
Producer: Ho-Hsin Motion Pictures Co., LTD.
Cast: Bruce Hsao Lung (aka Lung Tien-Hsiang), Alice Meyer, George Stephens (George Steve), Kim Sing, Michiyama Ichiro, Bruce Lee (stock footage)
Running Time: 90 min.
By Jeff Bona
True Game of Death is a blatant rip-off of Robert Clouse’s 1978 Game of Death. Both movies revolve around martial arts superstars (substitute Tai Chung Kim’s Billy Lo for Shou Lung) who get hassled by international gangsters wanting a piece of their lavish income. Throw in the white girlfriend (substitute Colleen Camp’s Ann Morris for Alice Meyer), the big boss (substitute Dean Jagger’s Dr. Land for Michiyama Ichiro) and his right hand man (substitute Hugh O’Brian’s Steiner for George Stephens). Let’s not forget about the star’s fake death (in this case he’s poisoned, instead of shot), as well as tracksuit-wearing motorcycle gangs.
Since it’s titled The True Game of Death, we get another cheap variation of the multi-level, Pagoda fight extravaganza:
1st floor: Shou Lung vs. Danny Inosanto wannabe. Complete with the black outfit, red headband and matching nunchucks. The wannabe even ends up getting killed the exact same way.
2nd floor: Shou Lung vs. Two Sumo Wrestlers. No explanation needed. Use your imagination.
3rd floor: Shou Lung vs. Black Guy. I would say “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wannabe,” but that’s not really the case. He’s basically a sweaty-looking boxer who wears stupid looking 1980′s shorts and a cape.
Essentially, True Game of Death is a rip-off of a knock-off. You have to give credit to those other Game of Deaths clones. As lame as New Game of Death and Enter the Game of Death were, at least they did their own thing; With True Game of Death, no effort or thought was put into anything. It boggles my mind that the filmmakers copied 99% of Clouse’s Game of Death, instead of trying (even just a tad) to follow Bruce Lee’s vision (his basic outline, even at the time, was well known).
True Game of Death was supposedly made in 1981, but it’s so low budget and produced so awfully, that it looks and feels a lot older. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the majority of Bruceploitation films are cheap, but trust me, this one is worse. It drags, the main music sucks (they play it way too much and insert it in the most out-of-place areas) and the fight scenes are dull as hell.
As far as Bruce Lee clones go, Bruce Hsao Lung (aka Lung Tien-Hsiang) didn’t do a bad job. He’s no Bruce Li, but he does lie somewhere between Dragon Lee and Bruce Le (that’s not necessarily a compliment). Let’s put it this way, I’ve seen worse.
The real Bruce Lee does appear, but he appears via stock footage, clips from his movies and actual funeral footage (including his corpse). Bruce’s Kowloon Tong house is even spliced in to make it look like the main characters live there.
As a kid, I remember renting True Game of Death on VHS (Master Arts Video). The DVD version I recently watched (Fortune 5 DVD) has a lot more footage, which includes: Excessive nudity (bush and all), an extended nightclub sequence, and a slightly different opening shot. The VHS version had the same Bruce Lee stock footage, only in different areas.
You know what? Who cares about the different versions. They all suck. True Game of Death is not one of the worst Bruceploitation movies ever made, it IS the worst.
Thanks to Ian Whittle for the tip about Lung Tien-Hsiang.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 0/10