Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Unmade Movies: Bruce Lee vs. James Bond

                                                  IT's LEE!

                                                       IT'S LAZENBY!

                                                       IT's BRUCE Vs. BOND!!!

This was to be the tag line for planned movie starring to 2 Action Movie Stars that never happened. It start on July 20, 1973 when Australian actor GEORGE LAZENBY, who gained fame as JAMES BOND 007 in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE in 1969 (replacing 007 favourite SEAN CONNERY), flown to HONG KONG to have Dinner with martial arts action movie star BRUCE LEE & GOLDEN HARVEST Producer RAYMOND CHOW to discuss playing a role in LEE's next movie, THE GAME OF DEATH.

Lazenby, 007

Raymond Chow & George Lazenby

This was to be 1 of 4 movies LAZENBY signed for GOLDEN HARVEST at $10,000 US per picture, a large pay cut from his normal film salary. LAZENBY's belief was that co-starring with LEE in these films would help his career, which was on the slide after quiting the part of JAMES BOND 007 in 1971's DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (a part of a 7 picture deal worth Million$), opting instead to make 1971's UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (which he would have star with rock legend JIMI HENDRIX, but he died of a drug overdose before filming), a decision he would come to regret.

George Lazenby
LEE and LAZENBY's next movie after THE GAME OF DEATH was to be called THE SHRINE OF ULTIMATE BLISS that interested me the most. Set for a release sometime in 1974, was to be co-produce and distribute by WARNER BROS. (who also co-produced ENTER THE DRAGON), giving them a large worldwide release, a $10,000,000 production budget and a $10,000,000 worldwide marketing budget.This would make it the biggest budget HONG KONG movie at the time.WARNER BROS. forecasts for the film's worldwide box office gross were around $400,000,000, based on what LEE's previous two films grossed. 

The Plot follows a HONG KONG cop played by LEE, investigating the spread of a mysterious addictive drug that acts like an aphrodisiac and a hallucenogen on anyone who takes it. When his own sister falls under its influence, he hunts down the man behind the drug trade, the evil billionaire Mr. Chin. At the same time, a Australian officer played by LAZENBY, has also been sent to stop Chin's drug empire. Together, they battle the drug kingpin's dealers and henchmen.

Bruce Lee in Action

Not only was the movie to star LEE & LAZENBY, but also Japanese film star SONNY CHIBA, who is best known today for starring in director QUENTIN TARANTINO's 2003 movie KILL BILL Vol.1 as swordsmaster "Hattori Hanzo".

Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Sonny Chiba as the Street Fighter
GOLDEN HARVEST had SONNY CHIBA flown to HONG KONG to meet with both LEE & LAZENBY & have him sign the contract at a planned press conference to promote the film. At just about the very moment that CHIBA's plane was landing in HONG KONG, it was being announced that BRUCE LEE had died from an acute cerebral edema due to an allergic from the medication EQUAGESIC while in the apartment of Taiwanese actress BETTY TING PEI.

Bruce Lee & Betty Ting Pei

Actors James Coburn & Steve McQueen at Lee's funeral 
When the shock was over with and LEE place to rest, CHIBA now felt uncomfortable continuing with the project with LEE, decided not to do the film. CHIBA instead went on to make the film that would launch himself into international success, with 1974's STREET FIGHTER (infamous for getting an X-Rating just for its violence).

LAZENBY himself was bound by a contract to do the film, so GOLDEN HARVEST had him takeover LEE's lead role & HONG KONG actress ANGELA MAO (who is considered HONG KONG's 1st female Action Star, with 1971's LADY WHIRLWIND, aka DEEP THRUST) was cast in LAZENBY's old role.

Angela Mao

Meanwhile in the UNITED STATES, WARNER BROS. also felt that without BRUCE LEE's Starpower attached that the movie wasn't worth the financial risk also dropped out of the film, which cause producer RAYMOND CHOW to significantly scaled back the budget from $10,000,000 to $850,000. Still very high for a Hong Kong film at the time. CHOW & his GOLDEN HARVEST studio enlisted rival HONG KONG studio the SHAW BROS. run by producer RUN RUN SHAW as a co-producer to replace the departed WARNER BROS. with the film's huge production costs.

RAYMOND CHOW tried to beef up the film's box office appeal by trying to still link BRUCE LEE's name to the production by casting the now infamous actress BETTY TING PEI, HONG KONG martial arts actor SAMMO HUNG (who also co-starred with LAZENBY in THE MAN FROM HONG KONG) as a bit player & the film's fight choreographer, and one of GOLDEN HARVEST's best directors, HUANG FENG.

Actress Betty Ting Pei

Actor Sammo Hung

Director Huang Feng
THE SHRINE OF ULTIMATE BLISS, also known as STONER or HONG KONG HITMAN, was given a limited release (which did not include the U.S.) in 1974, the movie was better than most 1970s Hong Kong Martial Arts films at the time & very successful financially, estimated about $25 Million worldwide, but noway near what ENTER THE DRAGON made or what the film could of made if it had the starpower of LEE & CHIBA, a bigger budget, & a worldwide release (which would've included the U.S.).

LAZENBY's other two films he was to make with LEE, THE MAN FROM HONG KONG in 1975, & A QUEEN'S RANSOM in 1976 were made with HONG KONG actor JIMMY WANG YU in the BRUCE LEE roles. WANG YU starred in the classic 1967 film THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN, which was the first HONG KONG movie to make $1 Million at the Box Office and made JIMMY WANG YU HONG KONG's biggest star before BRUCE LEE arrived, who was now trying to reclaiming that throne with LEE gone.
The One Armed Swordsman

Bruce Lee & Jimmy Wang Yu 


Watching a DVD copy of the movie, I couldn't help but imagine what BRUCE could've brought to this role and how this would've effected his film career, good or bad. What other movies and roles he had in mind for the future?

Bruce Lee
Maybe LAZENBY would've broke out of the shadow of JAMES BOND 007 like SEAN CONNERY eventually did.

So many "What if's".

                                                                    ~ Rajadevilman74

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