Twitter Plot Summary: Bruce Lee goes to an island and fights a man with one hand. Oh, and an army of loyal martial arts experts.
Five Point Summary:
1. The shrieking has begun already.
2. Jim Kelly. Nice afro, but he clearly won’t be around for long.
3. John Saxon as a martial artist? Pull the other one.
4. One inch punch… OF DEATH.
5. Room of mirrors.
Crash zooms and screaming martial artists are the order of the day in 1973s Enter The Dragon, the first Bruce Lee movie to be released following his death. It perhaps marks his finest work, a cavalcade of shrieks, crunching sound effects and almost non-stop displays of martial arts prowess. Lee goes undercover to the island home of a criminal warlord, using the massive martial arts tournament as a smokescreen for his activities.
The plot serves only to facilitate the numerous bouts of fisticuffs that randomly take place from the opening scene onwards, focusing on the traditional notion of honour in battle and offering a fair fight. This is a process that our villain Han is patently not a follower of, his prison cells crammed to burstingg point with his enemies, and also has a penchant for stacking the odds in his favour before moving in for the kill, like using a variety of deadly replacements for his missing hand, using sizeable goons to do most of his dirty work, or by using a room full of mirrors to disorient his opponent.
Han is in pure Bond villain territory – he has a fluffy white cat and a metal hand, after all. Unlike the majority of Bond villains, he’s actually quite a competent fighter, and perfectly willing to get his hands dirty. It’s Bruce Lee who is the star here though, of course. He was and will remain a martial arts legend and this is borne out through his performance in Enter The Dragon. He looks to be in the best possible shape physically, and he displays an incredible amount of physical strength, dexterity and nuance as he takes on wave after wave of mostly nameless goons before his final showdown with Han.
The obvious dubbing does it hurt it slightly, but then it’s an inevitable result when you record the whole film without sound. In an interesting yet ultimately minor twist on expectations, the supposed good guys are dressed in black whilst Han’s men are dressed entirely in white, playing with our preconceived notions of good and evil.
Jim Kelly is given an “introducing” billing, yet doesn’t appear to have done much else beyond appearing in blaxploitation martial arts films and having an impressive afro. His character is done no favours by being as stereotypically 70s as he is, enjoying a vast number of women, talking jive and havin that aforementioned afro – it doesn’t matter how impressive it might be. John Saxon meanwhile appears as the obligatory white American, and whilst he has appeared in much more notable fare (including but not limited to A Nightmare on Elm Street and Beverly Hills Cop 3), he never entirely convinces as a martial arts expert – some decent editing does him many favours.
It’s a shame that Lee did not get a full innings, proverbially speaking, as you can imagine the direction he may have been able to take the martial arts genre in had he lived even just a few more years. While The Game of Death may have featured an archive appearance by Lee in 1978, Enter The Dragon should rightfully be considered his cinematic epitaph, and serve as a clear demonstration of his extensive contribution to the martial arts film genre.