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Now this is an undeserved classic if there ever was one. It was an
attempt to re-import Bruce Lee - who had been a TV-star in the USA in the
late 1960's but later found fame and fortune in Hong Kong martial arts
films - into the American film-industry by throwing him into a crelessly
made up martial arts madness. On a financial level, the film was a huge
success, on a quality level though pretty much a failure.
On the plus side, the film features many well-staged fights (except for
those featuring co-lead John Saxon), but as much
could have been expected from Bruce Lee, and he has been in better fights
in his other fims.
On the downside though, the producers seem to have had not all that
much confidence in their Oriental lead, so they gave him two co-leads, Jim
Kelly, International Middle Weight Karate Champ of 1971 and later
blaxploitation icon, and B-movie
fave John Saxon, a decent actor and even capable martial artist, but quite obviously not
trained to fight on film. Then there's
Bruce Lee's character which is completely one-dimensional, plus he every
now and again has to utter stupid words of alleged martial arts philosophy. And then
there's of course the plot ... oh my goodness !!!
Agent and Shaolin monk Bruce (Bruce Lee) is hired to infiltrate the
operation of big time drug kingpin Han (Shih Ken), who lives on his own,
heavily guarded private island but holds a martial arts tournament every
three years, the latest of which Bruce will join ... now why a drug
kingpin who is hell-bent to stay in hiding regularly holds martial arts
tournaments is left at everybody's guess, this is where the movie lost me
the first time. Oh, and did I mention the baddie's men have killed Bruce's
suister ... now that's what I call coincidence ...
For some reason, Bruce is joined by shady businessman Roper (John
Saxon), who's on the run from the law, and black fighter Williams (Jim
Kelly), who hopes to escape race prejudice.
The island is pretty much the place you wopuld come to expect,
consisting of one big fortress where hundreds of martial artists in white
throw punches into the air shouting "Hoi Hoi Hoi". Of course,
during the day, Bruce and friends fight and win in martial arts
tournaments, and during the night, Bruce puts on somehting black and goes
investigating, beating up everybody who he bumps into.
Han however thinks that Williams does the investigating and has him
brutally killed. Later Bruce and Roper revolt against Han's rule and take
on his fighters, first on their own, then they are helped by Han's
prisoners, who have since freed themselves and have come to join the
execution. It's rather funny to see Han's minions all dressed in white
fighting the prisoners, who for some reason all wear black uniforms.
Finally, Bruce tracks down Han in his room of mirrors and fitghts him
to the death - a scene that could have been nothing short of great, but
unfortunately Robert Clouse is not talented enough a director to develop
it to its full potential.
Only after all the baddies are finished do gouvernment helicopters
arrive to clean up the mess.
Now if this is not one of the most stupid plots a film can have I don't
know what is, and even worse is that it's played dead serious - I mean
come on !!! Unfortunately though, this film has become the blue print for
literally hundreds of (mostly Western) martial arts flicks.
By the way, Bruce Lee paused the work on his second feature as a
director, Game of Death, to star in Enter the Dragon, his
first international film as a lead. Unfortunately he died shortly after
finishing Enter the Dragon, but the footage of Game of Death
directed by Lee - not the ridiculous film Robert Clouse of all people
later made out of it - is way more entertaining (and ironic) than this