Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights (1976, directed by John Law Ma)

Also known as Bruce Lee & I, this films stars Betty Ting Pei as herself.  At the time that the film was made, Betty was one of the most vilified women in the world.  An actress who was best known for appearing in softcore sexploitation, Betty was a “friend” of Bruce Lee’s.  It was while visiting Betty in her apartment that Bruce announced that he had a terrible headache.  Betty gave Bruce Equagesic, a powerful type of aspirin, to help him deal with his headache.  Bruce then fell asleep and, as we all know, never woke up.

Not surprisingly, after Bruce’s death, Betty was at the subject of a lot of unfavorable speculation and unsavory rumors.  Some Bruce fans accused her of poisoning Bruce, either accidentally or on the orders of the organized crime figures who wanted to take over Bruce’s career.  There was also speculation as to the nature of Bruce’s relationship with Betty.  Bruce was married and had two children and, after he died, he was recast as almost a saintly figure.  Betty’s claim that she was Bruce’s mistress did not fit in with that new reputation.

Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights opens with Bruce (played by Danny Lee, who later won a critical respect by appearing in several John Woo films) filming a fight scene before then going to Betty’s apartment where, after the first of the movie’s many sex scenes, Bruce ends up dead in Betty’s bed.  With both the press and even people in the streets accusing Betty of being evil, Betty goes to a bar and, while drowning her sorrows, tells the bartender about her life with Bruce Lee.

In Betty’s telling, she knew and loved Bruce long before he became a star.  She met him when she was just an innocent schoolgirl and he saved her from some thugs in the streets.  Later, they both met again while pursuing their film careers and they became lovers.  Betty felt guilty about carrying on an affair with a married man but Bruce didn’t care.  Bruce mostly cared about smoking weed, getting into fights, and getting laid.

This is one of the stranger Bruceploitation films.  Most Bruceploitation films presented Bruce as being a real-life super hero who was either killed by his enemies or who faked his death so he could protect his family.  This one presents Bruce as essentially being a petulant and cocky asshole who didn’t really care about anyone but himself.  Some of that may be because the film was produced by the Shaw Brothers, with whom Bruce famously refused to work with early in his career.  (It’s rumored, though, that Bruce was thinking of leaving Golden Harvest for the Shaw Brothers at the time of his death.)  The other reason why Bruce comes across as being so unlikable in this movie is that it’s told from the point of view of Betty, who was often accused of having corrupted Bruce and of not being worthy of him.  This film makes the argument that Bruce was not worthy of Betty.

Once you get past all of the controversy about how this film presents Bruce Lee and his relationship with Betty Ting Pei, it’s still not a very good movie.  It’s too slow and they’re aren’t enough big fights.  (When Bruce does fight, it’s usually to protect Betty from an unwanted admirer.)  Bruce does don the yellow track suit but it’s just so he can debate philosophy with Betty.  We expect more from our Bruceploitation films.

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