While I was watching today’s movie, I had an odd thought. Don’t worry, it isn’t really a strange thought but more a curiosity. If you took 100 people and asked them to name a martial arts film, then asked another 100 people to name a Bruce Lee film, I wonder what percentage of the answers would be this movie. I will admit that I would probably have answered it for both questions. Arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, martial arts movies of all time, this is sadly the last movie that Bruce Lee ever filmed. So let’s get going with today’s movie, Enter The Dragon.
The plot: Lee is a Shaolin martial artist who has been asked by British Intelligence to use his invitation to a martial arts tournament to investigate the tournament’s founder, Mr. Han. At the same time, Roper and Williams, two friends that are each escaping their own problems, are also heading for the tournament. Lee waits until night to begin his investigation and manages to find a secret, underground base where Mr. Han is manufacturing drugs and testing them on prisoners. He manages to escape before the guards can identify him, but is spotted by Williams who was outside exercising. The next day, Mr. Han warns the tournament competitors that they are not allowed to wander the grounds at night. Mr. Han accuses Williams of being the one to break into his base and proceeds to beat him to death. Later, Mr. Han shows Roper Williams battered body and invites him to join his organization. Lee attempts to sneak back into the base but winds up getting captured. The next day, Mr. Han orders Roper to kill Lee but he refuses. He then has Roper fight his enforcer, Bolo, and after Roper defeats him, Han orders other fighters to attack both Lee and Roper. Before they are overwhelmed, Mei Ling, an undercover operative that was working for British Intelligence, frees the prisoners to help fight Han’s soldiers while Lee deals with Han himself.
Enter The Dragon was filmed on a budget of $850 thousand, it would earn about $90 million worldwide in it’s release. With a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is obvious that the critics loved this movie, with some even saying it was the best film of 1973. In 2004, it was deemed “culturally significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. But the true test of it’s legacy is the number of times this film has been referenced or spoofed in other movies, TV shows, or even video games.
I honestly couldn’t tell you when the first time I saw this movie was but I was an instant fan. Bruce Lee did a great job, both with his acting and in his fighting scenes. The final fight between Lee and Han is proabably one of the greatest fights of all time. While I didn’t care for them when I first watched them, I actually enjoy the opening scenes at the Shaolin temple where Bruce Lee was helping teach one of the students. John Saxon and Jim Kelly (Roper and Williams) were both good in this film although I think Saxon was the better actor but Williams the better fighter. One funny thing about this movie; Bolo Yeung, who played Bolo, played the main villain Chong Li in the Van Damme movie Bloodsport, and actually paraphrased Bruce Lee’s quote “Boards don’t hit back” (in Bloodsport, Chon Li says “Bricks don’t hit back.”) Jackie Chan is another famed name to appear in this movie as he was one of the thugs that Bruce Lee beats up in the cave (he is also in an earlier scene involving Lee’s sister.) Watching this movie, it is easy to see why this is considered the best of its kind.
So if you want to watch a great martial arts film, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than this one.
Rating: 5 out of 5