When director Robert Clouse took over production of Bruce lee’s game of death, he brought on-board an array of Hollywood talent. American character actor Mel Novak starred as the hitman ‘stick’, one of the film’s more memorable villain’s who also goes one on one with Bruce Lee double, Kim Tai Jung.
Mel is a former baseball player and now ordained minister who is known for his roles opposite some of Hollywood’s toughest guy’s and chats here about his time working on Game of Death.
How did you get involved with Game of Death ?
Robert Clouse, who directed me in “Black Belt Jones” loved what I did for him in that film. Especially doing all of my fights and stunts. Not many actors do this. He told me about Game of Death, and that he had a role for me. Months later the Producer Andre Morgan called me to advise me when I would go to Hong Kong. A good deal was worked out & I played Stick, the Assassin.
What are some of your favourite memories of working on the film?
It was great working with Hugh O’Brien & Dean Jaggar…also Coleen Camp. The Korean martial artist looked liked Bruce Lee and I did all of my fight with him, from 8pm to 8am. The main camerman told me that he and Director Clouse rode back to the hotel after the 12 hour fight scene together. He said that Bob Clouse told him “Mel gave me more than I hoped for. I am so glad I cast him.” You see, Andre Morgan & Raymond Chow, Executive Producer, wanted a big name for the role but Robert Clouse believed in me.
Do you have any stories to share from that time?
I was in Hong Kong for seven weeks. During the long fight scene, the Korean could not get a kick right and the Director was getting ticked. I told him and the interpreter to kick me in the stomach but watch my ribs. They put the rain machine on…action…and he slipped, kicking me in the ribs. I went down. The two Special Effects guys from the states said, “Are you ok?” I said, “I just got kicked in the ribs and you ask if I’m OK? They said that his four friends were laughing, thinking it was funny, which ticked me off. I told them to watch. Next shot I was to swing and miss. Well, I popped him on his forehead, knocking him 25 feet…broke my little knuckle. I told the interpreter that if I see those four laughing again that I will pop him on the other side. Never had another problem. ha.
Did you ever meet the real Bruce Lee?
I met him briefly when he was doing The Green Hornet. There will NEVER be another like Bruce Lee. Of course, he had passed away by the time I worked on Game of Death.
Did you keep in touch with anyone after the film wrapped?
I was at Hugh O’Brian’s birthday party recently. Jaggar passed on. Haven’t seen Coleen for a while or Bob Wall.
Are you still recognised for your part in Game of Death ?
Yes, I am constantly asked for pix and interviews as it is a cult film that most everyone has seen. I also get letters and cards. Even in the prisons that I’ve ministered in, they know that I played Stick. They had a World Premiere at Chinese Grauman Theatre. That was cool. I had over 100 asking for autographs. I always put, “God loves you.”