Thursday, September 10, 2009

#474: Enter the Dragon (1973)

Director: Robert Clouse
Cast: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly & Kien Shih

Lee, a martial arts master, is spying on a crime lord on an island near Hong Kong in this amazingly funkified classic of kung fu films. He works under cover, using an invitation to a martial arts tournament to grant him access to the island. Also on the island is Roper, an American who is in a large amount of debt and hoping to win his way to financial freedom, and Williams, an African-American with plenty of style in both his fighting style and his hair-do.

This movie is so much friggin' fun. The action scenes are a bit outdated, but extremely entertaining. On top of the cool moves, courtesy of Bruce Lee, we also get all sorts of sound effects that have been long lost in the annals of film history. What ever happened to "hiiiiyah!", "hwaCHIH!" and "oooaaaooooo"? Well, they're all to be found here, in Lee's last film before his premature death.

You also can't go wrong with a soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin. 'Nuff said.

This film is such an influence on film, it's impossible to list them all. First, of course, is the kung fu genre in general. This has been called the grandfather of the genre, and it's easy to see why. It's also gotten hints of old-school James Bond in it, with all the foxy ladies lined up at the fighters' beds every night. I also wouldn't be surprised if Tarantino's choice of Thurman's iconic yellow body suit in Kill Bill Vol. I is paying homage to many of the scenes in Enter the Dragon.

As for the negatives, the sound is shoddy. It's obvious that some of the actors didn't even speak English and were dubbed. But even aside from that, it's not hard to realize that in fact all the actors, whether English-speaking or not, were dubbed. It's just never a good idea. I also get a bit irritated by Bruce Lee's now-outdated fighting noises (listed above), though the kung fu universe would be at a loss without it. But honestly, he sounds like a mix between a monkey and an angry chicken.

If you're looking for funk fu, this is it.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong three weeks before the film's premiere in 1973.
  • In their one scene together, Lee actually struck Jackie Chan in the face with one of the fighting sticks he used. He immediately apologized and insisted that Chan would work on all of his movies after that, but he died before he could keep the promise.
  • Kien Shih, who played Han, did not speak English, he just simply mouthed the lines as best as he could. Chinese-American actor Keye Luke overdubbed his dialogue.
  • Over 8,000 mirrors were used to setup the "Hall of Mirrors" where the climax duel takes place.
  • One of only two movies Bruce Lee did in which he speaks with his natural voice in the States. The other isMarlowe (1969).
  • The movie was originally filmed without sound. All of the dialogue and effects were dubbed in later during post-production.

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