The True Game of Death (1979, directed by Steve Harries and Chen Tien-Tai)


After the death of Bruce Lee, the world cries out for another great martial arts film star.  Fortunately, Hsao Lung (Lung Tien-Hsiang) answers the call.  Hsao Lung bears a passing resemblance to Bruce and whenever he trains or looks at a magazine, he imagines stock footage from old Bruce Lee movies, suggesting that Bruce Lee’s spirit has possessed Hsao Lung’s body.

The mafia, led by George (George Stephens), wants a piece of Hsao Lung’s films but Hsao Lung refuses.  The mob then forces George’s wife, Alice (Alice Meyer), to slip a powerful drug into his coffee.  They say that it will only put Hsao Lung into a coma.  Instead, it kills him!

Soon, a new chef comes to work for Alice.  The chef looks, sounds, and moves exactly like Hsao Lung but he wears a fake beard and oversized eye glasses.  After Alice explains the circumstances of what led to Hsao Lung’s death (which means that the audience watches a flashback to a scene that happened ten minutes prior), the chef removes his beard and glasses.  It’s Hsao Lung!  He’s not dead!  Everyone is stunned except for the people watching the movie because, after all, Hsao Lung’s entire disguise consisted of glasses and a fake goatee.

The bad guys kidnap Alice and this, of course, leads to Hsao Lung putting on a yellow track suit and fighting several villains in a pagoda.  It’s basically just the end of The Game of Death all over again, except there’s no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this time.  It should be noted that the final fight scenes are well-staged and a hundred times better than anything else in this movie.  Hsao Lung fights four motorcyclists, two sumo wrestlers, and a boxer.  The boxer and Hsao Lung discuss the philosophy of combat before fighting, just like Bruce Lee and Kareem did.

Even by the standards of the Bruceploitation genre, The True Game of Death is a shoddy production.  The plot makes no sense and Lung Tien-Hsiang is good in the fight scenes but otherwise, he can’t come close to matching Bruce Lee’s screen presence.  It’s not a good sign that the best part of The True Game of Death is an almost shot-for-shot rip-off of the best part of the original Game of Death.  Outside of the closing fight scenes, my favorite part of The True Game of Death is that, before Alice gives Hsao Lung the poison, random gangsters keep showing up everywhere she goes and reminding her to do it.  Even though he’s usually no more than a few feet away, Hsao Lung never picks up on it.

The main thing that The True Game of Death has going for it is that it’s a Bruceploitation film and will therefore only be seen by fans of that very specific genre, the majority of whom will probably have a good idea of what they’re about to get even before the movie starts.  Bruceploitation is a genre that is built on some very specific tropes and The True Game of Death doesn’t waver from a single one of them.  It doesn’t demand much from its audience and if you stick with it, you’ll get a pretty cool fight at the end of the movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.