Turn Back the Clock

Martial Arts

Enter the Dragon

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When I received the Extended Edition of the Enter the Dragon Soundtrack for review late last year, I was reminded that Enter the Dragon was the only Bruce Lee film I didnít own on DVD.  I decided that I had to get my hands on a copy of the film and watch it before I reviewed the soundtrack.

            In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee is Lee, a martial arts student who has been invited to a martial arts competition hosted by a wealthy man named Han (Kien Shih).  Lee is considering turning down the invitation, but his teacher (Roy Chiao) wants him to go.  He explains that Han was once a member of the Shaolin, but he has turned from the teachings and become an evil man. 

            Lee is introduced to an intelligence agent named Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks) who also has an interest in Lee attending the tournament.  It just so happens that Braithwaite and his people believe Hanís island to be an outlet of sex and drug trafficking.  They need Lee to get them definitive proof so they can go to the proper authorities.

            But if those reasons werenít good enough, Lee learns of one moreÖa personal reason.  As his father confides in him before he can make the journey, the death of Leeís sister (Angela Mao) was indirectly caused by Han.  Apparently Hanís followers, including his bodyguard, OíHara (Robert Wall), were to blame for Su Linís having killed herself.  Now, if for no other reason, Lee is certain of his journey as a chance for vengeance.

            At the island, Lee meets two American fighters who share his distaste for Han and his ways.  Thereís former Vietnam Veteran Roper (John Saxon), a man with champagne tastes and beer funds thanks to his love for gambling.  He has left the States for a chance to earn enough money to pay off his debts.  Williams (Jim Kelly) served with Roper and has his own reasons for being at the tournament - to overcome racial prejudices by proving he is equal to the task of fighting some of the greatest martial artists in the world.

            With the help of an inside agent (Betty Chung), Lee investigates the mysteries of Hanís island, finding enough proof to make the intelligence agentsí case and exacting revenge for his sister along the way.  But getting off of the island proves to be more than difficult and he will need the help of his new friends if he wants to survive Hanís island.

            In my opinion, Enter the Dragon is Bruce Leeís best film.  Iíve enjoyed all of Leeís films, but this one has the best storyline, action and suspense.  This movie would make Bruce Lee an international star, showing the world that he could not only act, but that he was a credible martial artist with an explosive style and amazingly intense presence.  The fight scenes were some of the best in any martial arts movie Iíve seen and truly showcased Bruce LeeĎs talent.  The characters and fight scenes have been copied quite often in other theatrical releases.  I remember loving a video game for the Commodore 64 that combined Enter the Dragon with Game of Death.  And then there is Mortal Kombat I challenge anyone to watch that film and not find the similarities between Han and Shang Tsung. 

            As I watched Enter the Dragon for the millionth time, I marveled that I could still enjoy it as much as I did the first time I saw it.  I was also impressed by the number of recognizable martial artists were featured in the film.  In addition to Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly, Angela Mao, Bolo Yeung, Peter Archer, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Tony Liu and Yuen Biao are all well known martial artists appearing in this film.  Bruce Lee choreographed all of the fight scenes and, no doubt, it was much easier working with actors who already knew how to fight.

            The Enter the Dragon Special Edition DVD features much more than just the movie.  In fact, there are two discs worth of special features, including a number of documentaries, home movies, theatrical trailers and TV spots.  I especially loved learning about what went into making Enter the Dragon in the featurette, Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon and learning about Bruce Lee, the man in featurettes like Bruce Lee: In His Own Words and the Linda Lee Cadwell Interview Gallery.  Also interesting was the feature length biography, Bruce Lee: The Curse of the Dragon, narrated by George Takei

            Re-watching Enter the Dragon was a great deal of fun and once again I find myself sad that Bruce Lee died so young and before ever realizing how well the film did.  He was always searching for recognition as an artist and Enter the Dragon was the international success that would propel him to stardom long after he was gone.  His was a presence that was at once graceful, incredibly intense and explosive.  If he could only have lived longer, I wonder what other great films would have followed in Enter the Dragonís wake.


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