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Film: Enter the Dragon

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.
  • Afro Asskicker: Williams, the Ur Example, is a black man with an afro and serious martial art skills.
  • 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.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Su Lin (Lee's sister) stabs herself with a piece of broken glass when she is cornered by O'Hara and his henchmen. Though it's more avoiding a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Blade on a Stick: At one point, Han uses a spear against Lee.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Mr. Han's daughters are his personal bodyguards; not O'hara.
  • Brick Break: O'Hara does this to a board with a standing punch right in front of Lee. Lee's response: "Boards don't hit back." Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Bullying a Dragon: There were about a dozen or so people on that boat. Parson decided Lee was the best one to pick a fight with.
  • The Cameo: Lee's real life mentor Ip Man appears as a ferryman in a scene early in the film
  • The Casanova: Both Williams and Roper seem to have a way with the ladies.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: The military flies to the island just after the villains are taken care of and mere seconds before the end credits.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Roper is caught in an arm bar and instead of using a martial arts technique to get out of it, opts to simply bite his leg.
  • Co-Dragons: Bolo and O'Hara are Han's two top enforcers on the island.
  • Colour Coded Characters: In the Final Battle, all of Han's henchmen are dressed in white gi, while all of the shanghaied men are dressed in all-black attires.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Every hero (and even a villain in one scene) gets the chance to kick the crap out of 3-5 guys at once.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The fight between Lee and O'Hara.
    • There's also Lee's fight with Mr. Han's minions in the drug factory; by the time Lee's captured, he's already mowed down dozens of them.
    • An off-screen Curb Stomp Battle happened when some dumbass intruded on Bruce Lee's family area and scared his kids. Bruce Lee sent the guy to the hospital with one kick.
  • Daddy's Girl: This is the reasoning behind Daddy's Little Villain.
    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.
  • The Danza:
    • Lee, played by Bruce Lee.
    • In an inversion, actor Yang Zse took the stage name of Bolo Yeung to cash in on his sudden exposure in this film as the villainous Bolo.
  • Divide and Conquer: Defied. Han tries to force Roper and Lee to fight to the death but they refuse. He sends Bolo in to do the job instead.
  • 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.
  • Don't Think. Feel: Trope Namer
    Lee: It is like a finger, pointing away to the moon... Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Many examples.
    • 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  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.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • In the original script, Roper dies and Williams survives. This was reversed by John Saxon's agent to land him a bigger part; it was not an example of racist executives.
    • Lee, playing a secret agent, wanted to use a gun in at least one scene. See Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? below.
  • Follow the Leader: Pretty much all Fighting Games and movies involving a fighting tournament owe at least something to Enter the Dragon.
  • 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.
  • Good Weapon, Evil Weapon: Lee uses a Simple Staff or nunchaku on occasion and his own style of martial arts the rest of the time, while Han's evilness is emphasized by his penchant for sinister-looking claw hands.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Lee delivers one to O'Hara during their fight.
    • Roper gives one to Bolo.
    • As expected, Lee's sister gives one to O'Hara in her flashback.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Roper is a gambler who begins to purposefully lose a fight in order to swindle a spectator out of money and is upfront about the fact that he plans to trick Lee into losing money. Despite this, he is still seen as charming to both the audience and the other characters. It's also apparent that he plans to double-cross Han at one point.
    • 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.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The setting for the final showdown.
  • Hero of Another Story: All of the heroic characters had ongoing and past adventures.
  • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roper is a conman but he has limits.
  • Kung-Shui: Evident in the climax where chairs, staffs, and anything made of wooden is shattered to splinters.
  • Last Name Basis: Every main character goes by his last name.
  • 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.
  • Men of Sherwood: The imprisoned Black Robes in the Final Battle; Han slashes one of them.
  • Mooks: The White Robes in the Final Battle.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight:
    • Lee's uncle slashes O'Hara's face with a knife but is disarmed with a few punches and kicks.
    • Later, O'Hara comes after Lee with two broken bottles and is similarly disarmed.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Han kills Williams by beating him to death with his cast iron hand.
  • Not Just A Tournament: The hero participates in the tournament, but was actually sent there to uncover the evidence about the tournament organizer's criminal activities.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never see what part of O'Hara's body Lee landed on, but we see how powerful the jump is along with the disgusted reactions of Han, Roper and Williams reacting to it.
  • Oh Crap: Roper has 3 of them. The first was rather comical but still serious when Han reveals his Opium ring. The second is when he sees Williams' chained up corpse he slow motion mouths the words "Oh shit." The third is kinda debatable as he is told by Han that he is to fight Lee. On one hand he seen what Lee was capable of and doesn't wanna end up like that on the other he shows he has limits to his con artist lifestyle.
  • Police Brutality: Averted in Williams' back-story when he kicks the crap out of racist police officers and then drives off in their car.
  • Rated M for Manly: Bruce Lee in a fighting tournament as a secret agent; yes.
  • Red Right Hand:
    • Han's various prosthetic hands are an almost literal example.
    • O'Hara's facial scar also qualifies.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Williams, one of the three heroes, is killed mid-movie.
  • Salt and Pepper: Roper and Williams. Both are pretty even-tempered.
  • 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.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Han replaces his missing hand with various weapons throughout the movie.
  • To Win Without Fighting: Lee described this as his style word-for-word.
  • Truth in Television/Shout-Out:
    • (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.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The leisure suits, turtle necks, the funky music, Williams' afro and manner of speech along with mentioning the Vietnam War was only a few years ago, all point to this movie being in The Seventies. Also, this movie is mostly responsible for kick-starting the kung-fu craze in the US during this time.
    • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A few examples:
    • Bolo is knocked out just before the climax but one would expect him to wake up during the huge brawl at the end or at least beshown getting rounded up at the end.
    • Mei Ling is last seen freeing the captives.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Bolo's style, while Eastern in origin, still consists of a lot of grappling and even a back breaker.
    • In the opening fight scene, Lee defeats his opponent via a crucifix submission.
  • Yellow Peril: Averted. When a large number of characters (including the hero) are asian, then a villainous asian is nothing special.
  • You Have Failed Me: When Han's security guards fail their duties he forces them to fight Bolo to 'prove their worth'. It's nothing more than a public execution.
  • You Killed My Sister: The reason for Lee's rivalry with O'Hara.


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alternative title(s): Enter The Dragon
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