Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kill Bill and Miltonic Allusion: Game of Death

Tarantino. Not stealing things. Re-interpreting. Tarantino smart like Milton not dumb like Rob Liefeld.


[Bruce Lee being awesome in Game of Death. He is in a yellow jumpsuit with black stripes down the side. You can see it here: ]


[Thurman on her way to the House of the Blue Leaves in a yellow motorcycle suit with black stripes down the sides. You can see it in the trailer]

This one is maybe the most famous and obvious of the Kill Bill allusions, but it is also pretty central to the House of the Blue Leaves, and a bit more complex than may first appear.

Thurman wears the outfit that Bruce Lee wears in Game of Death. Game of Death is a TERRIBLE movie. The whole movie is built around 11 minutes of footage of Lee from another movie he was unable to complete before dying. Lee's character is played by more than one other person in the course of the film, and the filmmakers take every opportunity to shoot conversations from far away and have the fake Bruce Lee's wear glasses, and beards, and dress like old men, or be in bandages after plastic surgery. Stock footage of Lee is intercut but it sticks out as the change in film quality is really obvious. Chuck Norris is in the movie sort of -- they just incorporated footage from Enter the Dragon to sort of shoehorn him in there without his permission. The character fakes his own death (he is an actor, basically Bruce Lee, trying to get away from some kind of mob-syndacate thing that is after him) and footage from Lee's actual funeral is used. At the worst point in the movie the main character is at his dressing table in front of a mirror and we see an over the shoulder shot of him -- and on the mirror they literally took like a cardboard cutout of Lee's face and put it on the mirror to make it look like that was the reflection of the guy in the chair.

There is also a weird moment in the movie when Bruce Lee's character is filming a scene and is shot with what is supposed to be a prop gun, but it has a real bullet in it, which is how Bruce Lee's son would die when filming The Crow.

The clip above is ACTUAL BRUCE LEE fighting, and it is pretty awesome. I could have shown you the scene where he fights Kareem Abdul Jabar, which is pretty cool, but this one has the better fighting.

The outfit has become iconic and is alluded to in lots of things, including Shaolin Soccer, Jet Li's HIgh Risk, and Revenge of the Nerds. It is also an unlockable outfit in a lot of video games, including Dead or Alive 4, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, and Street Fighter 6. (Wikipedia -- I use Wikipedia and The Internet Movie Database for a lot of the trivia you see in these posts).

The important thing to keep in mind about Tarantino's use of the outfit is that is does not simply mean "Bruce Lee." It means "Ultimate Bruce Lee," Bruce Lee at the top of his game, as he was when he died. This is important because there are many Bruce Lee projects being alluded to in the House of the Blue Leaves, and they are not all equal.

It is also worth pointing out that in the original project, the movie the Bruce Lee footage was intended to be a part of, he is climbing a tower defeating opponents who are weak because they rely on a single fighting style, whereas Lee combines them into a new whole. A bit like what Tarantino does as he combines styles to make a powerful film. You can see why he might be attracted to Lee for the battle with influence that is a big part of the House of the Blue Leaves sequence in Kill Bill.


James said...

"Wikipedia -- I use Wikipedia and The Internet Movie Database for a lot of the trivia you see in these posts"
Yeah, I'm guessing you had a roman numeral misread - Street Fighter currently only goes up to 4.

I want to play that Castlevania game, now.

Mutantville Productions said...

Hey Geoff - Game of Death is interesting because it was supposed to be a combative metaphor for Bruce Lee's fighting philosophies. Bruce is supposed to represent the "living martial artist" that is not bound by tradition and patterns - but is instead flexible and able to adapt to any situation. This point is illustrated when we see Bruce use the thin flexible reed to fight with at one point. As he passes through each level of the pagoda he faces a master of a different style - but through combat he reveals how each adversary is limited by the techniques and traditions that they are bound to. He makes his way to the top to face the "unknown" as represented by Kareem Abdul Jabar in one of my all time favorite fight scenes. So in relation to Kill Bill, The Bride has become the living individual free from restrictions and able to adapt to any situation as needed. May I recommend the amazing documentary Bruce Lee: The Warrior's Way as it restores all of Bruce's original footage which consisted solely of fight scenes but also explains the philosophy behind it all.


Geoff Klock said...

James -- that is probably totally what I did.

Streebo -- Thanks! I will check that out.

hcduvall said...

This is most building off of Streebo's comment, but you can also look up Jeet Kune Do, which was the "style" that Bruce Lee created and what he was focused on before he died. The quotes around the word aren't to question it, but more that it was a hybrid style, or philosophy than a traditionally bound school of martial arts. Form wise a lot of it is similar to Wing Chun, what he was first trained in, and what I'm guessing is probably having a popularity bump since a few movies about Ip Man, Bruce Lee's master, have been coming out in the past few years.