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Enter The Dragon (1973)

Running Time: 98 mins.
(110 mins - 25th Anniversary Ed.)

Aspect Ratio:
2: 35: 1

Directed by:
Robert Clouse
Produced by:
Raymond Chow,
Fred Weintraub, Paul Heller
Written by:
Michael Allin &
Bruce Lee (uncredited)

Director of Photography:
Gilbert Hubbs
Edited by:
Yao Chung Chang,
Kurt Hirschler, George Watters

Fight Choreography:
Bruce Lee
Art Direction:
Shen Chien
Costume Design:
Sheng-hsi Chu

Music by:
Lalo Schifrin


Bruce Lee:
John Saxon:
Jim Kelly:
Ahna Capri:
Shih Kien:
Bob Wall:
Angela Mao Ying:
Su Lin
Betty Chung: Mei Ling

Geoffrey Weeks:
Yang Sze:
Peter Archer:
Ho Lee Yan:
Old Man
Jackie Chan:
Thug in Prison (uncredited)
Sammo Hung Kam-bo:
Shaolin fighter - opening sequence (uncredited)


Three men are among an international collection of martial arts champions invited to an island tournament sponsored by the wealthy entrepreneur Mr. Han.  Lee (Bruce Lee) - the outstanding student of the Shaolin temple, is recruited by law enforcement to uncover Han's underworld business dealings, among them Opium dealing and the contemporary slave trade.  Roper (John Saxon) is an American gambler/playboy on his last financial legs and in need of a new paying gig - legal or not.  And Williams (Jim Kelly), also American, is on the lam after assaulting a pair of racists LA cops in a backstreet alley.  Fate will join the three men of conscience together (yes, even Roper) against an army of Han's martial arts henchmen in one of the most popular action / adventure films ever made.  

Site Search Index:
ENTER THE DRAGON - "Prologue / The First Fight" (L. Schifrin)

* ENTER THE DRAGON was the first martial arts film produced by an American studio - Warner Bros. in association with Concord Prods. (a joint venture between Bruce Lee and Hong Kong-based producer Raymond Chow). 

* Chow’s later Golden Harvest Co. would produce numerous American films, among them THE CANONNBALL RUN, and the Tom Selleck adventures LASSISTER and HIGH ROAD TO CHINA.  Warners had previously distributed the Chinese produced FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972) to great success within the U.S.

* Amongst ENTER THE DRAGON's many stuntmen were members of the "Seven Little Fortunes",  including future stars Jackie Chan (one of the thugs in Han's underground prison) and Sammo Hung (the Shaolin temple student with whom Lee spars in the film's opening sequence).

* While the film was directed by Robert Clouse, Lee himself directed the opening Shaolin Monastery fighting sequence.  He would also significantly alter the script (originally titled BLOOD & STEEL - a title he despised) in order to help show the beauty of Chinese culture, and to keep the film from becoming another standard action movie.

* Lee was intimately involved in every aspect of the film - from it's cinematography to fight choregoraphy to music scoring.  His original choice for director was Arthur Penn (BONNIE AND CLYDE), who turned it down.  Clouse had directed two Oscar nominated shorts (which he also wrote and produced - CADILLAC and JIMMY BLUE EYES) before going on to the features DREAMS OF GLASS and DARKER THAN AMBER.  AMBER’s climactic fight scene was what sold Lee on Clouse as the best directorial choice.

* The philosophical “fighting without fighting” sequence (where Lee tricks Parson's onto the boat skiff) was largely inspired by Eastern philosophy lecturer Alan Watts’ anecdote concerning 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden. Lee had recorded the Watt's lecture from TV 13 years prior.   

* With the exception of (then) Warner President Ted Ashley, almost everyone at the WB were against making the film.  Warner (then) Creative V.P., Fred Weintraub, had seen THE BIG BOSS (aka FIST OF FURY) in ‘71, and had met with Chow during the filming of Lee's GAME OF DEATH - which was filmed before but released after ENTER THE DRAGON.   Together they inked a deal for "BLOOD & STEEL".  When Weintraub returned to the U.S.,  Warners decided to come aboard after realizing the film could be shot for the price of a TV pilot.   

ENTER THE DRAGON - "Main Title" (L. Schifrin)

* The opening Shaolin temple sparring sequence (with Sammo Hung) was actually filmed during re-shoots.  After a look at the film's first work cut, Lee felt things needed to open with more action.  Two prologue scenes (totaling 3 mins.) were deleted at the time of the film's U.S. release as producers felt they were “too deep” for audiences to grasp.  They included 1) - a philosophical exchange between Lee and the head Monk (Roy Chaio), a moment which in flashback later becomes Lee’s “ace up his sleeve” in defeating Han’s “Hall of Mirrors” trickery.  And 2) - an extended version of Lee’s “finger pointing away to the moon” (and head slapping) lesson to the younger Shoalin student.  

* Lee did not get along at all with screenwriter Michael Allin, who’s original draft BLOOD & STEEL, Lee felt was stereotypical action fare.  The conflict between the two escalated to such a point of critical mass, Lee gave producers the ultimatum, "Either he goes or I go".  From that point on Lee confided in and trusted only director Clouse and his wife Linda in regards to story points, character dialog, etc.  

* As many of the Hong Kong stuntmen belonged to the Triad (Chinese Mafia), some young punks, seeking to make names for themselves,  would at times taunt Lee.  One day Lee had enough and invited a taunter to a “lesson fight”.  He toyed with the young Triad, smacking him lightly but repeatedly in the face; then giving him one good shot to let him know he could actually end the "fight" whenever he chose.  The young Triad then apologized and returned to work.  

* Shih Kien, who plays the villainous Han, was not only an accomplished martial artist, wrestler and renowned actor in China at the time of ENTER THE DRAGON's filming.  But he was also an old friend of Bruce Lee's family, having been a college of Lee’s father, Catonese Opera star Lee Hoi Chuen.  The two older men even once worked in a movie together.  Kien would frequently spar with 13 yr. old Lee when visiting the boy’s family.  He originally declined the role of Han, fearing his accent would be too strong an impediment for western audiences, but Lee convinced him.  His voice was later dubbed by the famous Chinese actor Keye Luke (KUNG FU, GREMLINS)

* John Saxon (who portrays Roper) was actually a 15 yr. martial arts student (from judo, to karate, to t’ai chi chuan) at the time he was approached for ENTER THE DRAGON.  He'd originally declined, not wanting to exploit martial arts tradition.  But upon learning the film would feature several of the world’s top champions, including Lee himself, he then jumped at the opportunity.    

* Jim Kelly (who portrays Williams) was not the first choice for the role, but rather an actor named Rockne Tarkington, who dropped out days before the commencement of filming.  Williams (U.S. Middleweight karate champ that year) was recommended to Lee by U.S Heavyweight karate champ Bob Wall (who plays Han's brutal henchman Oharra).  Kelly so impressed the executives at Warner Bros. he was immediately signed to a three picture deal.

* Kelly was a life long championship athlete.  He was lead varsity scorer three yrs. straight as halfback for Bourbon County (Kentucky), a 440 track champion, and also a top long jumper.  He spent two summers playing semi-pro baseball, was given a tryout by the Pittsburgh Pirates; and when interested in boxing was encouraged to turn pro by none other than ex-world Heavyweight champ Archie Moore.  But none of it held Kelly’s heart as much as martial arts.  Upon entering the sport, he quickly ascended to it's top spot, in 1971 taking 1st place in the heavyweight division of the American Tae Kwon Do championships. 

ENTER THE DRAGON - "The Big Battle" (L. Schifrin)

* Composer Lalo Schifrin (DIRTY HARRY, COOL HAND LUKE, BULLIT, KELLY'S HEROES) had been taking his son (a fan of martial arts) to numerous films.  And while Schifrin enjoyed them, he was appalled at their musical content.  Upon returning home from one particularly dreadful experience, he received a call from producer Fred Weitntraub at Warners asking if he’d like to score a new American produced martial arts film.  Wishing to eschew “Fu Manchu” musical stereotypes, he chose to use traditional Chinese and Japanese instrumentation (as well as obscure Eastern European instruments played in Asian scales and melodies) within a combined orchestra and contemporary rhythm section setting to create a sound wholly new and original. 

* With only four weeks to write, orchestrate, conduct and record the score, he at first didn’t want to pull himself away for a moment when Lee was in town and asked to meet with him over lunch.  He originally didn’t think he and Lee had much in common, but later confessed that the opposite was true.  Both men had studied thousands of years of tradition (Schifrin - music, and Lee - martial arts) in order to learn how, when and why to break that tradition to achieve a specific goal.  Lee was also a huge fan of the composer's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE score, and would work out to it every morning.  After becoming friends with Lee, Schifrin began studying martial arts, which he says made him not only more fit physically, but a more graceful conductor as well.  

* ENTER THE DRAGON was the first feature film ever produced in which all the leading actors were bonafied martial artists and not actors and/or stunt performers portraying them.  Lee choreographed every fight sequence for the film.  

* The film's opening at LA's Mann’s Chinese Theater was preceded by several live martial arts demonstrations.  ENTER THE DRAGON went into profit during it’s first day of release. 
Budgeted at $850, 000, it would gross during it's first run in 1973, $25 million in North America and $90 million worldwide - this in an era of $2.00 and lower ticket prices.

* ENTER THE DRAGON was Lee’s final film.  He died July 20, 1973, six days before it's Hong Kong debut.  

* Years later ENTER THE DRAGON would make two AFI (American Film Institute) lists:  1) 100 YEARS / 100 Thrills  - Celebrating the greatest film thrillers of all time; and  2) 100 YEARS / 100 Heroes & Villains - with Lee as one of filmdom's all time greatest heroes.  

* In 2004 ENTER THE DRAGON would be deemed "culturally significant" and selected for preservation and inclusion in the prestigious United States National Film Registry.



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