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Enter The Dragon/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

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One of the most popular and successful kung fu films of all time is Bruce Lee's smash hit Enter The Dragon. This was Bruce's "Citizen Kane" so to speak. It single handedly put Kung Fu films on the map and it made Lee an international superstar and action hero. Sadly, he never got to see the opening of the film, he passed away from a cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) shortly before the film premiered in 1973. Bruce Lee has since become a superstar and icon every bit as huge as his hero James Dean.

The film begins at a Shaolin Temple somewhere outside Hong Kong. We see two men fighting in the center of the ring, as the camera zooms in, we see its Bruce Lee looking fierce as hell. The other fighter at the time was an unknown extra but has since become a kung fu star in his own right, his name is: Sammo Hung. As Lee (Bruce Lee) fights this sluggish opponent we can see that his kung fu skills are sharp as a knife. In a few seconds the opponent is down and after a triumphant jump trick, his fellow shaolin monks applaud him. Waiting for Lee is Mr Braithwaite, a special agent who has a mission for him. One of my favorite scenes comes next as Lee is giving one of his students some advice on how to become a better martial artist. Its very funny, but also cool as hell. After a knockout opening sequence with the super funky theme by the great Lalo Schifrin we join Lee and Braithwaite in his office as he tells Lee the information of the mission. He explains that he will be going to the island owned by Mr. Han (Shih Kien) a renegade Shaolin monk who is the Darth Vader of the story. Braithwaite explains Lee will be infiltrating the island under the guise of a kung fu fighter during Han's kung fu tournament he holds every few years. Lee accepts and hes on his way.

In a key sequence, Before leaving to goto Hans tournament, Lee visits the graves of his mother and his sister. In a flashback we see that Lee's sister (Angela Mao) was actually run in with several of Hans men thatr were in Hong Kong on a vacation. Lee's sister and his master are confronted by O 'Hara (Bob Wall) and saome other thugs. Lees master whips out a knife and slashes O'Haras face, but then O'Hara beats him down. The other men chase Lee's sister and she holds them off as long as possible, but when she gets cornered in a wooden shack, she realizes what O'Hara has planned, so in defiance, she commits suicide by using a shard of glass. When Lee hears this, he is shocked, but also vows to get his revenge on O'Hara and Mr Han, by any means necessary.

As Lee is being ferried to the main Chinese junk (boat) that will bring him to Hans island, we meet the 2 other stars of the film. Williams (Jim Kelly) is a African American kung fu champ and in a flashback we see just how he got to Hong Kong. After being confronted by 2 racist cops while on his way to the airport, Williams kicks both their asses and steals their police car. Roper (John Saxon) is a wheeler dealer, a con artist. In his flashback we see that he owes money to a loanshark who sends his goons after him while hes playing golf. Before they can blink, Roper kicks their asses lickety split. As we see the men come together on the boat, it turns out Wuilliams and Roper are old Army buddies who were in Vietnam together.

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The junk sets sail and the men talk and get to know each other and who theyll be going up against. Roper sees a group of chinese boatsmen playing a game with praying mantis'. He bets Lee that his mantis will win, and Lee ups the stakes. Roper, always the gambler agrees, when Lee's mantis wins, Roper is pissed. While Lee is relaxing one of the fighters tries to get his attention by swatting at Lee. This guys a big dumb oaf from Australia and Lee isnt impressed. He asks Lee what his "style" is. Lee responds with "The art of fighting without fighting". This puzzles the Aussie and he says: Show Me. Lee agrees and says: Lets fight on that beach, we can take this boat. The man agrees and as he gets in the boat, Lee pulls the rope and lets the raft drift behind the junk. Lee outsmarts another one.

When the men arrive at Hans Island they can see this is no ordinary tournament. Hans' island is a fortress filled with beautiful exotic women and everything they could want. Lee meets his contact, one of Braithwaites agents who has been brought into Hans inner circle. Her name is Mei Ling. Lee finds out through Mei Ling that Han is doing very depraved things on his island. Hes not only putting on a front as an honorable host, hes making opium and running a prostitution ring on the side. Lee checks this out for himself as he creeps around the lair at night. While looking around, he is found out by some of the islands security guards., Lee quickly knocks them out and goes back to his room. During the same evening, after making love to several of the prostitutes, Wiliams goes outsiude for some air. This isnt allowed by Han.

During the tournament, there are many exciting fights. Williams battles, Roper battles while Williams bets on him with a spectator. The fight choreography was done by Bruce Lee and its some of the best stuff you'll ever see. While John Saxon wasn't a professional kung fu champ, he still does a decent job with his kicks. Jim Kelly on the other hand, has some really great moves. He went on to star in several kung fu films himself including: Black Belt Jones, Hot Potato and Tattoo Connection.

The spectacular climax has Lee and the freed natives of the island battling Hans men in a one of the biggest kung fu battles ever put onscreen. After confronting Han , Lee chases him into his underground lair and battles him. Han retreats into his "room of mirrors" and Lee stalks him as Han appears and dissapears. Its one of the coolest sequences ever placed in a film. Its also incredible that the director didnt reflect the camera in any of the shots!

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Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.
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