Enter the Dragon (1973)

R | 98-99 mins | Drama | August 1973

Director:

Robert Clouse

Writer:

Michael Allin

Cinematographer:

Gilbert Hubbs

Production Companies:

Sequoia Pictures, Inc., Concord Productions, Ltd., Warner Bros., Inc.
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HISTORY

Enter the Dragon was the last feature-length film completed by Bruce Lee (27 Nov 1940—20 Jul 1973). Lee, born in San Francisco and reared in Hong Kong, elevated the martial arts film to critical acclaim and worldwide recognition. A Jul 1973 HR article noted that, prior to the film’s release, Warner Bros. held a series of seminars on how to market the film. The company wanted to make sure that the film, which was shot in Hong Kong, would not be confused with a number of dubbed-into-English Chinese Kung Fu movies that had been released recently in the United States. The company stressed that Enter the Dragon was a "top" Warner Bros. feature, “written by an American, directed by an American, produced by Americans with production values far beyond those found in a so-called 'Kung Fu' film.”
       The NYT film reviewer noted that Enter the Dragon , Lee’s first American co-production, “is expertly made and well-meshed; it moves like lightning and brims with color.” The Time reviewer commented on the “almost choreographic flow” of the fight sequences staged by Lee, and the HR reviewer noted that the fight sequences “lift the movie the way Astaire and Rogers used to when they danced….” The HR reviewer commented on the similarity between the mirror sequence at the end of Enter the Dragon and the mirror funhouse scene in Orson Welles's 1948 film The Lady from Shanghai (see below). A “Rambling Reporter” item in the Jun 1974 HR noted that Enter the ... More Less

Enter the Dragon was the last feature-length film completed by Bruce Lee (27 Nov 1940—20 Jul 1973). Lee, born in San Francisco and reared in Hong Kong, elevated the martial arts film to critical acclaim and worldwide recognition. A Jul 1973 HR article noted that, prior to the film’s release, Warner Bros. held a series of seminars on how to market the film. The company wanted to make sure that the film, which was shot in Hong Kong, would not be confused with a number of dubbed-into-English Chinese Kung Fu movies that had been released recently in the United States. The company stressed that Enter the Dragon was a "top" Warner Bros. feature, “written by an American, directed by an American, produced by Americans with production values far beyond those found in a so-called 'Kung Fu' film.”
       The NYT film reviewer noted that Enter the Dragon , Lee’s first American co-production, “is expertly made and well-meshed; it moves like lightning and brims with color.” The Time reviewer commented on the “almost choreographic flow” of the fight sequences staged by Lee, and the HR reviewer noted that the fight sequences “lift the movie the way Astaire and Rogers used to when they danced….” The HR reviewer commented on the similarity between the mirror sequence at the end of Enter the Dragon and the mirror funhouse scene in Orson Welles's 1948 film The Lady from Shanghai (see below). A “Rambling Reporter” item in the Jun 1974 HR noted that Enter the Dragon became Warner Bros.' "greatest foreign grosser in the last 10 years, and the second top foreign moneymaker in company history.” The film, which an Aug 1972 Var article predicted would gross $2,000,000 in the Far East, went on to gross close to $14,000,000.
       Raymond Chow was the head of Golden Harvest Film Co., the Hong Kong company that offered Lee, who had previously co-starred in the American television series The Green Hornet (1966--1967), his first leading role in a martial arts film. Following Lee’s phenomenal box-office success, the actor and Chow formed Concord Productions, Ltd. as a subsidiary of Golden Harvest. Prior to appearing in Enter the Dragon , Lee had begun working on Game of Death , for which he not only would be the star, but also the director and co-writer. Before that film was completed, he moved on to the production of Enter the Dragon . Following Lee’s death, Robert Clouse, the director of Enter the Dragon , shot additional scenes for Game of Death using stand-ins for Lee and incorporated his footage with that of Lee to create a new film that was eventually released in 1978 as Game of Death . In 2000, the original footage shot by Lee for Game of Death was incorporated into a documentary about Lee’s life titled Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey . Lee’s son Brandon, also an actor and martial arts expert, was killed in a shooting accident on 31 Mar 1993 on the set of The Crow , which was released in 1994. Lee's daughter Shannon is also an actress in action films. The 1993 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was a fiction movie about Lee.
       Although onscreen credits read “and introducing Jim Kelly,” the 1972 film Melinda (see below), not Enter the Dragon , marked Kelly’s screen debut. In 2007, it was announced that Warner Independent Pictures and John Wells Productions were planning a remake of Enter the Dragon , titled Awaken the Dragon , to be directed by Kurt Sutter.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Aug 1973
p. 4618.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1973.
---
Daily Variety
10 Aug 2007.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1973
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1973
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1973
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
Jun 1974.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
24 Aug 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1973.
---
New York Times
18 Aug 1973
p. 26.
Time
1 Oct 1973.
---
Variety
30 Aug 1972.
---
Variety
22 Aug 1973
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
In assoc with
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam
Elec gaffer
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set supv
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prods, U.S.
Asst to the prods, Hong Kong
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Exec asst
STAND INS
Fighting seq staged by
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 August 1973
Los Angeles opening: 24 August 1973
Production Date:
22 January--late April 1973 in Hong Kong
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros., Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 August 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43791
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
98-99
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Hong Kong, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a Shaolin temple in Hong Kong, British Intelligence agent Braithwaite asks Lee, a member of the temple, to participate in a martial arts tournament organized by Han, a former Shaolin monk. Later, Braithwaite shows Lee a film depicting Han and his bodyguard Oharra and explains that the tournament is to be held at Han’s island fortress, where Han runs a school of martial arts. The government is interested because they suspect that Han is abducting attractive women, whom he sells as sex slaves after turning them into opium addicts. Because Han’s only contact with the outside world is through the tournament he hosts every three years, Braithwaite asks Lee to infiltrate the island as a festival contestant in order to unearth evidence against Han. Braithwaite adds that the government also has planted a female operative named Mei Ling on the island. Lee is reluctant to harness his martial arts prowess to material rather than spiritual causes, but when the Shaolin master informs him that Oharra and his thugs assaulted Lee’s sister Su-Lin three years earlier, forcing her to commit suicide rather than face dishonor, Lee decides to forgo the Shaolin prohibition against employing his skills in the pursuit of revenge. After boarding the junk transporting contestants to Han’s island, Lee meets Rupert Roper and Williams, who served together in Vietnam. Williams, a militant black man, is on the run from two racist police officers whom he assaulted after they harassed him with racial epithets, while Roper, an inveterate gambler, is desperate to pay back the money he owes the mob before they break his legs. Also onboard is Parsons, a ... +


At a Shaolin temple in Hong Kong, British Intelligence agent Braithwaite asks Lee, a member of the temple, to participate in a martial arts tournament organized by Han, a former Shaolin monk. Later, Braithwaite shows Lee a film depicting Han and his bodyguard Oharra and explains that the tournament is to be held at Han’s island fortress, where Han runs a school of martial arts. The government is interested because they suspect that Han is abducting attractive women, whom he sells as sex slaves after turning them into opium addicts. Because Han’s only contact with the outside world is through the tournament he hosts every three years, Braithwaite asks Lee to infiltrate the island as a festival contestant in order to unearth evidence against Han. Braithwaite adds that the government also has planted a female operative named Mei Ling on the island. Lee is reluctant to harness his martial arts prowess to material rather than spiritual causes, but when the Shaolin master informs him that Oharra and his thugs assaulted Lee’s sister Su-Lin three years earlier, forcing her to commit suicide rather than face dishonor, Lee decides to forgo the Shaolin prohibition against employing his skills in the pursuit of revenge. After boarding the junk transporting contestants to Han’s island, Lee meets Rupert Roper and Williams, who served together in Vietnam. Williams, a militant black man, is on the run from two racist police officers whom he assaulted after they harassed him with racial epithets, while Roper, an inveterate gambler, is desperate to pay back the money he owes the mob before they break his legs. Also onboard is Parsons, a sadistic bully from New Zealand. That night, the contestants are welcomed to the island by an elaborate banquet at which the black-gloved Han makes a grand entrance accompanied by a band of white-cloaked, dart-throwing women. Lee catches an apple pierced by one of the women’s darts, and later, when Han’s hostess Tania offers Lee a choice of women with whom he can spend the night, he requests the dart thrower, Mei Ling. Tania makes the same offer to Williams, who selects an assortment of four women, and Roper, who picks Tania. In the first round of the tournament the next morning, Roper bests Parsons. That evening, Williams, becoming restless despite his harem, sneaks outside, even though he has been warned that it is forbidden to leave the palace at night. Lee also slips outside and, beneath some potted plants, finds a trap door leading to a hidden subterranean chamber. When Lee’s presence is discovered by the guards, he scales the walls to make a quick escape and is seen by Williams. The following morning, Han announces that he is aware that someone has breached security and orders Bolo, his brutal enforcer to punish the guards for their incompetence. Bolo then promptly crushes them, throws them into a heap and drags off their bodies. When Lee and Oharra face off in the next match, Oharra, enraged and frustrated by Lee’s virtuosity, attacks him with a broken bottle. Effortlessly kicking the bottle from Oharra’s hand, Lee overwhelms his opponent and kills him by stomping on his chest. Afterward, Han summons Williams to his study to ask him why he was wandering the grounds the previous night. Williams asserts that he was not the only one out that night, then demands to leave the island. Angered, Han calls in his guards to attack Williams, but when Williams defeats them all, Han takes him on. After pummeling Williams to death with his fist, Han removes his glove, revealing that he has a fake hand. Han then offers to give Roper a tour of the palace and after showing him his museum devoted to torture devices, takes him into the basement, where drugs are being compounded in one room while in another, young women are being injected with doses of opium. As they pass a cell filled with men who have been shanghaied by Han’s men, Han mentions that he knows that Roper has incurred large debts and offers him a job as his representative in the United States. Displaying Williams’ body, which has been suspended over a tank of liquid, Han menacingly states that he wants Roper to understand the consequences of his decision. That night, Lee again sneaks out onto the palace grounds and after capturing a cobra and stuffing it into a bag, descends into the basement vault. Pulling the snake from the bag, Lee hurls it into the control room, sending the guards fleeing in panic. As Lee telegraphs a message to Braithwaite asking for help, the alarm sounds. Although Lee fends off an onslaught of guards, he is finally trapped in a pit as steel plates slide down around him. Receiving Lee’s message the following morning, Braithwaite calls the military for reinforcements. Meanwhile, Han declares that Roper will face Bolo in a contest. As Mei Ling slips into the cellar and frees the prisoners, Roper defeats Bolo, angering Han, who orders the rest of the guards to attack Roper. At that moment, the prisoners stream into the ring, taking on the guards. Furious, Han attaches a claw to his fake hand and lashes out at Lee, but strikes a block of wood instead. When the claw becomes embedded in the wood block, Han, now defenseless, flees, chased by Lee. Running into the torture museum, Han attaches another lethal claw onto his hand. Lee, enraged by the affronts Han has committed to his family and his temple, remains unphased as Han gores his chest and face with the claw. Grabbing a spear, Han lunges at Lee but misses, plunging the spear into the wall. Desperate, Han then pushes on the wall, which swings open, revealing a hidden panel with a mirror on the opposite side. Following him through the panel into another room, Lee finds that the room has been paneled with mirrors, all refracting multiple images of Han. Unable to determine what is real and what is a reflection, Lee smashes the mirrors with his fists until he is finally able to distinguish Han from his multiple reflections. Striking Han with a powerful kick, Lee sends him flying onto the spear, impaling him. Lee then walks through the panel door, flicking it as he passes through, thus sending Han’s body spinning around and around in the hall of mirrors. Returning to the yard, Lee finds the field filled with prisoners, the guards cringing in subjugation. As Lee gives Roper a “thumbs up” for victory, the military helicopters circle overhead. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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