Enter the Dragon is the fourth and final (completed) film of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. It premiered in August 1973, one month after Lee's untimely death. Enter the Dragon was the first of Lee's movies to premiere in America and the first to be recorded in English.The story centers around Lee, a Shaolin monk and martial arts master, who is approached by Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks), a member of an international intelligence organization that wants Lee to become an undercover agent. The organization has been investigating a man named Han (Shih Kien), a former student of Lee's master, who lives in an island fortress and carries out a number of illegal activities (including kidnapping, drugs, and prostitution). Because they "know everything but can prove nothing," they need Lee to infiltrate Han's island during a martial arts tournament held by Han once every three years and gather evidence that will uncover his crimes. Other central characters of the film are fellow martial artist Williams (Jim Kelly), martial artist and unlucky gambler Roper (John Saxon), and another undercover agent named Mei Ling (Betty Chung). Though there is surprisingly little direct cooperation between the heroes, they each individually work to uncover the secrets of Han's underground operation, risking the deadly penalties imposed by Han and his Made of Iron bodyguard O'Hara (Robert Wall).Enter the Dragon is still considered one of the finest martial arts films in history. It has often been praised for its ethnic equality, since it features heroes of European, African, and Asian descent. It also features Lee as a philosophical warrior, allowing him to tie in his own personal philosophies of martial arts (by virtue of his personally rewriting the script to add dialogue at the opening Shaolin Temple scenes). Of course, the real beauty of the film is in the exquisite fight sequences showcasing Lee at the top of his game, along with an excellent supporting cast and stunt crew (including future martial arts stars Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. (See for yourself).
This movie offers examples of:
Action Girl: Lee's sister, Su Lin. The actress, Angela Mao Ying, would go on to be a martial arts star in her own right in Hong Kong.
Badass Grandpa: The actor playing the Big Bad, Shih Kien, was sixty years old when this movie was filmed, and still portrayed a convincingly worthy adversary to the almost thirty years younger Bruce Lee.
Ropper: Nobody's more loyal than Daddy's little girl.
Daddy's Little Villain: Han has trained his daughters to be his personal bodyguards on the theory that no one will be more loyal to him. One of them knocked Roper clear off his feet rather than give him a handshake and another is seen dead on the courtyard stage after the fight is over.
Does Not Like Guns: Han does not allow guns on his island because he had a bad experience with them, it would make him too vulnerable to assassination and it would provide an easy pretext to outside forces to perform a raid.
Williams is killed by Han after being set up as a major character.
O'Hara's death should be expected since he is a villain and Lee wants revenge for his sister's death, but instead of dying in the climax as is usually the case in revenge plots, he kicks it midway through the movie in a pretty one-sided battle.
The madam is killed offscreen and pretty abruptly.
Even Evil Has Standards: For all of Han's villainy, he is dead serious about the tournament rules and not even O'Hara is exempt; Han is visibly and audibly angered by O'Hara attempting to grab Lee's leg after being knocked down, and the last straw is when Lee assumes victory and bows to Hannote which demonstrates Lee's self-control in eschewing revenge beyond defeating O'Hara only for O'Hara to break bottles behind Lee's back. As soon as Lee kills O'Hara then presents himself before Han again and a henchman verifies the kill, Han declares that "O'Hara's treachery has disgraced us."
Evil Plan: Han has a long running one involving drug and Sex Slave trafficking. He uses the tournament ro recruit new talent.
Good Colors, Evil Colors: The Final Battle is a sign that this film was made in China. In chinese culture white is associated with death and black is associated with death. In the Final Battle, Han's mooks all wear white (the grey security guards are few in number) and all of the freed martial artists fighting them wear black.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Subverted. O'Hara has a (usually) heroic "crossing one eye but not damaging it"-scar, but is definitely evil.
Lee has codified this as part of his fighting style, "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting".
Faux Action Girl: Mei Ling is a Reverse Mole in Han's island, is a special agent, and can shoot a dart into a thrown apple. Despite this, she doesn't fight anyone. However, it was her idea to release the imprisoned martial artists.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Han throws a spear at Lee, resulting in it sticking straight through a wall. As the fight continues, Lee kicks Han into the spear.
If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Han tests Roper with a near-literal example of this. Han places his pet cat onto a guillotine, Roper saves the cat, says "Now you got EIGHT left," and frees the cat. Han then knew that "there is a point you will not go beyond", and then shows the pull chain was just for a secret elevator, not the guillotine.
Meaningful Echo: Early in the film, Lee's master tells him, "the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives." When fighting Han in the hall of mirrors, Lee reinterprets this advice and begins to break the mirrors.
Scenery Porn: One of Bruce Lee's stated goals was to show the beauty of Chinese culture in this movie, and good lord does it show, especially in the gorgeous dinner scene.
Shout-Out: One scene shows Lee dealing with an arrogant fellow contestant by suggesting that the boat was too cramped for a duel and that they should take one of the lifeboats to a nearby island. As soon as the other guy gets in, he kicks the lifeboat down and lets him get dragged. This is a direct reference to Tsukahara Bokuden, who is believed to have done the same thing once.
Soul Brotha: Williams is a skilled martial artist that is 'too busy looking good' to have time for losing.
Stripperiffic: Bruce Lee's pair of black speedos in the first fight.
(in Real Life) Bruce Lee was once put into an arm bar during a sparring session and his opponent asked what he'd do in this situation. Bruce responded "Why, I'd bite your leg, of course". Roper does this in his fight with Bolo.
It also happened in an earlier Bruce Lee film "Fist of Fury" where Lee does it John Baker's character Petkov in about the same Armbar position, too.
More recent visitors to Hong Kong will notice how much the city has changed since then.
Unknown Rival: Oddly enough, Han notices and confronts Williams and Roper before he ever meets the protagonist of the movie. This is in spite of the fact that Lee was sent there for the specific purpose of bringing the villain down while the two minor characters were at the tournament for unrelated reasons.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lee brings this up right away. He's visibly disappointed by the answer. That's because Bruce Lee was very clear when it came down to Guns vs. Martial Arts, and playing a sort-of secret agent in this movie very much wanted to use a gun in at least one scene, however the producers nixed the idea. The annoyance Lee portrays is real.
Worf Effect: Williams takes down two cops, the bully from the boat, and a gang of mooks in order to show he is a Bad Ass. Then he faces Han.