Tag: Bruce Lee


How The Friendship Between Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Led To Their Iconic Fight Scene

January 1, 2021
Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Game of Death

In 1972 Bruce Lee started production on Game of Death. In addition to writing, producing and directing, Lee also starred in the film as Hai Tien. His character would fight his way up through five levels of a pagoda filled with deadly martial artists and collect the treasure at the top. During filming, Lee took a break to star in Enter the Dragon. Unfortunately, Lee passed away before production could resume, with most of the film unfinished.

Game of Death: Bruce Lee vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Credit: Concord Productions / Columbia Pictures)

Of the footage that was filmed, the highlight is undoubtedly the fight with Mantis, played by Lee’s student and NBA Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. An iconic fight featuring a screen legend, but also a collaboration between friends.

The Tower From Power

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the LA Lakers in '78
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the LA Lakers in ’78 // Credit: Focus On Sport / Getty Images

Even those that don’t follow Basketball, will likely recognise Abdul-Jabbar’s name. Regarded as one of the best NBA players, he was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) six times. Establishing himself as one of the league’s top scorers with his signature “Skyhook“, he played 20 seasons, 18 of which he helped his team to the playoffs and reached the final of 10. He currently ranks second on the list of “Greatest NBA Players of All Time” (Behind Michael Jordan). Off the court, he has made several cameos in film and TV, such as Airplane!, and written several pieces on issues like race and religion. In 2012, he became a cultural ambassador for the US.

Whilst studying at UCLA, he took up martial arts in his spare time. A friend recommended he studied with Lee and introduced them. They quickly formed a strong friendship in addition to their student/teacher relationship over the 4 years they trained together. Abdul-Jabbar credits this training as the reason he was able to play with so few injuries over his 20-year career. They bonded over their shared philosophies, and desire to see better representation in media. He recently criticised Lee’s portrayal in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, mentioning that Lee always turned down challengers as he had nothing to prove.

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the set of Game of Death
Bruce Lee & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the set of Game of Death // Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Lee, who became known to American audiences for his role as Kato in The Green Hornet, had to fight to use his martial arts skills on the show. When he was allowed to use them, he was too fast for the cameras and had to fight in slow motion. The series was cancelled after one season and growing frustrated with playing supporting roles, he returned to Hong Kong. Kato proved to be the star of the show there, and he used this as leverage to star in The Big Boss and Fists Of Fury which were both huge hits. This gave him complete control over Way Of The Dragon as writer, director, producer and choreographer. Along with increased control, the film also got a US release. His battle with Chuck Norris is regarded as one of the best in martial arts and film history.

Next Lee began work on Game of Death, although this would be postponed to allow him to star in Enter The Dragon. Six days before it’s release, Lee passed away, the film became one of the highest-grossing of 1973 and sparked a wave of martial arts tv shows. However, he had only filmed some parts of Game of Death. It was completed, controversially, using an (unconvincing) look-alike and double. Due to Lee’s death and the lack of footage, the plot is vastly different from the original project.

Game of Death

Bruce Lee - Game of Death Poster
Despite only appearing in 11 minutes worth of footage, Lee is still given top billing // Credit: Golden Harvest, 1978

The original plot was much simpler and would feature Lee’s character Hai Tien battling through a pagoda. Each floor is guarded by skilled opponents, with a treasure at the top. The film would follow Hai as he was forced to enter the pagoda and battle his way up the five floors.

Most of the guardians were to be played by friends and students of Lee’s, along with Abdul-Jabbar, roles were also planned for Taky Kimura, Dan Inosanto and Robert Baker. Before production was paused, scenes for the third, fourth and fifth floors were filmed. The film was intended to showcase Lee’s personal philosophies of martial arts, with each fighter being defeated with a distinctive weakness or flaw. With such creative control, Lee chose his former students roles himself.

Lee is still regarded as one the most influential martial artists ever, and responsible for introducing martial arts films to a much wider audience, subsequently launching the careers of stars like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Despite the final film being unfinished, the fight with his former student is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade

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Weapon of Choice: Iconic Weapons in Movies

January 13, 2020
Leatherface - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Whether you’re a hero or villain you need a great weapon to help you vanquish your foes. And cinema is full of amazing weaponry. So, today we’re going to look at seven iconic movie weapons, who wielded them and their real-world origins.

Lightsaber (Star Wars Franchise)

The weapon of the most powerful beings in the galaxy far far away, the Sith and the Jedi. Many famous Jedi and Sith have wielded the multi-coloured laser swords. Including Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, his son Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, and Rey. George Lucas decided to include a futuristic sword in the original Star Wars as a symbol of honour and chivalry. And with only a 4×5 camera flash attachment (the hilt), sticks wrapped in reflective material (the blade); the hum of a projector and the buzz captured from a TV set (the sound effects) Lucas and company birthed arguably the most famous movie weapon of all time.

Vader and Luke’s lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back [Source: Arbin Instruments]

Freddy Krueger’s glove (Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise)

Horror films have created several iconic weapons, some of which we will get into later. But horrors most inventively creepy killing implement is Freddy Krueger’s Razor Glove. Envisioned by director Wes Craven as a throwback to mankind’s primal fear of claws grafted onto modern equipment, not only is Freddy’s glove inventive but its very look is surreal and frightening. Perfectly fitting with the story’s nightmarish aesthetic.

Freddy Krueger's iconic glove
Freddy Krueger’s iconic glove [Source: NME.com]

Nunchaku (Bruce Lee Movies)

This traditional Okinawan martial arts training weapon has become a staple of martial arts movies specifically because of Bruce Lee. Bruce used Nunchaku in several of his movies (Enter the Dragon, Way of the Dragon & Game of Death). He wielded them with such speed, grace, and effectiveness that they were transformed in the public’s mind from mere training implements into incredible weapons in their own right.

Bruce Lee's nunchaku in Game of Death
Bruce Lee’s nunchaku in Game of Death [credit: Columbia Pictures / Sony Entertainment]

The Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

The MCU needed to give its ultimate villain Thanos a weapon that would make an impression on audiences after ten years of build-up. Made of Uru metal, forged by the dwarves of Nidavellir, with a design ripped straight from the original comic and armed with the infinity stones that collectively give the wearer the ability to do practically anything, including wiping out half of all life in the universe, the Infinity Gauntlet is, without doubt, the most destructive weapon on this list.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet [credit: Disney / Marvel Entertainment]

Chainsaw (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise)

Employing household tools as weapons is a common practice in slasher movies, and this is one of the movies to thank for that. Director Tobe Hooper originally thought of the idea to use a chainsaw as his movie’s weapon when he was wondering how to get out of the busy store and saw a chainsaw in the hardware section. One thing’s certain, audiences have never looked at chainsaws the same way since.

Leatherface's Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface’s Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Syfy Wire]

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (Monty Python & The Holy Grail)

In 1975, the Pythons gifted us with possibly the silver screens silliest weapon. When confronted with the dreaded Rabbit of Caerbannog, King Arthur and his knights use the Holy Hand Grenade, originally used by Saint Atilla, to destroy the beast. Shaped like the Sovereigns Orb of the United Kingdom there is no better weapon to destroy your beastly foes and satirize religion.

The Holy Hand Grenade - Monty Python & The Holy Grail
The Holy Hand Grenade [Source: Addicted to Quack]

Revolver (Western Genre)

Everyone loves westerns and the one weapon that typifies the western is the revolver. Patented by Samuel Colt (later developed by multiple companies in the 1800s) as a singlehanded firearm, that can be fired several times without reloading. The revolver has become a symbol of the old west gunslinger. A weapon of great destructive capabilities that requires a keen eye and steady hand to master. No Mexican standoff is complete without one.

Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers
Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers [Source: AMC]

So ends my list of seven iconic movie weapons. Be sure to fire your suggestions for great movie weapons I missed into the comments.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

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