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Enter the Dragon

1973 Warner Brothers martial arts film starring martial artist Bruce Lee

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  • Jan 17, 2009
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This review is the one that Amazon didn't want you to read and it's the reason that I'm currently on "lunch" break. The review I submitted to them was probably very similar to the one below, it's difficult to say since I write on the fly without any notes or prep work, but the point is that the original review contained no naughty words, no ethnic slurs, nothing objectionable at all--unless you consider hinting at the fact that Warner Brothers is racist  is objectionable. We now return to our regularly scheduled review.

ENTER THE DRAGON has always been considered to be the highlight of Bruce Lee's film career,  the be all and end all , the "Greatest Martial Arts Film Ever Made", the standard by which all others will be judged throughout eternity. 


ENTER THE DRAGON is a 1 star flick that has a 5 star martial artist in it, the end result being that when Bruce is on screen magic DOES happen but when he's off screen the whole thing implodes. "So", you ask, "doesn't Bruce's appearance in it count for something?" Didn't I just say that it does? When Lee is doing his thing ENTER THE DRAGON is a 5 star film. I used to give it 5 stars based on the Bruce Factor too, but then over the years  I  started to really think about it, and the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. "What bothered you?" you ask. Well, the fact that Bruce was reduced to little more than a supporting player in what to have been his own star vehicle for one. If you add up his total screen time it barely comes to 25 minutes. "Well that's because he has to share the screen with Jim Kelly and John Saxon," you reply.  Right! And therein lies the problem!

I can see it all now, exactly the way it must have happened so many years ago...


Mogul #1--"This will never work. Hell, the hero is Chinese fer Chrissake."
Mogul #2--"We can fix it, Bob. These flix play mostly in urban areas anyhow, so we'll just add a black dude!"
Mogul #3--"But doesn't that just give us 2 problems instead of 1? Remember, we've got a lotta cash sunk into this baby and its gotta sell in the burbs if we're gonna make it back."
AFTER MUCH SCRATCHING OF HEADS Mogul #2--"Then we just add a white guy too! Somebody with a little bit of a name to counteract the other two!"

And when you look at ENTER THE DRAGON with a cold hard eye  it is a very disappointing film that is saved only be Bruce's charisma. Disappointing because there is never really the kind of payoff that fans are looking for in this kind of film; the big showdown in which the Hero takes down the biggest, baddest fighter. The fact that there are 3 "heroes" instead of 1 makes a truly satisfying conclusion completely impossible because each one has to have his own villain to fight. There's no doubt that every single fan that went in to see that movie was just drooling in anticipation of the ultimate duel between Bolo and Bruce! It had to happen, after all he was obviously he biggest baddest guy on the Island--but no it's John I've-only-got-a-brown-belt Saxon who gets that honor. And the look on Bruce's face as Saxon prepares to take him on says exactly what all of us are thinking! Hell, Bruce doesn't even get to lay a hand or a foot on the bigoted New Zealander--that goes to Jim Kelly. Nope Bruce's final fight is with an old man. So okay, there is a long tradition of the big villain being an old man with white hair, but those characters are always played by young men--Shih Kien was the real McCoy, and the whole episode was a tremendous let down for anyone who geared up for something of an epic nature. And that was all of us.

In reality ENTER THE DRAGON is a 1 star movie thanks to Warners Brothers lack of faith in its stars ability to carry a film and in the American public's willingness to accept a Chinese Hero. I vastly prefer CHINESE CONNECTION. But for sentimental reasons in my heart, yeah, I admit I give it a 5 too.

HYPE  Factor for Film: Very High and Undeserved

HYPE Factor for Bruce Lee: Extremely High and Absolutely Deserved:

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June 26, 2010
I have to say I think you are the only person to ever voice something negative about this film that I know, and good for you for doing so. Me I like this film and love all of his others, excellent review.
July 02, 2010
If you took Bruce out of this flick there wouldn't be much left to recommend it. If you timed how long Bruce is actually on screen you'd only have about 20 minutes!
May 25, 2009
I watched the movie again (the hong kong version). I can't believe that this movie had 4 assistant directors. Bruce Lee re-wrote the script (the H.K. version has more flowery dialog) and directed several scenes himself. Bruce had two stunt doubles (Yuen Wah and Yuen Biao) who did his jump kick, flips and flying kicks and Shih kien was pushing 60 when he starred in the film I love the review. funny stuff.
May 25, 2009
Actually Bruce was only doubled in 1 kick and that was the 360 flip. He was technically augmented in the scene where he turns to face Bob Wall in the doorway. The part Bruce "wrote" would be the conversations with the elder monk and the young student at the monestary since they come directly from Bruce's own teachings and philosophies. The monk scene has only been added to the AMERICAN VERSION in the past fifteen years or so. I can see where it might need a few assistant directors to pick up extra shots! Yuen Biao was also good buddies with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan who were both in this picture too. Yuen Biao and Kim Tai Chung shared the Bruce part in the 1978 version of GAME OF DEATH. (yuck) Sammo was the biggest star of the 3 in more ways than one at the time of ENTER THE DRAGON. He was in the opening boxing scene with Bruce. Jackie only has his neck broken by Bruce in the cavern scene and if you aren't looking you might not even know it was him. Jackie also doubled for the Japanese swordsman who goes flying through the shoji wall towards the end of CHINESE CONNECTION/FIRST OF FURY.There's an excellent site dedicated to Bruce called THE DEVINE WIND if you're interested. We published a martial arts film fanzine from 1774 to 1983 to try and sort out confusion as to who was who in Asian films. We went on a brief hiatus from 80 to 82 when  Curtis Wong's MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES magazine out of L.A.went into publication and we found ourselves contributing to them instead. It was nowhere near the way it is today. So many films to see now and so many talented performers!
April 01, 2009
Wow- I haven't seen this movie since I was a little kid, but am going to have to watch it again with your review in mind. I love people that look at life in its entirety in an outside the box kinda way. Dug the review!
April 02, 2009
Thanks for the comment! This is one of my favorite movies. I've seen it maybe a hundred times over the last 35 years. Gradually I started to notice how little of the film Bruce was actually in. I could understand one other guy in the film (Obviously I'd have gone with Jim Kelly), but putting in John Saxon was just an insult.
January 27, 2009
Its been said by those who knew him that Bruce had a real fear of growing old, but I suppose he would have learned to live with and just been a real kick ass old fart. I wonder what goes through Wall's mind every time he see's that kick scene? =) He had it coming though, he should have been more careful handling that broken bottle. I still think we should have had Bolo in the mirrored room. Now THAT might have been a fight worth seeing. As it was it was it was so anti-climatic.
January 24, 2009
Great review Karen. Absolutely loved your description of the movie moguls at Warner sitting around discussing the film's need to be commercial. I can't say that I entirely agree though. However, I'm quite familiar with Bruce Lee and I know for a fact that he was hyper-aware of racism and that he wouldn't have appeared in any film that was "racist". Yeah, you can read a lot into the fact that of the three main characters the guy who dies first is the black one and you could even criticize the scenes in which he is treating the masseuses/prostitutes with a stereotypically chauvinistic attitude (it was common to portray black males as having insatiable sexual appetites, especially for women who weren't black). But in all, the film is just a shallow piece of action entertainment with the late great Lee, who certainly does deserve more screen time. Anyhow, nice review. I can't believe that Amazon wouldn't post it. I swear they are actually trying to boost sales by disrespecting their customer reviewers. Ludicrous.
January 19, 2009
F TROOP? Really? I never heard that one before. I know he did a Bobby Sherman series called HERE COME THE BRIDES or some such, and IRONSIDES and of course there were those appearances on LONGSTREET. And someone once swore to me that he did a shot on BLONDIE!
January 17, 2009
Yeah, Woop. I know. He was deemed "too short and too Chinese" to play the part he and Stirling Silliphant had created for him. How sad, and how telling. What a shame that Bruce never got to give us that movie he really had inside him. Oh, want to hear something funny? I just got censored over on ammie! They cut out three things in my last review. One was a reference to a word that appeared frequnetly in the movie I reviewed namely F***, which is how I wrote it, and the other two included the word "which" and the amount of a guy's lottery win! $6.2 million dollars. Can you figure that out? I sure can't. They've delayed my stuff before but they've never removed anything!
January 17, 2009
Oh, Bruce's idea for "Kung Fu" was stolen...it was supposed to be him on there instead of David Carradine.
January 17, 2009
Nice work, Karen. I do somewhat agree, being a martial arts buff, while this movie was good in those days, (good production values and all) there was indeed something missing; it didn't achieve the ultimate potential and relied heavily on Bruce's star power. Great thought-provoking review. I still liked it but it wasn't Lee's best!
January 17, 2009
actually the original review was much better and much longer, but I had to start somewhere!
More Enter the Dragon (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
While Bruce Lee and Angela Mao Ying are brilliant the film as a whole suffers from a surfeit of heroes. We simply do not need both Jim Kelly AND the highly unskilled John Saxon and their presence shows that Warner Bros didn't trust the drawing power of their Asian star. Watch CHINESE CONNECTION aka FIST OF FURY instead.
review by . April 28, 2009
Enter the Dragon (1973) was Bruce Lee's first (and only) solo big Hollywood production. Too bad he never got to see the fruits of his labor. He passed away during the film's post production (don't fret, two more official Bruce Lee films were made after this one. Despite all of the years of hard work and finally making it to the big times he wasn't around long enough to enjoy it. Even though Robert Clouse is credited as director and another person is credited for writing the screenplay. This film …
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karen ()
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I am the poster child for inertia. Where ever I am is where I plan to stay FOREVER.   So much so in fact that it took me decades to understand the punchline about why   the chicken … more
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About this movie


Bruce Lee was immortalized in his films as a martial arts master and first-class entertainer. ENTER THE DRAGON was the first martial arts film that American audiences had witnessed, and was actually produced in both Hong Kong and Hollywood. Interestingly, ENTER THE DRAGON also set the stage for non-traditional, culturally specific narratives to make their way into Hollywood. <br> <br> Bruce Lee plays a kung fu master recruited by a foreign government to infiltrate the island of a megalomaniac martial artist named Han. Han's bodyguard is also found to have killed Lee's sister, giving Lee a personal vendetta to fight for. The Hall of Mirrors sequence towards the end of the film is now famous, as are Lee's incredibly gymnastic martial arts abilities. This trend-setting film holds up as an entertaining, engaging action movie, more than 30 years later.
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Director: Robert Clouse
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: August 19, 1973
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Michael Allin
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers, Golden Harvest
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