ENTER THE DRAGON (1973)
Article 4367 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Robert Clouse
Featuring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly
Country: Hong Kong / USA
What it is: Martial arts mayhem
A martial arts master of the Shaolin temple is recruited to go to a tournament being hosted by crime lord in the hopes that he will find evidence for his arrest.
I’ve covered a handful of martial arts movies for my project, but this is the first one that actually stars Bruce Lee, the master of the form. In fact, this one seems to be considered the quintessential Bruce Lee movie, and it certainly illustrates the intensity, athleticism and charisma of the man; in his martial arts movies, he was a man whose presence electrified the screen. The story itself is nothing special; it’s basically something of a James Bond movie with Bond replaced by a martial arts master. It’s Lee’s intensity and the stylish sequences directed by Robert Clouse that sell the movie, with the sequence in a hall of mirrors easily being the most memorable in the movie. Certainly, it’s the best produced of the movies of this genre I’ve covered, and the fact that it is an American co-production means that it avoids the dubbing issues which make many of the other movies of this form seem so cheesy.
However, there is an issue here as to whether the movie really qualifies as falling within the genres I’m covering. It’s listed in the Lentz film credit books, which have a number of entries that are questionable. Despite certain similarities to the James Bond movies, it lacks the gadgetry that nudges them into science fiction, and even classifying it as a marginal fantasy is a real stretch. At this point, I’d have to say that from a fantastic genre standpoint, this one is a false alarm.