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The Big Boss / Fist of Fury / The Way of the Dragon / Game of Death


Bruce is loose ... again!

Rod Lott May 6th, 2013

Let us now praise a giant of action cinema: Bruce Lee. It seems like a good time, given Shout! Factory’s reissuing of four of the man’s marital-arts titles via a pair of double-feature DVDs: one with 1971’s The Big Boss and 1972’s Fist of Fury, the other with 1972’s The Way of the Dragon and 1978’s partly posthumous Game of Death. In total, that’s three-point-two-five good movies.

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The first two, I forever have confused and will continue to confuse with one another. Both are directed by Lo Wei and boast cartoonish credit sequences. But only one includes flying dogs, and that’s The Big Boss (also known as Fists of Fury, plural, to further complicate things).

That film has him uncovering a murderous drug ring in the ice factory where he works. Because his character has sworn off fighting, Lee doesn’t get to really show his stuff for a while, but the wait is worth it. The climactic ice house fight is good ’n’ bloody.

Other than Enter the Dragon, of course (whose rights are with Warner Home Video), I consider The Way of the Dragon to be Lee’s finest hour and a half. This adventure sends him to Rome to protect the Chinese restaurant of a friend of a friend from a steady barrage of neighborhood thugs. (Compare this to his protection of his school from rivals in Fist of Fury to get a sense of how limited chopsocky plots can be.) The final scene, which pits Lee against some guy named Chuck Norris within the Colisseum, is quite something to see.

The same cannot be said for Game of Death, which Lee had shot only portions of when he died in 1973 at the untimely age of 32. Naturally, those sequences are its best parts. With Lee donning the now-iconic yellow tracksuit, he ascends a building floor by floor, battling bad guys all the way (including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!)

But the rest is an abomination, using obvious body doubles to attempt to salvage a story. It doesn’t work — as in, at all — but inadvertently kicked off an entire phenomenon of wannabe flicks known as Bruceploitation films.

Shout! Factory’s double-feature discs arrive featureless, but they remain an excellent value. You can find cheaper versions out there, but not at this level of A/V quality.   —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
I Am Bruce Lee Blu-ray review      



 
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