Enter the Dragon (1973)

Yeah, I’m kind of reaching for the comfort food with this one, and why the hell shouldn’t I? It’s great. I’ve seen it written that certain film genres could only really flourish when sound film took off, and the martial arts film is one of those, surely; the fights are so much fun when you can hear them as well as see them (and given that a surprising amount of the action in this film, particularly some of the really deadly force, actually takes place just out of camera range, sound really is necessary for their effectiveness). And Bruce Lee, too, would never have been quite the same in silent films; obviously he looked great on film, but it’s the sounds he makes, the whooping, the barking, the shrieking, the gibbering, whatever the hell it is, they’re such a vital part of his fighting performance as much as anything he does with his fists and feet. And the face, too; he does some great face in this (I just watched a month of horror films and none of them were as scary as the look on his face when he stomps Bob Wall’s chest).

It’s a film that feels quite curious in some ways, a US/Hong Kong co-production with an American director but mostly HK talent (I’ll defer to Bey Logan’s judgement that Lee was the film’s main creative force rather than director Robert Clouse), shot entirely in HK and yet somehow it doesn’t quite feel like a Hong Kong film, it feels more “American” somehow… I did notice this time how long it actually takes for Bruce to seriously get underway with his mission (i.e. about halfway into the film), and the whole thing did strike me this time as perhaps being more interested, to at least some extent, in its thriller plot than its fights. I could be wrong, but I did get that feeling. Anyway, it’s great, like I said; there is the school of thought that says Fist of Fury is the better film (I’ll need to watch it again to see if I concur or not), but Dragon still holds up as an excellent “gateway drug” for anyone starting out in martial arts cinema, and a great example of early to mid 70s (and how early to mid 70s!) action cinema in general…

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