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Enter the Dragon [1973)

Hollywood fail.  Yes.  Bruce Lee’s first three films are each better than this hunk of bejeweled shit.  Most notably, it shows how talented Lee was as a director (Way of the Dragon) compared to Robert Clouse.  But then we get the message that Lee was an “uncredited” director on this film.  Is it a reference to the fight scenes and their staging?  It seems, rather, that Lee merely directed the opening sequence of the film under consideration.

Back to Clouse then.  Perhaps his other films were better, but this one really misses the mark.  All of the special details which made The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and Way of the Dragon such wonderful films are generally missing here.

Don’t get me wrong:  there are great moments within.  When dealing with a talent like Lee, there is always something salvageable.  Yet still, it is mind-boggling to me that the addition of major studio backing (Warner Bros.) only served to dilute the power of what Lee had been steadily building through his filmography.

But of course that would all end on July 20, 1973 when Lee died (just six days before Enter the Dragon premiered in Hong Kong).  Lee was in Hong Kong to dine with Lazenby.  George Lazenby.  The two intended to work together.  Lee met Raymond Chow at 2 p.m. to discuss his next film Game of Death.

Cerebral edema, they say.  Had occurred as recently as two months prior.  Seizures and headaches.  Mannitol.

A headache on the day of his death led to Equagesic (aspirin and meprobamate).  Analgesic/tranquilizer.

Swelling of the brain…  Was his death really an allergic reaction to the tranquilizer component of Equagesic?

A sad day.  Eleven days later his pallbearers included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and George Lazenby.

Yes, there seems to be some dispute between the doctor in charge of autopsy (Donald Teare) and Lee’s doctor in Hong Kong.  It doesn’t really add confidence to the conclusion of the former to note that he (Teare) was recommended by Scotland Yard.  This was, of course, during the 156 years which Britain ruled Hong Kong as a colony (ending in 1997).

Had Lee eaten cannabis or hashish?  Was this the true cause of his death?  Some have claimed that Lee did this regularly to relieve the stress of fame.

Dr. Peter Wu, who had treated Lee two months prior to his death, called Dr. Teare “an expert on cannabis.”  Hmmm…

Teare’s conclusion was that the Equagesic had killed Lee.

I do find it suspicious that Lee died just six days prior to the Hong Kong release of this film.  The $850,000 film would go on to rake in $200 million by 1992.  Less than three weeks after his funeral in Seattle, the film premiered in the U.S.

Clouse would go on to cobble together footage of Lee and a couple of stand-ins for the 1978 release Game of Death.  It is interesting to note that the plot of Game of Death involves an international martial arts film star struggling against a racketeering syndicate.  What is more, this particular plot element seems to have not existed when shooting was done prior to Lee’s demise.  Perhaps Clouse redeemed himself in code???


18 responses to “Enter the Dragon [1973)

  1. An Iconic character was Lee , His Son died as well I remember it is my favourite Film of the Genre Enter the Dragon especially the character Lee fights , the Mirror scene is outstanding as a piece of Cinematography , well done another excellent review of the Best of the genre

    • You’re right about the mirror scene…like Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai. There are definitely good parts to this film, but I just feel Lee’s other three films are so much better. Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Dude the cleaner ⋅

    Yeah I remember his son died the same age as his father. Dam that is a shame. I got back in Paris in 1987 early 1988 for 3 weeks and I was walking the street when I saw a movie theater playing Enter the dragon had to see it again. Nice review.

  3. BeeHappee

    Very interesting, thank you! Never realized he died that young. I like his poems too.

  4. blazeburgess ⋅

    My two favorite things about this: the fascinating historical context of a film I didn’t think much of before; and the phrase “this hunk of bejeweled shit.”

    I really do enjoy reading these.

    • Ha! Thanks!!! Sometimes I feel as though I’m being a bit harsh, but I want to be honest in the reviews. Glad you liked the phraseology and backstory. Thanks for reading!!! –Paul

      • blazeburgess ⋅

        I wouldn’t worry about the harshness.

        Nearly all of your reviews (that I’ve read) have some mixture of hostility toward and affection for whatever work is in question. There’s a complexity to it that’s not easily found in other reviewers. Overall, I’d say you’re fairly circumspect.

      • Thanks so much! I suppose that is the philosopher’s challenge: intellectual honesty. The greatest foe seems to be the opportunity/threat of linguistic expression. It is always hard for me to start the ball rolling–finding that phrase which can then divine an honorable contribution. Thank you again for your kind words! –Paul

  5. Wow another super interesting article man. The death of Lee has always interested, as with Kubrick and Bill Hicks. I did not know of the Scotland Yard connection. Interesting…..

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