Enter the Dragon
aka. The Deadly Three
, originally titled Blood and Steel
is a 1973 American martial arts film
directed by Robert Clouse
; starring martial artist Bruce Lee
, John Saxon
and Jim Kelly
. It is the last completed film Bruce Lee appeared in before his death. He died six days before the movie was released.
It was the first kung fu
film to have been made by a major Hollywood
studio and was produced in association with Golden Harvest
and Lee's Concord Production Company. The film is largely set in Hong Kong
Among the stuntmen for the film were members of the Seven Little Fortunes, including Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. This was arguably instrumental in Chan and Hung's further association with Golden Harvest studios, which later launched their careers. The portly Hung is shown fighting Lee in the opening sequence of the movie.
The finished version of the film was significantly different from the original screenplay drafts as Bruce Lee revised much of the script himself, including having written and directed the film's opening Shaolin Temple fight sequence. Lee wanted to use the film as a vehicle for expressing what he saw as the beauty of his Chinese culture, rather than it being just another action movie.
Lee (portrayed by Bruce Lee
) is a Shaolin
martial artist in Hong Kong. He possesses great philosophical insight into martial arts as well as physical prowess, and this has earned him an invitation to a martial arts tournament organized by the mysterious Han (played by Shih Kien
), though he does not wish to attend. Lee's sifu (master) informs him that Han was once a Shaolin student as well, but he abandoned them and their moral code, abusing his skills to gain wealth and power. A man named Braithwaite (portrayed by Geoffrey Weeks
) visits the Shaolin temple to speak with Lee. Braithwaite is the representative of an international intelligence organization that has been secretly investigating Han.
The island where Han's tournament is held every three years was purchased by Han after World War II, when its nationality was uncertain. The island is now beyond international jurisdiction. Han is a heroin and opium dealer, systematically building his customers' dependence on the drugs to insure their continued business. He also runs a substantial prostitution business on his island. Han's martial arts school and tournament are a cover for Han to recruit new talent. Han reigns over his island like a king, living decadently in a grand palace.
Though Braithwaite's organization knows all of this, they lack proof. Several months earlier, Braithwaite's organization stationed a female operative, Mei Ling (Betty Chung), on Han's island, as one of his palace maidens (who double as prostitutes). They have had no further contact from her. Braithwaite wants Lee to attend Han's tournament as a cover for him to obtain proof of Han's illicit activities. If this proof can be found then Braithwaite could, under international law, send in the troops and break-up the organization. Since Han does not allow firearms on his island, both to prevent a pretext for being raided for stockpiling any arsenal and to inhibit assassination threats, Lee's mastery of hand to hand combat will be a definite advantage for his mission.
Braithwaite shows Lee a short video taken of Han and his bodyguard Oharra (Robert Wall), who is a professional martial artist. Lee agrees to enter the tournament, both on behalf of Braithwaite and his sifu, who has requested Lee reclaim their "lost honour."
Before leaving, Lee informs his father, who decides to tell Lee the truth about the death of his sister, so that he can pay proper respect at her grave on the way. During preparations for the previous tournament three years earlier, some of Han's men, led by Oharra, came to the city. Lee's father and sister were also visiting the city and came across the men, who attempted to rape Lee's sister. Lee's father scarred Oharra's face with a knife, but was knocked unconscious. Lee's sister was cornered, and she committed suicide with a shard of broken glass to avoid rape by Oharra and his men.
Although he intends to complete his mission honourably, Lee finds he is also driven to take vengeance upon Oharra. He quietly asks forgiveness for what he is about to do at the graves of his mother and sister, before heading off for the Island aboard Han's private junk ship.
Also aboard are several other competitors. They include Roper (John Saxon), a white American playboy-gambler on the run from the mob, to whom he is heavily in debt; and Williams (Jim Kelly), a black American activist on the run from the law after defending himself against two racist white policemen in Los Angeles. War buddies from Vietnam, Roper and Williams are slightly distrustful of the others. Roper gets to know Lee as they bet over a praying mantis fight being held on the deck of the boat, and later at the banquet hosted by Han on the island. At the banquet, Lee recognizes Mei Ling among Han's women. Later, as Tania (Han's beautiful and sexy hostess-in-charge) offers prostitutes to the fighters, Lee uses this as cover to establish contact with Mei Ling. Williams chooses five of the eight girls he is offered, and Roper chooses Tania herself, with whom he establishes something of a romantic relationship.
The tournament begins the next morning, with Williams and Roper easily winning their respective matches — and making some money out of it as well. Later that night, Lee, with equipment supplied by Mei Ling, begins searching the island for anything incriminating. Just as he finds a concealed entrance to an underground base, he is discovered by Han's guards. He disables them before they see his face, then returns to his room. On the way back, he is seen by Williams, who is exercising outside, despite it being forbidden to leave the palace at night. Williams, in turn, is seen by a guard.
The next morning, Han informs everyone that someone was seen outside the palace, but the most important thing is that his guards "performed their duties incompetently". He orders those involved to fight his head guard, Bolo (Bolo Yeung). Bolo sadistically murders the guards. Moments later, Lee is called to his first match, and finds he is fighting Oharra. Lee proves more than a match for Oharra, even when an increasingly enraged Oharra fights dishonourably. Having convincingly defeated Oharra, Lee attempts to walk away, but, unwilling to accept defeat, Oharra finally attacks Lee with a pair of broken bottles, forcing Lee to disarm and kill him. Han, disgraced by Oharra's tactics, ends the tournament for the remainder of the day and quietly summons Williams to his study. There, Han accuses Williams of assaulting his guards the previous night. Williams denies this and insults Han. Infuriated, Han murders Williams.
Han later takes Roper on a tour of his underground work area, showing him his drug manufacturing area, the women he forces into prostitution through drug dependency, and the slave labour he employs through captured homeless men. Han invites Roper to join him as his representative in the United States. Roper asks why Han has revealed so much without any guarantee of Roper's cooperation. Han then shows him Williams' mutilated corpse, making it clear that Roper will be killed if he does not cooperate.
That night, Lee returns to the underground base and successfully infiltrates it, discovering enough evidence to secure Han's arrest. Lee finds a radio transmitter, which he uses to contact Braithwaite and call for backup. However, he is captured while attempting to escape.
The next morning on the tournament grounds, Roper is asked to fight Lee as a test of loyalty to Han. Roper refuses, and Han reassigns him to fight Bolo. Although Lee steps forward, volunteering to fight Bolo for Roper, Roper refuses and fights Bolo himself (as both a way to send a message to Han that he cannot be bullied, as well as a way to avenge Williams against Han.) Despite appearing outmatched, Roper is eventually victorious. Han, infuriated at Roper's victory, orders all of his guards to kill Lee and Roper by retaliation. The two are hopelessly outnumbered, but they manage to hold their own until the arrival of the slave labourers, who have been freed by Mei Ling. The slave labourers join the battle against Han's guards, evening the odds. Lee pursues Han, entering into an extended duel that leads to a hall of mirrors. Remembering the philosophy taught by his sifu, Lee outsmarts and finally kills Han by kicking him onto the point of a spear.
Returning outside, Lee finds that Roper and the slave workers have defeated Han's remaining guards. However, Tania has been killed in the fight. Lee and Roper exchange a weary thumbs-up as army helicopters arrive in response to Lee's radio distress call. Lee gave one last look at Han's bear claw which was stuck at the small table.
Box office legend
Enter the Dragon
was a huge success during its original theatrical release. It grossed an estimated $25,000,000 in North America, and an estimated $90,000,000 worldwide, off a very modest $850,000 budget, making it one of the most profitable films ever made.
In Hong Kong, the film grossed HKD $3,307,536 — huge business for the time, but substantially less than Lee's Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon
On set incidents
- Bruce was bitten by a cobra during filming of the scene in which he infiltrates Han's underground lair. Fortunately the snake had been de-venomized prior to Bruce handling the snake.
- According to Bob Wall and John Saxon, Bruce Lee was challenged by an extra. The 'challenge procedure' was to step up to Bruce and tap your foot three times. Bob Wall recalled that the challenger was strong, young and skillful, the challenger and Lee began sparring, but as the fight went on you could see the challenger was trying to hurt Bruce so then Bruce turned it up a notch and began to use his powerful and lightning fast moves to take care of this challenger, according to Bob Wall he kicked the hell out of this guy, he arm locked him and knee'd him and rammed this young challenger into the wall. Bruce received many of these challenges. On the Enter the Dragon 25 Year anniversary DVD, this incident was played down because of the way Bruce had handled it. It has been noted that anyone else would have fired these challengers but Bruce never did that. Bruce Lee was challenged by many actors and stunt men wanting to prove themselves by defeating him in a fight.
- Lee had collapsed several times in May 1973 during the dubbing of Enter the Dragon.
- During the fight scene with Bob Wall, Bruce Lee cut himself on glass bottles that were not the sugar glass props normally used in the film industry.
- Lee's famous, running thrust kick into Bob Wall's chest at the end of their fight scene broke Wall's sternum, and broke one arm each of two extras, into which Wall was propelled and fell. The rest of the fight (with the glass bottles) was delayed for one month, until Wall had healed well enough to perform the choreography. The kick and fall were scripted and rehearsed, but Lee was unhappy that the kick would not look real on screen. Wall exhorted Lee, "Go for it, man. I'm a professional." The result, on the eighth take, put Wall in the hospital. This incident, as well as others, helped give rise to the rumor of an on-set feud between Wall and Lee, and that this feud prompted Lee to fight him for real (see next note).
- During the making of 'Enter the Dragon', it has been said that Bruce had developed a grudge against Bob Wall due to the cut injury he had sustained when Wall had held onto the 'real glass' bottle during their fight scene (where Oharra smashes the bottles). Wall and others deny these allegations however, stating the whole event was blown out of proportion and that it was something instigated by director Robert Clouse. Undated Interview with Bob Wall
- It is often regarded as one of the most influential films of all time, kick-starting the Kung Fu movie genre during the 1970s in the West and establishing Bruce Lee as a popular culture icon.
- In October 1973, Enter the Dragon was the number one box office movie in the United States.
- The production budget was only $850,000 and the filming was completed in less than 3 months.
- By 1977, Enter the Dragon was listed as one of the twenty most profitable movies in the history of cinema.
- In 2004, it was deemed "culturally significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
- In Empire magazine's 201 greatest movies of all time 2006 issue it was ranked nr. 197.
- Sammo Hung appears as Bruce Lee's sparring opponent at the beginning of the movie.
- Jackie Chan appears briefly in a couple of scenes, as one of the guards or henchmen with O'Harra. The first is when he is kicked in the groin while coming on to Lee's sister. He is wearing the light blue clothing. He is also the only person to get any serious type of damage on Lee's sister. (Punches, a kick, and pushing her head into the wall) Later on, he gets his neck snapped by Bruce Lee during a battle with several guards, where Bruce Lee uses a number of weapons including the nunchakus.
- The scene in which Lee's character states that his style was the style of "Fighting Without Fighting" and then lures Parsons into boarding a dinghy is based upon a famous anecdote involving the 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden.
- Critics have referred to Enter the Dragon as "a low-rent James Bond thriller", a "remake of Doctor No" with elements of Fu Manchu. An aspect of this does come in when, while showing Roper around his museum, Han strokes a white cat similar to that of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
- According to Shannon Lee, who appeared on a Spike TV special, airing the film, she states there was a debate on deciding the title, as the film originally was supposed to be named "Blood and Steel" or "Han's Isle". The film was named "Enter the Dragon", as she states her father was known as "The Dragon".
- If you notice at the beginning of Lee's fight with Han (in the courtyard, right after Han scratches him with the bear-claw), Lee counter-attacks with the same pattern (sidekick, reverse roundhouse, and jumping kick) that he used at the beginning of his fight with "Hsiao Mi" in The Big Boss.
Enter the Dragon in popular culture
- This movie is parodied in The Kentucky Fried Movie as A Fistfull of Yen, complete with Lee quote, "This time, with feeling."
- Many of the moves performed by Bruce Lee in this film are used as moves for the characters Marshall and Forest Law in the best selling video game series Tekken.
- Various moves and character nuances of Lee, seen and heard, in the movie are the basis of moves and sound effects for the character Maxi from Soul Calibur series and the nunchaku discipline from Soul Calibur III.
- The Super Street Fighter II character Fei Long is a tribute to Bruce Lee. Many of the moves performed by Bruce Lee in this film are used as moves for Fei Long in the series of games.
- The classic Beat 'Em Up series Double Dragon has many of its thugs named after characters from this film including Williams, Roper, Oharra, and Bolo, not to mention the two main characters of the series have the last name Lee.
- The plot of the original Mortal Kombat video game is nearly identical to Enter the Dragon, but with a distinctly supernatural twist. The official comic book that could be purchased via mail order that came out with the game even contained the famous quote "Let the tournament begin!"
- Liu Kang, from the Mortal Kombat series, is clearly based on Bruce Lee's character, Lee. This is evident due to the fact that both are fighting to represent the Shaolin Temples and are trying to restore honor in a corrupted tournament. Also, in the first film, Liu Kang seeks to avenge the death of a family member, his brother, just as Lee seeks to avenge the death of his sister.
- In the film Undercover Brother, the scene when Sistah Gurl infiltrates Undercover Brother's apartment, Enter The Dragon is on the TV when he walks out of the bathroom after saying, "Too funky for myself."
- In rapper Andre Nickatina's Album "Raven in my Eye" many of the songs start or end with themes from the film. Additionally many of the film's quotes are used in-between or during tracks.
- Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix Plus includes a remix of the movie's theme song arranged by Naoki Maeda under the alias "B3-Project."
- Pump It Up Zero (an arcade dance simulation video game) has a mix of the theme song of Enter the Dragon, specially arranged by South Korean hip hop group JTL. This group's first album is also named after this movie, and the song that's featured in PIU Zero is also contained on it.
- A scene from the movie is recreated in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, when Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) stabs the pawn shop owner Maynard through the stomach with a katana.
- In episode 49 of Beast Wars, when Megatron reveals his new dragon beast form on the reawakened Optimal Optimus, he bluntly states the phrase "Enter the Dragon!" before pouncing on him.
- There are several references to Enter the Dragon in The Boondocks animated television show, most notably in the episode Granddad's Fight. In that episode, Huey quotes Bruce Lee when he asks Granddad, "What was that? An exhibition? We need emotional content!". Huey also wears clothes that match Lee's exactly during a sequence where he is training his granddad to fight. Also, in the episode "Let's Nab Oprah", Williams is given tribute in the character Bushido Brown, who goes as far to use the line, "Man, you come straight out of a comic strip." It should probably be noted that The Boondocks did, in fact, originate from a comic strip.
- Jann Lee from the Dead or Alive series uses several moves used by Bruce Lee and sometimes says "Don't think. Feel".
- The main theme of the movie was often an introduction cover song to most Jamiroquai gigs of the Dynamite era.
- Enter the Dragon is the name of an episode of A.T.O.M. (alpha teens on machines) in which the ninja assassin Dragon makes his first appearance.
- "Enter the Dragon" is also the name of an episode of 6teen which is mainly about the gang wondering where the tickets are for Dragon Thunder.
- The final fight of the film between Lee and Han inspired similar scenes in two other films: In the 1984 film, Conan the Destroyer, and the 1994 film,The Shadow, a fight occurs in a mirrored room in which the hero has to destroy the multiple images before defeating the "real" villain.
- An article in The Onion from March 2004 covered a very similar style of tournament held by Donald Rumsfeld.
- The makers of Balls of Fury have referred to their film as "the retarded ping-pong version of Enter the Dragon". Indeed, the plots of the two films are remarkably similar.
- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly's title seems to be based of this film's title.
- The scene with the mirrors (featuring Bruce Lee and Shih Kien was a homage to the funhouse climax scene from Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai.
- The scene where Williams chooses a handful of girls to be his roommates on the island is echoed in Rush Hour 2, where Detective Carter swipes many girls at the massage parlor.
- Spanish TV series Los ladrones van a la oficina references the title of the dubbed version, "Operation: Dragon": Policeman Gutiérrez intends to use it for a sting operation, but he is mocked as the words are recognized as the title of the movie.
- The Ska punk band Inner Terrestrials, have done a cover of the theme which incorporates anarchistic lyrics to the slightly altered tune.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, the plot of episode "Re-Enter the J-Team" is based on "Enter the Dragon." The heroes infiltrate a martial arts tournament on a crime lord's island recruiting skilled martial artists. The crime lord even has a replaceable hand as a weapon, complete with claws.
- Is the favourite movie of the Japanese director Shinichiro Watanabe
- In the film The Last Dragon, the lead character (ironically nicknamed "Bruce Leroy") is a fan of Bruce Lee and features a video sequence showing Bruce Lee film highlights.
- Just as Liu Kang is an homage to Bruce Lee's character, Johnny Cage from the Mortal Kombat movie is similarly an homage to Roper. Both men have similar appearances (both are white American martial artists), personalities (both are easygoing, fun loving, colorful playboys), both serve as comic relief to contrast the stoicism of Lee and Kang, and both make no secret of their romantic interests. Further, Cage's bond with Art Lean, and African American fighter, parallel's Roper's deep friendship with Williams. Also, Cage fighting (and killing) Goro to avenge Art's death is a reference to Roper fighting and killing Bolo to avenge Williams.
In August 2007, Warner Independent Pictures
announced that television producer Kurt Sutter
would be remaking the film as a noir-style
thriller entitled Awaken the Dragon
Rights of distribution
Americas, Europe, Japan: Warner Bros.Asian countries except Japan: Golden Harvest
- Released: July 1, 1998
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic
- Sound: English (5.1), French (5.1), Spanish (5.1)
- Supplements: Introduction and interview with Linda Lee Caldwell; Commentary by Paul Heller and Michael Allin; Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon documentary; Bruce Lee: In His Own Words documentary; Backyard Workout documentary; Trailers and TV spots; Production notes
- Region 1
- Released: May 18, 2004
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic
- Sound: English (5.1), English (1.0)
- Supplements: Commentary by Paul Heller and Michael Allin; Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon documentary; Bruce Lee: In His Own Words documentary; Backyard Workout documentary; Blood and Steel documentary; Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey documentary; Bruce Lee: Curse of the Dragon documentary; Trailers and TV spots
- Region 1
Universe (Hong Kong)
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.35:1) letterboxed
- Sound: Cantonese (5.1), Madarin (5.1)
- All regions
- Released: July 11, 2006
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2:40:1
- Sound: English (5.1), French (1.0), Spanish
- Supplements: Interview with Linda Lee Caldwell, The Making of ENTER THE DRAGON, A Warrior's Journey, The Curse of the Dragon, Bruce Lee: In His Own Words, Hong Kong with ENTER THE DRAGON, Backyard Workout with Bruce, Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spots
- Region 1
Blu Ray release
- Released: April 17, 2007
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2:40:1
- Sound: English (5.1), French (1.0), Spanish
- Supplements: Interview with Linda Lee Caldwell, The Making of ENTER THE DRAGON, A Warrior's Journey, The Curse of the Dragon, Bruce Lee: In His Own Words, Hong Kong with ENTER THE DRAGON, Backyard Workout with Bruce, Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spots (Special features are the same as the HD-DVD Release)
- Region 1