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The Asian ApertureEnter the Dragon (1973)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, June 23, 2013    Share

Hungry for International fame, Bruce Lee, teamed up with Hollywood to make the best martial arts movie that set the bar so high that no other martial arts movie have been able to surpass. Lee had written his chief definite aim, in which, he stated that he would become the highest paid action star in the World. If he had lived just a little while longer, he would have seen that goal reached. The only movie that could propelled Bruce Lee to such heights at the international level was Enter the Dragon. It was made back in 1973 on a tiny budget of only $850,000, yet it went on to establish Bruce Lee into a true legend. This Summer in 2013, Enter the Dragon celebrates its 40th Anniversary. I havenít written about it because I have been waiting for the right time and that time is now.

Enter the Dragon opens with a fantastic fight scene between Bruce Lee vs Sammo Hung at the legendary Shaolin Temple. It is a good fight for a number of reasons; mainly that it shows what mixed martial arts would eventually become decades later. Lee punches and kicks his opponent and then takes him down, ending the confrontation in a painful arm lock that forces Sammo Hung to tap out.

Next Lee is introduced to Mr. Braithwaite for tea and is told about Hanís tournament held at a nearby island. Braithwaite shows Lee a short film about Han, Hanís bodyguard Oíhara and a drug operation and prostitution ring. Lee is the only one who can possibly bring the vicious Mr. Han to justice.

After the Lee character is established, Enter the Dragon shows a brief backstory of how Leeís sisterís death was caused by Oíhara. Then the other two characters are introduced with their backstories. Jim Kelly plays the coolest character called Williams. After battling racist cops he takes off in a squad car to make it to the airport for his flight to Hong Kong via Hawaii.

John Saxon, plays Roper, the happy-go-lucky gambler who is in serious debt. Roper is out playing golf when local goons try to collect money from him. He quickly dispatches a group of thugs and tells his secretary to confirm his flight to Hong Kong. One of the thugs is played by Pat Johnson who would go on to choreograph The Karate Kid (1984,) and also work as the stunt coordinator for The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movies.

Roper and Williams are old friends who were in the Vietnam War together. The three main characters meet up on board a Chinese junk that sails to Hanís island. One of the passengers is so rude to Lee that Lee is forced to display ďthe art of fighting without fighting.Ē You really need to watch the movie to experience it firsthand.

On the island the fighters are greeted by the lovely blonde, Tania, along with one of Hanís strongmen, Bolo, played by Bolo Yeung. Bolo would later square off against Jean Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport and Double Impact.

One night on the island, Williams and Roper spend their time in pleasure enjoying the local ladies provided. Bruce Lee is all business as he puts on a black suit and seeks out the drug operation.

As the tournament is well underway, Lee has his first fight against Oíhara. It is interesting to note that even though Oíhara has helped caused his sisterís death, Lee is not out for revenge. He applies just enough force and is in compliance of the martial code of ethics that dictate excessive force should not be used unless there is no other option. You only use just enough force as needed. Lee only kills Oíhara when Oíhara smashes bottles and threatens him personally. In the beginning of the fight, Lee does an excellent job of showing off his Wing Chun punches and sticky hand techniques.

Williams also has a great fight against the mean spirited Australian Parsons who bullied everyone on the junk. Williams shows off his karate skills and those skills would be later put to good use in other movies such as Black Belt Jones. Enter the Dragon helped to jumpstart Jim Kellyís career.

One of my favorite tournament fights in Enter the Dragon is the hilarious fight with Roper. Roper pretends to lose on purpose as Jim Kelly scams someone in the audience. When the bet is made, Roper unleashes on the opponent and defeats him easily, thus earning money for both him and Williams.

There are some many great fight sequences in Enter the Dragon. One of the highlights in the movie is in the underground opium den just after Lee frees the prisoners. Lee shows off his mixed martial arts skills by using the eskrima double sticks from the Filipino Martial Arts. Lee gracefully uses the sticks to knock out Hanís guards. Earlier he used a bo staff near the elevator and that is a reference to traditional Kung Fu. Leeís use of the Okinawan nunchaku is amazingly fast and breathtaking to watch.

Towards the ending of Enter the Dragon is an all-out brawl that is total chaos. The escaped prisoners fight Hanís guards as Roper and Lee are forced to keep fighting to make it out of the riot alive. It is so realistic and draws you in that you can actually feel like you are on the grass on that island fighting. It should raise the hair on the back of your neck with its intensity and if it doesnít then martial arts movies are not for you.

I wonít go into the end fight between Han and Lee because the climactic battle inside the hall of mirrors needs to be seen and not just described.

Enter the Dragon has meant so much to me throughout the years. I remember the happiest Christmas I had back in 1987. I got a TV for my room, a VCR, Enter the Dragon on videotape, a black outfit just like the one Bruce Lee wore in Enter the Dragon, and yellow sweats, minus the black stripes, for the Game of Death look. The whole family gathered around my new TV in my bedroom and we all watched Enter the Dragon. Iíll never forget that Christmas.

Since 1987, I have collected so much stuff related to Enter the Dragon. I have the Enter the Dragon book by Robert Clouse that is like reading an audio commentary for everything that happened during production. I bought the soundtrack in 1999 during my time in Osaka, Japan. I have numerous Hong Kong movie magazines about Enter the Dragon. I upgraded to the many DVD and Blu-ray releases. I even have Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon action figures on stands. I have the original Enter the Dragon pressbook framed. I even have an old 70ís book called Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew written by his wife, Linda Lee. The book has a flip it section that shows a brief fight from Enter the Dragon.

When Enter the Dragon came out in 1973 it made a huge impact on the World and I only wish Bruce Lee could have lived to see and enjoy the success that all his hard work created.

If you are only going to watch one martial arts movie in your lifetime then the choice is clearly Enter the Dragon.

Happy 40th Anniversary!!

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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