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JUNE 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 6



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Enter the Dragon

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ENTER THE DRAGON



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ENTER THE DRAGON
Rating: A-
DVD: B+
Starring Bruce Lee, Shih Kien, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Bob Wall, Jackie Chan. Rated R. Running Time: 102 minutes.

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DAN SULLIVAN

The invention of the Compact Disc allowed listeners to skip over the boring sections of albums and just get to the good stuff. Finally, we could listen to "Who's Next" minus any songs with John Entwistle on vocals.

Now, DVD does the same for movies. Why muddle through the meaningless plot development of "Cannonball Run" when you can just skip to the chapters involving Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin in the Ferrari? Everyone with a DVD player can now create their own Director's Cut of their favorite films.

The 25th Anniversary Special Edition of "Enter the Dragon" exemplifies the benefits of DVD technology. Finally, viewers can create a 65-minute version of this film, full of non-stop ass-kickin'. That and a little nudity. That's right, nudity. Not much, but a little. "Enter the Dragon" defends the theory that all films that are called "cult films" have at least a little nudity. Why? Think of the people who like cult films. Think of their chance at landing any real-life nudity.

Bruce Lee plays a character named Bruce Lee. This is a standard move in martial arts films, to name your protagonist after the actor playing him. The USA Network has recently purchased the rights to a late 1980's Jackie Chan movie in which all the villains repeatedly scream, "We must get Jackie Chan! Kill Jackie Chan!" That must have been a bit unnerving for Mr. Chan while on the set of his own film.

Lee begins the film, naturally, by kicking the tar out of a guy twice his size. Immediately, Lee's talent is validated. So is the virtue of DVD. The sounds of saplings breaking, or whatever the foley artists used to replicate the noise of Lee's fist snapping someone's tendons, sound great off a digital source. The dialogue is clear, and all action scenes sound great.

As soon as chapter 2, we see one of the few perils of DVD, as bad film transfers are even more glaring in this format. Warner Brothers could have spent a little dough to digitally enhance the source print. One shouldn't drop $15 on a DVD, only to see poor film preservation on the studio's end. All of the major action scenes are clear transfers, thankfully.

Plot-wise, Lee is asked to investigate the dealings of Han (Shih Kien), a renegade member of Lee's temple. He must infiltrate Han's fortress, compete in Han's fighting competition, and presumably beat Han up to the degree that the police can arrest him without any struggle. Lee intelligently asks, "Guns? Why doesn't someone pull out a .45 and, BANG, settle it?" He's told guns are not allowed on the island. Apparently kicking the island owner's ass is allowed, at least according to the police.

Han's bodyguard Ohara is played by Bob Wall, who is a dead ringer for Kris Kristofferson around the time he did "A Star is Born". We learn through flashbacks that Ohara forces Lee's sister to commit suicide. We then can watch Ohara buy the farm in chapter 19 without any viewer remorse.

John Saxon, best known for his work on "Falcon Crest" and the requisite bad guy in several "A-Team", "Knight Rider", and "Magnum P.I." episodes, plays Roper, the only white guy who can defend himself. Saxon chews the scenery in his own cheesy glory. Some of his dialogue is slap-your-knee funny, the high-point being when he bets on a praying mantis and calls it a dumb shit when it dies in chapter 9.

Chapters 10 through 13 involve the imported tournament members arriving at Han's island. You can skip these if you consider plot secondary to ass-kickin'.

Chapters 14 and 15 are the preliminaries of the tournament. Mandatory viewing. This is the only plot some people need.

Han is deliciously evil in this film, especially in chapter 18 when one of his top fighters holds his opponent in a human U-shape until his back or neck, or both, breaks. Han turns to Williams (U.S. karate champion Jim Kelly) and says, "Are you shocked, Mr. Williams?"

"Only at how sloppy your man works," replies Williams.

Han then gives Williams a grimace that can only be described as the non-verbal "You jerk!" face.

Williams gets in trouble in chapter 20 when he tells Han he wants to leave. Han tells him he can not leave, and Williams replies by saying "Bullshit Mr. Han, man." Han possibly misinterprets this as Mr. Hand Man, pointing out the appendage he lost in a fight. He again gives Williams the "You jerk!" face, and Williams dies at Han's hands, or hand depending on your perspective.

Roper learns Han is making heroin in chapters 21 and 22. Lee starts kicking ass again in 23 and 24. Apparently Jackie Chan plays one of Han's henchmen in these scenes. Undoubtedly, Lee kicks his ass at some point. The nunchakus come out at the end of chapter 24, much to the chagrin of all the people who are not Bruce Lee. In chapter 25, Roper fights Han's largest henchman and manages not to be put in the human U-shape.

All hell breaks loose in chapter 26 when hundreds of alcoholic men fight Han's tournament members. (Watch the movie, you'll understand.) Lee takes on Han in chapter 27, and Han dons the "slicer" hand. Chapter 28 features the great, and often ripped-off, fight in the hall of mirrors. Will good prevail over evil? You'll need to check chapter 29 for the answer.

It is hard to say "Enter the Dragon" benefits from Robert Clouse's great direction, because Lee carries the film. The various fights are extremely well choreographed, but look natural in their execution. Clouse deserves credit for the beautiful cinematography, conveying both the congestion of Hong Kong, and the beauty of the surrounding islands. The fight scenes are benchmarks for hand to hand combat films. The plot is the basis for 75% of Jean-Claude Van Damme's films. The music score compliments the film, and one can accurately guess "Shaft" was released two years earlier when listening to the main and closing credit themes.

In an effort to make the film an ass-kicking utopia, take advantage of DVD technology and watch the chapters in the following order. 1, 4, 6, 9 for the praying mantis line, 14, 15, 16 has moderate ass-kicking and nudity for "cult film" fans, 18-20, 23-29.

There is also several extra features including trailers and TV commercials, and a documentary "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words" on the flip-side of the DVD. Lee was a great talent. Rent this DVD and see him at his best.




DAN SULLIVAN is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.



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