Robert Clouse (March 6, 1928 – February 4, 1997) was an American film director and producer, known primarily for his work in the action/adventure and martial arts genres. He died on February 4, 1997 in Oregon of kidney failure.
Clouse directed Bruce Lee in Lee's only English-speaking film starring role, 1973's Enter the Dragon.
After Lee's death, Clouse attempted to finish Lee's incomplete film Game of Death and released it in 1978 with a new storyline and cast. Other projects included Black Belt Jones (1974), Darker than Amber (1970), China O'Brien (1990), Jackie Chan's The Big Brawl (1980), Gymkata (1985), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), among others.
Before becoming a director, Clouse worked as a still photographer for CBS Television and served in the military. He was also completely deaf, relying on assistant directors later on in his career to verify that actors had delivered their lines correctly.
Short films (1960s)
Clouse was also nominated, twice, for an Oscar for his short films The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes (1964) and The Cadillac (1962). At the 1964 Cannes Film Festival, his film The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes was also nominated for the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film. For The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes, Clouse was awarded a Golden Globe and an award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Clouse made his feature directorial debut with Darker Than Amber (1970) (based on the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name) and starring Rod Taylor as the protagonist, Travis McGee. He then followed that film with Dreams of Glass, a film which was also completed in 1970.
In 1971, Clouse directed an episode of the 70s action-crime TV show Ironside, entitled “Gentle Oaks” (1971). Ironside also featured Bruce Lee as Leon Soo, a Karate/Aikido/Judo instructor in a martial arts school (in the episode “Tagged for Murder” (1967)), an icon with whom Clouse would later collaborate for much of his career. In 1973, he directed Enter the Dragon. After that film, Clouse directed Black Belt Jones (1974). The rest of the 1970s for Clouse would yield the films Golden Needles (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1975) (director and screenwriter), The Pack (1977) (director and screenwriter), The Amsterdam Kill (1977) (director and screenwriter), Game of Death (1978), The London Connection (1979), and two episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.
Enter The Dragon
In 1973, Clouse collaborated with Bruce Lee and directed his most iconic, immortal and memorable film, Enter the Dragon (1973), working with Jim Kelly for the first time, which he would collaborate again with in his following film, Black Belt Jones (1974). Enter the Dragon was well-received by critics upon its release, grossed an estimated $25,000,000 in North America, and an estimated $90,000,000 worldwide on a tight budget of just $850,000. It was also considered by many as one of the best films of 1973.
In 1999, Enter the Dragon grossed more than $200,000,000 worldwide and in 2004, Enter the Dragon was deemed “culturally significant” in the United States and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Clouse would collaborate with several actors from Enter the Dragon on his later films, including Bruce Lee (at least archival footage of Bruce Lee, on Game of Death (1978)), Jim Kelly on Black Belt Jones (1974), Robert Wall on both Game of Death (1978)) and Black Belt Jones (1974), Keye Luke (who provided the voice of Mr. Han in Enter the Dragon (1973)) in The Amsterdam Kill (1977), and Bolo Yeung in Ironheart (1992).
Game of Death
In 1978, Clouse re-teamed with Bruce Lee again for Game of Death (1978) (director and screenwriter), having to finish the footage in creative ways after Lee's death. For that film, he made a trip to Hong Kong, where Golden Harvest's Raymond Chow hired him in order to direct a “comeback” film for Lee, despite the fact that Lee had died in 1973, five years earlier. Clouse was provided incomplete footage from Lee's original version of Game of Death that had already been filmed, but ultimately made the creative decision to use a small portion of that footage, primarily due to the fact that the film's plot and story had been re-done many times in a multitude of Hong Kong cinema films after Lee's passing. By enlisting some of Lee's friends, including Bob Wall and Sammo Hung, editing in footage from other Bruce Lee movies (as well as using the originally shot Game of Death footage), and relying on a number of Bruce Lee stand-ins and look-alikes, Clouse was able to make the film.
During the 1980s, Clouse directed a TV movie entitled The Kids Who Knew Too Much (1980) (based on one of the episodes he directed for the TV show, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) and decided to take a chance with Jackie Chan for The Big Brawl (1980) (director and screenwriter), which Chan stated was a failure because he didn't get a chance to direct the action scenes the way he wanted to.
In the 1990s, Clouse also directed Force: Five (1981; which he co- wrote). He followed that film with Deadly Eyes (1982) and also directed an episode of The Master called “Max” (1984). His last film of the 1980s was Gymkata (1985).
In the 1990s, his final decade of directing films, Clouse helmed China O'Brien (1990), and its direct-to-video sequel, China O'Brien II (1990). Clouse's final film was Ironheart (1992), a vehicle for Bolo Yeung, and which was created as a showcase for the film's producer, Britton K. Lee.
Clouse was one of the directors of the television series The Master, which was broadcast in 1984 and featured a ninja called “Okasa”, a recurring character played by Sho Kosugi. The episode of The Master he directed was entitled “Max” (1984). He directed episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in the late 70s and early 80s - “The Kids Know Too Much” (1980) and “The Omega Connection” (1979). In the 70s, he also directed an episode of Ironside entitled “Gentle Oaks” (1971).
Clouse wrote the screenplay (or story) for most of his films, including Dreams of Glass (1970), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), The Pack (1977), The Amsterdam Kill (1977), Game of Death (1978; also credited as Jan Spears), The Big Brawl (1980), Force: Five (1981), China O'Brien (1990) and China O'Brien II (1990). He wrote the screenplays for Something Evil (1972). and Happy Mother's Day, Love George (1973).
Clouse died on February 4, 1997 of kidney failure.
Books (Bruce Lee biography)
Clouse also wrote and published a biography on Lee, entitled Bruce Lee: The Biography which was published in 1989 by Unique Publications. The book's description recites “Finally, the truth can be told about Bruce Lee's remarkable life and tragic death. Close personal friend and director of Bruce's greatest movie, Robert Clouse, reveals his first-hand memories of Bruce and includes interviews with Bruce's family, friends and colleagues in order to tell us the true story of how Bruce lived and died. Also included are numerous photos, many never before made available to the public.” The book was also used as one of the source materials for Rob Cohen's film, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993).