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The Bruce Lee film that featured his real corpse

Bruce Lee was one of those rare icons who took the global stage by storm, transforming into a phenomenon that would influence generation after generation of new fans long after his untimely demise. One of the most respected martial artists in history, Lee took it upon himself to expose Western audiences to Eastern culture which resulted in the widespread popularity of films about the subject.

Lee wasn’t just revered by fans but by famous colleagues such as Chuck Norris, who once said this in an interview with Black Belt: “The truth is Lee was a formidable opponent with a chiselled physique and technique. I totally enjoyed sparring and just spending time with him. He was as charismatic and friendly in the ring and at home as he was on film.”

Norris also noted that a major element of Lee’s power was the sharpness of his mind. In the same interview, Norris said that his speed and his intimidating intelligence contributed to his strength: “His confidence and wit were dazzling, and sometimes even debilitating to others,” he said. “Lee was lightning fast, very agile and incredibly strong for his size.”

Apart from films such as Way of the Dragon, Lee was also known for his television appearances in shows like The Green Hornet. According to the reports of his other co-stars like Wende Wagner, Lee was an obsessive trainer who devoted almost all of his time to the honing of his craft. While remembering his on-set behaviour, Wagner said: “He was constantly training. He was very, very diligent in that he was always working out and training and always in motion.”

Before his tragic death in 1973, Lee had shot 100 minutes of footage for a Hong Kong action film called Game of Death which starred him as a highly skilled martial artist who had to steal an ancient relic in order to save his siblings. After his death, Robert Clouse took over the project and altered the script to fashion it into a revenge story about the mafia. It was released in 1978 and was a commercial success even though it failed to impress many critics.

Although only about 11 minutes of Lee’s original film were used by Clouse in the 1978 version, it did feature a lot of stock footage from Lee’s previous fights in other films. Strangely, Clouse also decided to use actual footage of Lee’s dead body in an open casket for a scene which involved the main character faking his own death in order to escape the clutches of the mafia.

Lee’s original idea about stealing a highly valued treasure by traversing different levels of a pagoda with differently skilled bosses has had a huge impact on various industries but especially the world of gaming. Labelled as the “arcade movie,” the film has influenced fighting video games and has been referenced to and celebrated in various films like Kill Bill as well as anime such as Cowboy Bebop.