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With: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri, Kien Shih, Robert Wall, Angela Mao, Betty Chung, Geoffrey Weeks, Bolo Yeung, Peter Archer, Li Jen Ho
Written by: Michael Allin
Directed by: Robert Clouse
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 98
Date: 07/26/1973

Enter the Dragon (1973)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Fists of Flurry

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When I was a little kid in the 1970s, I knew who Bruce Lee was without having seen any of his movies. Like other kids, I pretended to know kung-fu, and went around karate chopping my friends. I finally saw Enter the Dragon in high school, on the old panned-and-scanned VHS video that everyone saw. Sure, I liked it, but it was hard to take seriously. Now, all of Lee's four-and-a-half-films are available on DVD, letterboxed, as God intended. Enter the Dragon has long been considered the best, but it's also the only real kung-fu film financed and produced by a major American studio, and it's the only one in English, where you can hear Lee speaking without being dubbed.

It's easy to see why Lee was -- and still is -- such a big star. He had a charm and charisma that few have. The camera loved him. He had that special undefinable quality that James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and a few others have. He was poetry in motion. He wasn't vulgar or brutal. He was like a remarkable animal, lithe, primal, and proud. When he beat the tar out of a large group of attackers, you feel admiration and the pleasure of watching someone who was the absolute best.

Enter the Dragon is all about a bad guy who trains people to fight for him on an island. Lee is sent there to find out what's going on, and John Saxon, and Jim Kelly play good guys who help. (Apparently, Jackie Chan is among the bad guys in Enter the Dragon, but I have not been able to spot him.) Some James Bond stuff happens, and then the big showdown. Lee's final fight with the head bad guy in the room of mirrors and weapons is something out of cinema folklore. It is as beautiful as a Rogers-Astaire dance and exciting as a John Wayne shootout.

Lee was the only one who could have brought kung-fu movies to mainstream America, and Enter the Dragon is Lee's most beautiful, accomplished and exciting movie, but his others are all worth checking out too. Fists of Fury and The Chinese Connection are cool Hong Kong imports, directed by Lo Wei. Lee himself directed Return of the Dragon (a.k.a. Way of the Dragon), which is not a sequel to Enter the Dragon, but came before. His final performance, the fight with Kareem-Abdul Jabaar in Game of Death, directed by Robert Clouse, who also did Enter the Dragon, is a show-stopper. Looking at these films in order, you can see what promise Lee had, and can guess at how many more barriers he might have broken.

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