Why Lee-mendous: In his book Planet Hong Kong, David Bordwell writes that the camera loved Lee only slightly more than he loved himself.
Therefore, it is unsurprising to learn Chuck Norris was initially reluctant to accept Lee’s invitation to play a martial arts assassin brought into silence Lee’s character Tang Lung. A world karate champion, Norris clearly didn’t want to see him and his chosen martial arts seemingly defeated out of hand.
Lee was true to his word that this would be an evenly matched fight, and the result is a scintillating battle between two warriors, set against the backdrop of Rome’s Coliseum (or a stage replica at Golden Harvest studio).
Norris actually gets in the first kicks and punches before Lee turns the tables (beginning with a cheeky tug on Norris’ voluminous chest hair).
Also directing, Lee allows the camera to get amidst the action, with POV shots and crash zooms. The outcome is never in doubt, but Lee has to earn it and as befits the surroundings this is gladiatorial combat at its best.
Interesting-Lee: Norris always claimed the fight scene was shot in the actual Coliseum, despite it clearly being an artificially lit set.