Friday Fisticuffs: Enter The Dragon (1973)

Faithful readers, fight fans and people who’ve stumbled upon the site while doing a Google Image Search, I feel like a fraud. All these years I’ve said I was a Bruce Lee fan, but I feel like it’s all been a lie. I know I watched the classic Enter The Dragon in high school. I know that I bought my own DVD copy of the movie at some point after that. I know I’m fascinated by Lee and his mystique. I know I’ve seen Big Boss and Way Of The Dragon recently. I even watched the travesty that is Game Of Death. But, it seems as though I remembered roughly nothing of Enter‘s plot. For all I knew, the movie was about Bruce Lee heading to a tournament held by a bad guy with a claw where he got to hang out with Black Belt Jones and the deputy from A Nightmare On Elm Street. But there’s SO MUCH MORE to the plot. The movie’s essentially a James Bond movie, but with Lee in the role, a guy that looks like Sean Connery (John Saxon who I first saw in Nightmare and recently in Battle Beyond The Stars) and even fights a drug dealing villain WHO STROKES A WHITE CAT AND HAS A METAL CLAW HAND. I remembered the hand and the cat, but not all the other spy moments.

So, how is this possible? Well, in high school I would usually watch movies while on the computer, which stood in the exact opposite part of the living room from the TV, so while the movie played and I was looking at email or chatting with people, my back was turned to the TV. I guess I just never watched the full version after that, catching the parts I remembered on TV like the big battle scene at the end and even the secret lair brawl.

Speaking of which, how rad are those fights? Bruce Lee is the king, no doubt about it and thankfully he has enough stunt guys around him who also seem to know what they’re doing. The best part of the film, though, is that everyone gets the chance to shine. Heck, they even get intro scenes in the beginning of the film that also include fights (and that I also, of course, had forgotten about). While Jim Kelly doesn’t fare as well as the others, he, Lee and Saxon all get to beat down on some bad guys. As much as I love that iconic, mirror room fight at the end of the film, I think I actually like the one underground better because it’s that classic set up of a bunch of goons trying to take out the master. Good luck. Seriously, though, every fight in this flick is rad.

This is the rare occasion where a movie that I thought I loved turned out to be something completely different than I expected, but also all the more interesting and awesome because of that. It was kind of like watching it for the very first time, but now I’m far more steeped in Lee’s films as well as the Bond films — all of which I’ve watched in the last year — so the overall experience was a lot more fulfilling. Add in the fights and Lee showcasing his fascinating brand of philosophy throughout the film and I am even more of a lifelong fan, though I guess lifelong will have to start at almost 30.

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