Saturday, April 23, 2011

Enter The Dragon

I had shied away from watching martial arts movies from the 70s because they always looked a bit too cheesy. But a friend told me I had to watch Enter The Dragon. So onto the Netflix queue it went.

No doubt there is a lot of cheese here, largely because the movie so clearly shows its date. The "70's mandude" swagger will make you roll your eyes more than once. The music is all over the place; one minute its like bad James Bond spy music and then the next it sounds like something from Shaft. The audio track stinks and makes it seem like you're watching dubbed foreign film when the whole thing is actually shot in English. John Saxon for me is always a Rashid Ahmed from Dynasty. Lame acting, weird clothes and hair, a thoroughly ridiculous story, and a silly villain.

That's a lot to look past, but this movie does a great job serving up some really sweet fights. No question about it! The rough cinematography actually works in favor of the film as there are some scenes where you totally feel the power Bruce Lee brought to the table. I knew Lee was big into fitness but holy crapballs! This guy has a V-back I would die to have, and he ripples every time he moves! His skills are presented in amazing clarity, and it makes me understand why Bruce Lee fans object to the slicker cinematography of today (even the stuff that I don't see as slick must seem like it is to them). A roughly shot movie like this further emphasizes that slick studio magic tends to dull the edge of a martial arts movie.

From what I understand, Lee had a lot of control over this film, and I can see it in the way there are pieces of martial arts philosophy lovingly worked into it. Apparently, this new release has re-inserted these scenes as - back in the day - some movie studio douchebag cut them from the film after Lee's death and prior to the initial release. Brilliant decision to put them back in. I just do not get why this material seems to offend the US movie industry so much. Even today, such material is routinely cut from foreign movies for US release. It deadens the spirit of the film to not have it.

So, okay yes, there is a lot about this movie that is dated. No, I can't quite get past the high pitched 'whooo-ahhh!' that Lee lets loose when he's fighting sometimes. Yes, there were times I was watching the story and thinking "WTF?". But I really can't imagine any fan of the genre not being satisfied by Enter The Dragon. The spirit of the martial arts is definitely here, Lee's presence is awesome and smashes through all issues you might have, and his skills are so strong that you can easily see why he became such an iconic figure. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, and I would consider checking out some of his other films which is surprising given my feelings about these films going into Enter The Dragon. I think I'd even consider buying a copy for my martial arts movie collection.

RIP Bruce Lee

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