Enter the Dragon
"Yes it is a groundbreaking movie, only because it opened up a whole new genre to the mass public."
- James H.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
AKA: Deadly Three, The; Han's Island; Blood and Steel; Operation Dragon
Literally: Dragon Contend with Tiger Fight [i.e. Battle of the Heavyweights]
Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Michael Allin
Producer: Paul M. Heller, Fred Weintraub, Raymond Chow Man-Wai (associate)
Cast: Bruce Lee Siu-Lung, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Shih Kien, Angela Mao Ying, Betty Chung Ling-Ling, Bolo Yeung
Running Time: 99 min
Plot: Playing a secret agent hired by the British to break up an opium ring, Bruce must go undercover as a contestant in a sadistic martial arts tournament. Hosted by the targeted crime lord on his island hideaway, this tournament pits the baddest kung fu cats in the world against each other -- but not one of them can match Bruce's dazzling and deadly skills.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: All right, here goes...review #200.
You people are SO going to hate me for this one.
Enter the Dragon is considered by many to be the greatest martial arts movie of all time, and I think it's a reasonably safe assumption that the majority of those "many" have seen no more than a half-dozen genuine, Bruce-free martial arts films in their lives and would pronounce "Yuen Wo Ping" three different ways if you asked them to name three different martial arts choreographers. Having just used the term "martial arts" thrice in one sentence, I suppose I should explain my stance on the subject as far as movies are concerned.
Yes, we know Bruce Lee was among the world's all-time greatest martial arts practitioners. Yes, we know he could move just about fast enough to break the sound barrier. Yes, we know that the way he clobbers everybody on screen with minimal effort is pretty much what he could have done in reality. And yes, we know that Bruce's non-violent victories, such as luring the guy from New Zealand into the rowboat and tossing the snake into the control room to cause the bad guys to flee, reflect a healthy martial arts philosophy in which unnecessary conflict is avoided.
BUT...is that what people really want to see in a martial arts MOVIE?
Judging by the number of obsessive Bruce Lee fanboys out there who know all of his movies inside and out while ignoring or turning their noses up at the talents and genre contributions of Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Yuen Wah, and any number of other martial arts movie personalities, the answer is "yes". People would rather watch the good guy plow through an army of human punching bags than watch him fight for his life against skilled opponents and overwhelming odds. Not ALL people, of course, but enough of them to elevate Enter the Dragon to a level of renown and acclaim which it does not deserve. How very sad.
Naturally, Bruce Lee's sudden passing shortly before the film's release has helped to make it the stuff of legend. The Crow received the same bittersweet benefit thanks to Brandon Lee's death in mid-production. The film is famous because of the names and the hype attached to it, not how good it is. I daresay that those who use the "swan song" excuse for lavishing praise upon Enter the Dragon should take Bruce's advice ("Don't think...FEEL!"), turn it around 180 degrees, and look at the film through unbiased eyes to see it as the otherwise unremarkable action-adventure it is. What we have here is reputation and reality out of balance.
Way, way, WAY out of balance.
No doubt the snotty, self-proclaimed elite audience of martial arts films would tell me I don't know shit because I never studied any martial arts myself (hey, it ain't my fault the town I grew up in had three golf courses and zero martial arts schools). Well, I at least know enough to realize that John Saxon beating Bolo Yeung into unconsciousness is an absolute farce, whatever that's worth. (Hell, at least it took Mel Gibson AND Danny Glover working together to beat Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4.)
Let's say you've never had an acting lesson in your life, never been in a school play, never even played cops 'n' robbers as a kid. Then, you see a truly awful performance by someone who has the audacity to call him or herself an actor (insert Ekin Cheng joke here). By the line of reasoning described above, you would have no right to scorn their pitiful display, no matter how unconvincing they are, no matter how obvious it is that they're reading off a cue card, because you yourself have no genuine acting experience.
No? Well, here's another one: you're in a restaurant, and you get served this really disgusting meal. The steak has the texture of shoe leather, the french fries are lukewarm and soggy, and the salad has freezer-burnt lettuce and moldy old croutons. You're about to call your server over to your table and raise all sorts of hell. Ah, but wait...you didn't get very good grades in Home Ec, did you? No. In fact, you can barely open a can of soup without losing a finger, and the last time you made toast the whole kitchen caught fire. If it weren't for the existence of restaurants, the "not raw" portion of your diet would consist entirely of Hungry Man TV dinners. What right have you to critique the cuisine?
Still not convinced? How about this: a bunch of research scientists are developing a new kind of bomb, and they accidentally blow up the whole world, reducing every man, woman, and child to a handful of ash which drifts off into outer space. Putting aside the issue of whether or not you'd be able to say or do ANYTHING after such an event, it stands to reason that you'd be pretty pissed off at those scientists. But before you mosey on over to their cloud (or sulfur pit, or whatever) and tell them what a bunch of fuck-ups they are/were, consider this: how much do YOU know about nuclear physics? Not much, probably. THEY'RE the experts. So why don't you stop pretending you know their business better than they do and get back in line for when St. Peter calls your name, eh?
In a martial arts ACTION (key word) movie, as Enter the Dragon is purported to be, it's more important to generate excitement than it is to be realistic. It's about what looks good on the screen, not what works well in real life. Movies are, after all, a form of escapism. And...in this case and in my opinion...the escape is not worth taking. This ain't how we likes it.
Movies are also supposed to make you care about what happens (if not for the characters themselves) and it also fails on that account. The flashback scene in which Bruce's sister flees from the bad guys is so drawn out and uninvolving that we don't care when she offs herself. Williams is so thin as a character (anyone who refers to another person as a "cat" just can't be taken seriously) that we don't care how many women he bones at a time. The bad guys are so non-threatening and lacking in presence that we don't care when Bruce beats the shit out of them. You can replace "we" with "I" if you want, but understand that I'm not the only one with this view.
The fucking point:
There was, perhaps, a time when Enter the Dragon was well and truly king of the martial arts hill, but for those of us who favor cinematic value over sentimental value, that time is long past. Love it if you like, venerate it if you must, put it in a fucking time capsule for all I care, but for God's sake learn that martial arts movies did not die with Bruce Lee. They kept getting made, and they kept getting better. In terms of all-out fun factor, I'll match this up against Crippled Avengers or Odd Couple or Last Hurrah for Chivalry or Invincible Pole Fighter and declare it the loser any day of the week, dubbing or no dubbing, OAR or no OAR. For those of you who don't need to be told this (and I'm assuming that there are more of you than my pissing-in-the-wind stance here would indicate), heat up your Hungry Man TV dinners and get back to your regularly scheduled martial arts movie programming.
There...that's review #200.
Not a "proper" review, perhaps.
But it's all this movie is gonna get out of me.
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 4/10
YATE'S REVIEW: Over-rated, but still pretty fun. Many people consider this to be Bruce Lee's best film, but that is probably just because it was the first to be a success in the United States, not to mention being Bruce Lee's final film. The plot of the film concerns Bruce going to an island to fight in a tournament ran by the evil Han and.....it's basically the same plot as most of the martial arts films made in the US after the success of this film( examples that come to mind are Bloodfist 2 and Kickboxer 4). There are many good things about this film, the best of which is Bruce Lee himself. The man has amazing screen presence. And while his great screen presence is the best part of the film, it is also one of the reasons the fill is not great. The fact is, whenever Bruce is not on the screen the movie sorta sucks. Jim Kelly is cool, but he can not compete with Bruce Lee. And what in the hell is up with casting John Saxon??? The guy's martial arts are worse then David Carradine's. Of course, that is made up for by the 007-ish music and the final kick ass fight in the mirrored room, which is arguably one of Bruce's best ever fights(and one of my all time favorites). Overall, this is an average film made above average only by Bruce's involvement and martial art skills. And you gotta love seeing Bruce Lee snapping Jackie Chan's neck. That alone is worth the price of an over night rental. Definitely recommended.
YATE'S RATING: 8/10
ERIC'S REVIEW: This is known as the greatest martial arts movie ever, and with good reason. While I will not call it the greatest martial arts movie ever, it certainly ranks towards the top. Of course, without Bruce Lee, this movie would be nothing. The action was good and there was some humor, too (though not as funny as Return of the Dragon). Jackie plays a guard and is actually in this movie twice. Bruce breaks his neck, and later on he gets hit by a staff (you don't see Jackie's face). During this scene, Bruce actually hit Jackie in the face with the staff. Jackie fell to the floor and Bruce helped him back up. Jackie later said that he really admired Bruce's generousity. Bruce spent the rest of the day apologizing to him, and he later took Jackie out bowling. The biggest star in Asia was seen in public bowling with a "nameless" stuntman. Some of the humor comes from the stereotypes in this film, even if they aren't intentional. Bruce is first seen fighting and is part of the Shaolin Temple. John Saxon, the Caucasian, is first seen golfing. Jim Kelly, the African-American, is a cocky guy from the ghetto. He gets harassed by Caucasian police officers. The final action sequence is incredible. Watch this movie if you love martial arts.
ERIC'S RATING: 8.5/10
JAMES' REVIEW: Well to tell the truth I'm not a big fan of Bruce Lee. I've only seen "Enter the Dragon" and another that escapes me for the moment. When I first saw this movie in Grade 7, it was very cool, but I've matured since then. Watching it again 5 years later, it seems old and dated. Look at the cast, it joins Bruce Lee with John Saxon, to ease him into American culture. Then add token Black guy, Jim Kelly, as the jive-talkin' mutha, who's a sex machine with all the chicks. He's even got his own Shaft-like theme music. After that, add a villain with an island fortress and an underground lair. It just smells like a corporate cut out. The whole way it was filmed looks like the 70's. Not because of the clothes or the hair styles, but just the film techniques that were used. Director Robert Clouse (who went on to do "The Big Brawl" and many other failures) uses the same type of pan shot every time he wants to establish the setting.
Don't get me wrong here, it is fun to watch. For me though it's the end fight that was the best part. It was brilliantly executed. But one must thank those corporate big wigs. If not for them, the kung fu genre may not exist. Yes it is a groundbreaking movie, only because it opened up a whole new genre to the mass public. Is it a timeless classic? No.
JAMES' RATING: 6.5/10
STOCKTON22'S REVIEW: I remembered Jackie Chan years before I knew who the hell he was because of his scene in this movie. Ok, we all know the scene by now. Jackie gets his neck snapped during the "battle with the guards" sequence in the middle of the film. I always thought it was such a awful thing for Bruce Lee to do. Why'd he have to snuff that particular guard? He only seemed to be knocking out everybody else. And it's not like the guards are evil or anything. They're just doing their job for Christ's sake! This guy probably grew up in a slum somewhere (after all, Williams made that comment about ghettos being the same everywhere), no job, no money, no prospects. One day he hears that the local druglord is hiring, and he thinks, "Finally a real job! No more digging through the garbage for fishheads, no more bathing in the river, I'm movin' on up!" So he starts working, then one day some guy shows up, trips the alarm, and our buddy the guard thinks, "Ok, time to go to work. I want to do a good job. After all, I have to keep sending part of my paycheck home to my sweet silverhaired old mother. Oh yeah, and Bolo took the last guard who screwed up and crushed him to death with his bare hands. I don't want that to happen. Oh wait, the guy's back is turned, maybe I can grab him. Ok, here I go." Then Bruce grabs the head, pulls back the arm, then comes the close-up on Bruce's face, and CRRRRRUNCHHH! I don't care if he is the hero, that is just plain cold.
Come on Bruce, of course the guy's gonna try to guard the complex! HE'S A FUCKING GUARD!!! Give the guy a break! Well, ok, I mean, well you know what I mean. Moving on to the other 97 minutes and 53 seconds of the film, I gotta ask, and I do this at the risk of getting my ass kicked by scores of Jeet Kun Do experts, is anyone else tired of people assuming that everything Bruce did on screen is the cinematic manifestation of godliness? Yeah Bruce kicks ass, yeah he has presence, but I think that if you're doing a scene where you take on several dozen opponents, who amazingly, attack you one at a time I might add, it's not all that enthralling if it only takes a single blow to take care of the guy. One punch, down. One kick, down. Yeah, I'm down for the count too. Zzzzzzzzz. Don't get me wrong, it's a really good action movie. There are some terrific fighting moments and Bruce truly shows off his extraordinary skill (even though he feels the need to take his shirt off in front of the camera more than that Eric dude from the first season of "The Real World"). But anyone who feels that it's the greatest Martial Arts movie of all time is deluded (and living in the past).
On the other hand, Jim Kelly as the Mac Daddy kung fu master Williams is a big plus, for both his good fighting and his bad acting. Somehow, when he picks out half dozen girls to bang, then turns to the remaining courtesans and says, "Sorry, it's been a long day. I'm a little tired." it works. And how can you top a bad guy with all those funky hands? Especially when they dubbed in the voice of the guy who did the leader of planet Spectra on "Battle of the Planets." Another point, how come the prisoners look like old, dilapidated human refuse when they're in the jail cells, but like young healthy kung fu fighters when released? Well, continuity was never a strong point of the genre. And let's not forget, it was an American production. And to that end, let me ask another question. How badly to you think Bolo Yeung wanted to take John Saxon and pulverize him into the ground until he struck oil? John Saxon has about as much a chance of really beating Bolo Yeung in a fight as I have of winning the Powerball Lottery (The guy couldn't beat Freddy Krueger for Christ's sake. I know Freddy's got the finger knives thing but you're a cop! SHOOT HIM FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!) . There hasn't been such wildly false outcome since, hmmm, I guess since the guest appearance of the Green Hornet and Kato on the old Batman tv show. Anyone remember that? Burt Howard as Robin holding his own against none other than Bruce Lee as Kato. Would everybody please care to join me in a huge, collective, "YEAH RIGHT!"
STOCKTON22'S RATING: 7/10
TYLER'S REVIEW: The film that brought Bruce Lee in the eyes of America, Enter the Dragon. A classic in my opinion, I first saw this film at the age of four (of course I didn't understand a thing), and I loved it. The beautifully shot film and wonderful choreographed film with plenty of action, and great acting (by Bruce mostly) I mean, who can forget great quotes by Bruce such as, "Boards don't hit back". When Bruce uttered those words a chill ran down my spine. Jackie was an extra in this film too, he got his (his character's) neck broken by Bruce (that's the only minus in the film). When Bruce kicks it's like a flash of lighting, it's incredibly fast, you can hardly see his legs are move! One thing I didn't like was John Saxon, I really did not like his performance in the film, but I did enjoy Jim Kelly's, he was kinda had a clean smoothness to him you know. The Battle between Bruce and Han was very memorable, the mirrors added a very eerie sense, like you didn't know what was going to happen,but you weren't sure something was. Another great scene is the big brawl between the prisoners and Han's minions,great action. One scene that was ridiculous was the fight between Bolo Yeung (a.k.a. Yang Sze), and John Saxon - yeah I really believe that John Saxon could overpower a guy that looked like he could "bench" the whole Island (I mean Bolo is huge). The plot is a little weird,but then again it's an American production. Overall this film is pretty good, the colorful costumes and great cast really brighten the sets as well as the actors. Warner Brothers has released it remastered and uncut, so rent it. Take it from me it's a good film even if it's not a Jackie Chan film.
TYLER'S RATING: 9/10
WEI XIN'S REVIEW: (WB 25th Anniversary Edition) I got the VHS version and it's pretty cool. It has "Bruce Lee in his own words" a documentary featuring some of Bruce's philosophy on Jeet Kune Do. The DVD one supposedly has more interviews and other miscellaneous footage. I was hoping they would re-release it in the theaters but this should do fine. They included 3 extra minutes in this version. It has Bruce having a philisophical dicussion with a Shaolin Priest. The story is still the same. Han offends the Shaolin temple and Lee's sister. For this Lee must extract swift and terrible kung fu revenge from Han. This movie is special for two reasons. It made Bruce a legend, and it had Bruce vs. Jackie for the first and last time. (The stunt scene in Chinese Connection doesn't really count.) Kind of makes you wonder what would have been if Bruce was alive. Can you imagine a real movie starring Bruce and Jackie. Oh well better stop dreaming. Highlight for me: underground fight scene: Bruce Lee turns into a madman and proceeds to beat the crap out of all the guards with fists, legs,a bo, esrima sticks, and the infamous nunchucks. Even though the fight scenes in Way of the Dragon and Game of Death were better, I still give this movie a 10 because of the sheer intensity of Bruce Lee. A martial arts epic!
WEI XIN'S RATING: 10/10
DANIEL'S REVIEW: This is my favorite Bruce Lee film. Yuen Wah is incredible when he doubles for Bruce and back flips over those monks! That was incredible. Bruce Lee is awesome too, anyone play tekken 3? If you do Forest Law does moves Bruce does in this film. This is a definete watch and see if you can spot Chan when he gets his neck broke by Bruce. WATCH IT!
DANIEL'S RATING: 8/10
EZWALK'S REVIEW: Although this isn't a Jackie type movie I still liked it. I think that it is strange that the first set of kung fu movies were better then the later 70's movies. It doesn't have the chop socky crap that most Jackie's early movies had. I liked the way this movie gave you just enough plot that it's interesting, but it doesn't waste your time on useless talk or plot building scenes. I liked the tournment fights the most. I enjoyed the way it used flash backs to tell the peoples past. My favorite was when they should the black guy go into his dojo and it's full of people with the same puffy hair. This movie is by far his best of the 3 I've seen (Fist of Fury, Return of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon). Overall this is probadly the greatest 70's martial arts movie, but lacks the flair of current movies.
EZWALK'S RATING: 8/10
DAN-O'S REVIEW: Whenever I take it upon myself to watch this movie for the umpteenth time, I am always deeply compelled to throw things (such as food or feces) at the screen whenever John Saxon flashes his balding, talentless head in front of the camera. Why was this awkward, freaky-lookin' cracker ever allowed on the set of this otherwise pleasant, although cheesy, BRUCE LEE vehicle (NOT John Saxon vehicle). And don't all you honkeys out there get your panties in a bunch; I'm whiter than John Boy, in fact I'm almost transparent. But come on, this guy has about half the martial arts know-how of David Carridene.
This movie is directed by Robert Clouse, who went on to direct..........um.........that one about.........no, wait, wrong movie. Well, China O' Brian was one of his, right? Aaaah who gives a crap; the guy couldn't direct a turd out of his rectal area (thanks for that image, Dan).
Bruce is the ONE and ONLY saving grace of this film. Watching him hit people is enough to give you chills all over the place. We miss ya Bruce. Why didja hafta go and croak on us like that. Why didja hafta leave us with all these wanna-be loser imitations of yourself. Oh, and if you are still alive, tell Andy Kaufman I said "Hi".
DAN-O'S RATING: 7/10 (minus John Saxon: 10/10)
VICTOR NGUYEN'S REVIEW: To me, Bruce Lee will always remain number one. Sure, Jackie Chan is great, but when it comes right down to it, Bruce Lee wins my respect. He is without a doubt, the best fighter the world has ever seen, and this film proves it. Bruce plays his normal ass kicking character, sent to an island to bust up a drug ring headed by Master Han, played by the great Shek Kin. He then enters Han's kung fu tournament in order to stop the drug ring. The thing I enjoyed most about the film is all the nostalga that surrounds the film. In the beginning of the film, Bruce is seen fighting a young Sammo Hung. When Bruce gets into a fight with many stuntmen in an underground cavern, Bruce breaks the neck of Jackie himself, and when Bruce does an incredible flip over some Buddist monks, the stuntman that performs the flip is veteren Hong Kong movie star and Peking Opera student Yuen Wah. Now thats entertainment. The Hong Kong film industry owes much to Bruce because this film broke box office records for a kung fu film in America and planted that Hong Kong films are here to stay in the US. Rumors have circulated on newsgoups that Enter the Dragon will be rereleased. Hopefully rhese rumors are true and the film will be on the big screen where it belongs.
VICTOR NGUYEN'S RATING: 10/10
ALOHO'S REVIEW: As a mention in my Fists of Fury review, I just don't enjoy Bruce Lee's way of film making. After watching Fists of Fury, I thought this would be just as bad. It turned out better than I expected. "Expect for the worst, hope for the best." It kinda was like that, but it wasn't that good. I only liked the ending with the stick and the house 'o mirrors. I would not have noticed Chan if I hadn't read he was in it off the net. What was really neat is the part Sammo Hung has! A full fight with Lee in the very beginning. That was cool. All in all, I don't like Bruce Lee's movies.
ALOHO'S RATING: 4/10