Rising popularity of the Chinese martial arts as screen entertainment climaxes in fine crescendo in this violence-drenched actioner starring the late Bruce Lee and John Saxon. Film carries all the explosive trappings that make for a hit in its intended market and is glossed with a melodramatic narrative to take full advantage of its theme.
“Enter the Dragon” marks the final appearance of Lee, recognized as leading exponent in Chinese films dealing with the ancient art of Oriental self-defense, which combines the best elements of karate, judo, hapkido, tai-chih, and kung-fu.
Lee, who made half a dozen such films, died suddenly in Hong Kong July 20, only a few weeks after he completed “Dragon,” co-produced by Warner Bros. in association with Chinese producer Raymond Chow. Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller produced for WB.
Film is rich in the atmosphere of the Orient, where it was lensed in its entirety, and brims with frequent encounters in the violent arts. Lee plays a James Bond-type of super-secret agent, past master in Oriental combat, who takes on the assignment of participating in a brutal martial arts tournament as a cover for investigating the suspected criminal activities of the man staging this annual tournament.
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There’s still enough novelty and excitement attached to films dealing with the martial arts to entice enthusiastic reception, even if there is nothing particularly unusual about the plot. Lee socks over a performance seldom equaled in action. Saxon, as an American expert drawn to the tournament on a small island off the China coast, is surprisingly adept in his action scenes, which include rugged battles as Lee’s brother in the arts.
Robert Clouse’s realistic depiction of the Michael Allin script results in constant fast play by all the principals. Jim Kelly portrays an American black also come for the tournament held by Shih Kien, who delivers strongly in a bruising climactic fight with Lee, and Bob Wall and Yang Sze are well cast as karate heavies.
Ahna Capri and Betty Chung provide brief, distaff interest, and Angela Mao Ying distinguishes herself as a hapkido expert when attacked by five of Kien’s men.
Gilbert Hubbs’ fluid photography is interesting, as is art direction by James Wong Sun, and Lalo Schifrin’s strange music score is a strong asset. Whit.