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On August 19, 1973, Warner Bros. unveiled Enter the Dragon, the 98-minute, R-rated actioner starring Bruce Lee, in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Bruce Lee’s last movie is the only one that gives him the star treatment he deserved. His charismatic presence is remarkable in Enter the Dragon, and it’s a shame he didn’t have the chance to become the great, unique star he seemed destined to be.
The movie itself, produced by Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller in association with Raymond Chow of Hong Kong’s Concorde Productions, is a whoop-and-holler entertainment, which is to say that it’s a lavish, corny action movie, not boring for a second and as outrageously wry as it is visually appealing.
Michael Allin’s inventive screenplay brings Lee to the island fortress of master criminal Shih Kien to find evidence to convict him of white slavery and opium trade. Kien organizes a martial arts contest, which is actually a front to find salesmen to peddle his wares throughout the world.
John Saxon is extremely good as a compulsive gambler who joins the contest to find his way out of a losing streak. Jim Kelly is equally fine as a black American trying to earn money for the movement. Peter Archer is an unpleasant New Zealander contestant.
Bob Wall is the big meanie who murdered Lee’s hapkido belt sister, played by Angela Mao Ying in one astonishing action sequence. Yang Sze is Shih’s muscle bound bodyguard. Geoffrey Weeks is Lee’s English Interpol contact. Betty Chung is a secret agent inside the fortress.
Ahna Capri floats through the movie the way Myrna Loy used to in the early Oriental period of her career, dispensing pretty women to the tired contestants like sleeping pills.
But it’s Bruce Lee’s movie. He’s a strange, otherworldly presence, a man of wisdom who excels at action, who speaks of the emotional content of the fight scorning the notion of anger. Lee staged the fight sequences himself, and they lift the movie the way Astaire and Rogers used to when they danced in movies of a different fantasy genre.
Robert Clouse’s fluid direction brings this three-ring circus to action climax, so to speak, after action climax, wringing full potential out of the production. His work is an excellent example of a genre director proving his ready for more ambitious material. Clouse even steals, and quite deftly, from the mirror funhouse scene in Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai.
Lalo Schifrin’s gigantic orchestral score inflates the movie with an appealing epic feeling that sometimes falls out of its story. Gilbert Hubbs’ garish photography is entirely appropriate to the Fu Manchu-like decor of James Wong Sun and costumes of Louis Sheng. Although the movie feels just a shade too long, film editors Kurt Hirschler and George Watters keep the proceedings going at a clip pace. — Alan R. Howard, originally published on August 13, 1973.
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