This film was to be Bruce's crowning achievement, a film that would bring together some of the best martial artists in the world. It would also be much more philosophical than Bruce's three previous films.
The storyline is fantastic, Bruce and his two friends James Tien and Chieh Yuan enter a five floor pagoda, on each floor they battle a master of a different martial art, once each master is defeated they can progress up the stairs to the next level, simple enough...but these masters are incredibly skilled in their arts.
BUT each one of them has a weakness...
What Bruce intended to show in this film was that to survive you have to be able to adapt to the environment and be flexible otherwise you will be destroyed. Both James and Chieh although both good fighters are unable to adapt to each opponent and are destroyed on nearly reaching the top. Bruce on the other hand is able to adapt and successfully beats all the opponents showing his flexibility and incredible martial arts.
While all the pagoda level guardians are dressed up in their traditional martial arts suits, Bruce is dressed in a yellow and black catsuit, he wanted to show "Imagination rising about tradition".
When I first saw the '78 Clouse version, like so many others I believed that they had used an original storyline, but when I saw the Legend documentary and got a first glimpse of Inosanto, I knew I was wrong. Since then I've tried to piece this incredible puzzle together which has been great fun.
It's open to debate as to how much footage of this film really does exist and I'm sure more will arrive one day, whats been released is very little outdoor footage and the footage from the final three levels.
Outside of the Pagoda
What we see here is a few pagoda guardians teaching students their arts, Dan Inosanto is seen totally destroying a student with his Escrima sticks, and Chi Hon Tsoi using Hapkido on several students, theres one student who gets thrown quite a few times and his uniform is different to the others, as it has black lines on the jacket. This guy is rumoured to be Whang Ing Sik, the Japanese opponent from Way of the Dragon, he has also been seen in the outdoor Pagoda footage as a Pagoda guardian training students using yellow bags and roundhouses. A rumour about Whang Ing Sik's appearance in GOD was that Chi is tossing him due to betrayal, and that he helped Bruce in the pagoda. I really do hope that even more footage turns up because from what we've seen from this outdoor footage looks totally amazing. There has been photos of Bruce himself wearing a brown suit fighting Karate Guys outside and also pics of Bruce topless fighting inosanto with nunchakus, which of these are off camera training sessions and which are actual GOD scenes will for now remain unknown. Bruce is rumoured to have fought 50 Karate guys outside of the Pagoda before entering, led by a huge guy which could have been played by Yang Sze AKA Bolo Yeung.
The Temple of The Tiger
Pagoda level three, the below two floors were supposedly not filmed, but floor one was to be guarded by a Karate expert, maybe Whang Ing Sik or Bob Wall even. Floor two was guarded by an unknown fighter, but its rumoured that this guardian would have given Bruce the bruise under his right eye.
The guardian of this floor is Dan Inosanto, a master of Escrima and Nunchakus, this is by far the most my fave Bruce Lee Fight scene, the nunchaku duel is magnificent. This floor also contained a "lost" scene where Chieh Yuan grabbed an enormous log and attacked Inosanto with it, the footage is rumoured to be lost, although its been said that Dan Inosanto himself may have it. After being disarmed by Inosanto, he supposedly drops his sticks out of respect and attacks Chieh unarmed, he ends up being literally walked on and James attacks with a stick which appears to be broken (More unseen footage no doubt), Inosanto beats James around the head with his sticks and finally Bruce takes over, Bruce uses a chinese bako stick which is incredibly flexible, he circles Inosanto slashing a big bloody X into his forehead, all the time though Bruce is bending the bako telling him how much more flexible and alive the bako is. Inosanto now losing, goes for a pair of nunchakus, Bruce gestures for James to pass him the bag he had handed him earlier, James looks at Bruce in disgust and hands them to Chieh, the three guys aren't friends and maybe James feels somehow envious of Bruce. Bruce takes the nunchakus out of the bag that he got from Chieh and flashes out a wonderful display of nunchaku skills, they then duel to the death. Throughout the fight Bruce is teaching Inosanto about how he's spoilt by form and tradition. Inosanto hits Bruce in the face saying "How do you like that???", Bruce returns the gesture by smashing his own nunchakus into Inosanto's face an answering "How do YOU like that"???. Finally Inosanto is disarmed but won't give up and he attacks Bruce and ends up getting his neck broken, and the three fighters proceed to level four.
The Temple of the Dragon
This floor is guarded by Hapkido expert Chi Hon Tsoi, the room has a red light and Chi climbs up from his bed and opens the curtains and tells them that red is the mark of danger and they should turn back, Chieh thinking he's pretty capable of taking out Chi moves in for the kill and gets more than he bargained for. He's thrown around the room time after time, Bruce gestures for James to get stuck in which he does and also recieves a bit of a beasting. Chieh is thrown through a load of shelving and James is tossed about too. They both back off and let Bruce take over again. He steps slowly forward raising his hand before kicking Chi across the room, Chi begins to gain control with a couple of consecutive throws, but Bruce starting to use more flashy kicks against the throws puts him in control, James rushes in but his thrown out again by Chi. James tells Chieh to proceed to the next level, as he does Bruce holds him back. As they fight on Chieh unwisely runs up the stairs, seconds later he's thrown back down landing dead at the bottom of the stairs. James runs up the stairs to see what the hells up there and spots a huge 7'2 guy stood still in a long blue robe. This is basketball ball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar, he looks at James before side kicking a big hole in a near by punch bag. He attacks but is grabbed by the face and thrown back, he now realizes that he should have maybe not gone up the stairs. After being roundhoused, he gets up and tries to run up yet another set of stairs (There was supposedly a treasure up there which is why they're in the Pagoda in the first place), Jabbar grabs him and throws him across the room. Meanwhile Chi gets a roundhouse on Bruce and they battle on. As Chi gets knocked on his ass, plaster from the ceiling above starts to fall down and he knows that he now must hurry. Bruce manages to block Chi's next attack, picks him up and then breaks his back on his knee, looking extremely worn out, he climbs the stairs.
The Temple of the Unknown
Bruce reaches the Temple of the Unknown up on the 5th floor, as he gets to the top of the stairs, James's body flies clean over his head landing in a heap in the corner, Bruce turns and looks at Jabbar in amazement, the tall fighter calmly sits back in his rocking chair. Pondering for a second, Bruce rushes him but is kicked in the chest so hard that it leaves a huge foot print in his yellow jumpsuit, Jabbar climb from the chair and attacks with a fury of side kicks knocking Bruce down, Jabbar like Bruce uses no style at all and is therefore a dangerous adversary. As he kicks again, Bruce manages to grab his legs into a leg lock, but due to the enormous legs of Jabbar the hold is broken. They fight on until Jabbar throws Bruce onto a vase which shatters, and Jabbar tries to force Bruce's head onto the sharp pieces, but being strong, flexible and adaptable, he lifts his legs over his head and kicks Jabbar off. Bruce now begins to gain the upper hand beating Jabbar round the head and punching him in the nuts from behind, Jabbar begins to swing like mad with his fists but is too slow for Bruce who gets him to the floor and attempts to strangle him, once again he loses the hold and Jabbar throws a punch at Bruce which sends him crashing through a window. Light begins to shine through the window, which seems to bother Jabbar, stunned by the light Bruce slams his fist into Jabbars head several times before stamping on his foot. Hobbling back on one foot he swings at Bruce and misses and is downed once again by Bruce's awesome punching power. He then attempts three consecutive side kicks, on the third Bruce rushes him and takes him to the ground. Jabbar holds onto the stairs as the light shining through the window is weakening him, Bruce realizing this heads over to the window and breaks as many as he can, Jabbar totally hurt by the light hides behind the stairs, Bruce follows him kicking off his glasses, then he sees that Jabbar isn't human at all. He's some kind of vampire with red eyes, hence the dark room and sunglasses. Bruce then leaps at Jabbar hitting him in the head with a flying kick, on the ground again Bruce grabs hold of his neck and tries to break it again. With enough strength left, Jabbar picks up Bruce and slams him through a bed, but Bruce hands on, squeezing tighter and tighter and eventually...SNAP, he Breaks the big guys neck like a twiglet.
Look out for A Warriors Journey which came out in the UK on October the 8th 2001, it shows the 3 floors in a much more completed form. Check out the Warriors Journey Page on this site for more details.