Bruce Lee was on the cusp of superstardom when he died on Friday, 20 July 1973. You could argue – and with no small amount of justification – that he was already a legend at that stage, but the premiere of his biggest film project yet, Enter the Dragon, was still a month away, and although hindsight is always 20/20, it’s generally accepted that the martial arts action extravaganza would have catapulted Lee’s career into the stratosphere.
Sadly, it was not to be. Poring over a script at the apartment of his colleague and mistress, Betty Ting Pei, Lee complained of a headache. Pei gave him a painkiller and Lee took a nap. He did not wake up.
The official cause of death is attributed to a cerebral oedema – swelling of the brain – brought on by an allergic reaction to the medicine Pei gave Lee. But for many, such a simple, random explanation is not enough. How could this man, a paragon of physical performance, die in such a prosaic manner? Surely there’s more to it?
The new documentary The Death of Bruce Lee, seeks to put the mystery surrounding the Dragon’s demise to rest at last. At the behest of Bruce’s younger brother Robert, now a musician in Los Angeles (one of his songs is “The Ballad of Bruce Lee”), retired Hong Kong police detective Philip Chan re-examines the case of Bruce’s death, running through a number of popular theories in order to pin down the real cause.