Enter the Dragon (1973)

Don't think! FEEL. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

Everybody talks about how great Chuck Norris is.

Chuck Norris isn't so great.

He never had his picture on a bubblegum card, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubblegum card? How can you say someone is great if he hasn't had his picture on a bubblegum card?

In any case, he's no Bruce Lee. Now Bruce Lee...he's the MAN.

He's the most renowned icon of Chinese nationalism in modern cinema.

He guest starred in the 1966 Batman TV series as Kato, the character he played in executive producer William Dozier's other, more serious superhero show The Green Hornet. It was the role that first exposed him to American audiences.

His patented jeet-kun-do fighting technique gained him worldwide notoriety and a number of students the likes of Steve McQueen and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

And what does Chuck Norris have? A resume full of B-movies, a Saturday morning cartoon show and a long-running Internet meme.

As a matter of fact, Bruce Lee is the only man in movie history to have ever KILLED CHUCK NORRIS. Watch the climax of Way of the Dragon if you don't believe me. Lee goes as far as to rip out Norris' CHEST HAIR...and it's supposed to be STEEL WOOL! WITH CHEST HAIR!!

Enter the Dragon was the first Asian martial arts film to be backed by an American movie studio--Warner Bros. co-produced it with Hong Kong's Golden Harvest production company--which gave it much greater production values than Lee's previous movies. It was filmed in English with cameras without sound and later overdubbed (which explains why one character has a Humphrey Bogart accent) and Lee himself choreographed the fight scenes as well as made script revisions. The film was a major success in Hong Kong as well as America (not as successful as two of Lee's other popular films, Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon, but it was still big business), cemented Bruce Lee as a cinematic icon, and is considered one of the best action films of all time.

Sadly, Lee never got to reap the rewards of his labor. The movie had its world premiere in Hong Kong on July 26, 1973, a mere six days after its star's death from a cerebral edema.

Just another day at the office for Bruce.

The movie starts at a Shaolin temple, where Lee plays a fighter with exceptional physical prowess and a keen philosophical eye, We see him discussing with one of the Shaolin masters (one with an unusually deep voice) what a good fight is and what a good martial artist should be, and in exchange Lee receives some advice about the images and illusions which hides an enemy's true motives.

Remember that.

Lee has been given an invitation to a martial arts tournament held by a man named Han (played by Kien Shih, whose lines had to be dubbed anyway because he couldn't speak English), a former student of the temple who left in disgrace and lives on an island off of Hong Kong.

Lee then meets a man from British Intelligence by the name of Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks) who explains that Han's martial arts tournament is a cover for his suspected trade in drug trafficking and prostitution as well as his only contact with the outside world. Braithwaite's organization can't do a proper investigation because the island he lives on lies mostly in international waters and outside their jurisdiction (bear in mind this was filmed in 1972; Hong Kong was still British territory), and they've already sent an agent who disappeared on the compound, so Lee is asked to go undercover and infiltrate Han's goings-on. Before leaving, however, the assignment becomes a personal matter when Lee learns from his father that Han's facially-scarred henchman O'Hara (Robert Wall, who only has one line in the whole movie) and some of his lecherous companions were responsible for his sister Su Lin's suicide at his last tournament three years ago.

On the way to the island we meet two other competitors: Mr. Roper (John Saxon), a playboy-gambler running from some mob debts, and Mr. Williams (blaxploitation action star Jim Kelly), an African-American activist on the run from some racist LAPD cops.

You only live twice, Mr. Roper.

On the island, Han throws an extravagant banquet for his guests, where Lee picks out the missing agent - a woman named Mei Ling (Betty Chung) who is posing as one of Han's lady escorts. She is always being monitored and therefore can't give him much to go on, so the next night Lee sneaks out of his room and has a look around, finding an entrance to an underground opium plant. He is noticed only by a few guards whom he takes down before they can recognize him, and by Williams who is outside himself for a bit of fresh air.

The next day, after having some guards beaten to death by his main man Bolo (Bolo Yeung) for last night's incompetence, it's Lee's turn to fight, and oh what a coincidence, it's against O'Hara, the man indirectly responsible for his sister's death. Unimpressed with his opening move of snapping a board in two with his hand ("Boards don't hit back") Lee makes quick work of him, breaking an extra's arm in the process, and is eventually forced to put him out of his misery after he desperately comes at him with broken bottlenecks.

With that little subplot resolved, Han calls Williams to his office and accuses him of subduing his guards the night before. Williams denies it and suddenly wants to leave, which leads to a fight between the two of them which Han easily wins by fatality thanks to a metallic false hand he suddenly has. Then he gives Roper a tour of his palace from his weapons museum to his personal harem to his secret opium plant, in hopes of persuading him to represent his operation in the States. Roper looks to be uncertain about the whole thing, especially when the tour ends with Han disposing of Williams' mutilated corpse.

When Bruce Lee noogies you, you know it.
(Incidentally, that's a young Jackie Chan he's noogie-ing there.)

That night, Lee sneaks back into Han's opium plant, and with the help of a snake placed at the entrance to scare off intruders, vacates a radio room long enough to send a message to British Intelligence. He then fights off some more guards and gets captured.

The next morning, as part of the edification, Han arranges for Roper to fight Lee as a test of his loyalty. Roper flat out refuses, so instead he is to fight Bollo. Although he is seemingly outmatched and despite Bollo getting in one or two good hits, Roper quickly dispatches him. Then Han turns all Zap Brannigan and starts sending wave after wave of his own men at Roper and Lee, in hopes that they will reach their limits and shut down. While all this is going on, Mei Ling sneaks away and releases some captives in Han's plant, and a short time later we get the best part of the movie, where all hell breaks loose in a glorious kung fu free-for-all. During the melee Han escapes to his palace with the help of a bear claw appendage and Lee follows him, setting up the final confrontation.

In Han's museum, Lee quickly gains the upper hand before Han retreats into a room full of mirrors. Lee is at first too busy trying to seek out Han to build up a good defense, but remembering some advice about images and illusions from his Shaolin master at the start of the film, Lee starts breaking mirrors left and right before he finally spots Han and has him impaled on a spear he had thrown into the wall earlier in the fight. Lee then ventures outside, where the fight has died down, and he and Roper exchange exhausted thumbs-up as military helicopters arrive to put an end to the movie.

Like I said, just another day at the office.

Enter the Dragon is not exactly held in high regard for its plot. It's a pretty basic storyline, many people have called it a kung fu James Bond movie, and you don't need to know an awful lot about its dramatis personae--but then again you don't really watch a Bruce Lee movie for its plot, now do you? I wholeheartedly recommend this movie for its action scenes, all of which I remind your were choreographed by Lee himself, and particularly the climactic moments from the all out brawl to the well-staged mirror duel. The action scenes by themselves make the movie a must-see for martial arts movie enthusiasts, as well as one of the all-time great action movies.

Chuck Norris. Feh.

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