Enter the Dragon (R)
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This came out in 1973, two years before I was born. It is generally regarded as about the most popular martial arts movie ever. I remembering seeing it when I was a kid in the 80s, on videodisc. I'd like to take a moment to talk about video formats. Now, when I was a kid, the main format was VHS, though for awhile there was, as you may know, competition between that and Betamax. It's possible you've also heard of LaserDiscs, which I always thought came out after videodiscs, which in turn I thought came out after VHS. Looking it up online, now, I see my understanding of all this was perhaps a bit off, but hey... I was a kid. What the hell did I know? In any event, eventually videodiscs died out, and so did LaserDiscs. I feel like that was even before the advent of DVDs, but I'm probably wrong about that. I'm pretty sure I've never actually viewed a LaserDisc in my life, and I know I used VCRs for many years after the last time I ever watched a videodisc. But... I don't actually know how many movies I saw on videodisc. This movie, "Enter the Dragon," is the only one I remember for certain. But I very well may have seen Star Wars on videodisc, or maybe some Star Trek movies, or... any number of things. I always think of such things as having been on VHS, but my long-term memory wasn't well developed at all, back then. Anyways... I wanted to give you kids a little history lesson, here, but I'm probably not the right person for the job. So I'll shut up about that, and get on with my review of the movie.
Um... well, it is now 2013, and I have the movie on DVD. I must've bought it at least a couple years ago, but I haven't gotten around to watching it until now. The other day I was watching an episode of "Pokemon" online, and Ash, Iris, and Cilan met some actor who had been in a movie called "Enter the Beartic," which was obviously a reference to this movie, which no one who watches Pokemon should even get. But I got it, and I liked it, and I thought maybe sometime soon I should finally watch the movie, for the first time since I was a kid. Also, tonight is the opening of "Kick-Ass 2," which of course I won't get to see in the theater. So I thought, "What can I watch about people kicking ass?" And the answer was obvious: The greatest movie of the most kick-ass guy ever, Bruce Lee. (I may or may not have seen some of his other movies when I was a kid, but this is the only one I remember at all.) And of course, I don't remember this as well as I'd like, but I'm sure when I watch it, most of it will seem very familiar and nostalgic to me. So... I should stop typing, already, and put the disc in.
So... Lee plays a guy named Lee, who is a member of a Shaolin temple. He gets recruited by a British guy named Braithwaite, who convinces him to take part in a martial arts tournament Lee had already been invited to, but which he didn't want to attend. But the tournament is being held by a guy named Han, who runs a martial arts school on a private island, which is apparently a front for drug-running and prostitution. And Han is a former member of Lee's temple, so his actions have dishonored the temple. Also we learn that, (I think three years ago) Han's bodyguard and some henchmen had basically caused Lee's sister to kill herself. So, there are plenty of reasons for Lee to agree to what Braithwaite asks of him... which is to use the tournament as an opportunity to do some spying, try to find evidence of Han's criminal activities.
Meanwhile, the movie also focuses on two other competitors in the tournament, Roper and Williams, who are old friends (from the Vietnam War, I guess). Roper is constantly making bets, so he's got a lot of gambling debts. And Williams... I don't know what to say, except he's a cool cat, 70s style. Oh, and there's a female agent Braithwaite's agency had gotten onto the island awhile back, whom Lee is supposed to contact. On the first night all the competitors arrive, there's a banquet, and later they're all offered prostitutes, as part of Han's hospitality. Lee chooses the spy, you know, just to talk. Roper chooses the woman who's in charge of all the girls, and Williams chooses pretty much all the girls.
Eventually, Lee sneaks out to look for the evidence Braithwaite needs. It doesn't seem to me like he ever actually found any, but he later contacts Braithwaite's people, anyway. Not that it particularly matters, because by the time they show up, all the bad guys are dead. Which is pretty damned predictable. Anyway, there are lots of things in the movie that don't make much sense to me. For example, I don't think Lee ever actually befriended Roper or Williams, but... in the end, it seemed like he must have. And there were some captives who Han claimed were just worthless drunks, but he must have been lying, because it turns out they all know martial arts. (I'm guessing they were either former students of his school or former competitors of past tournaments, who didn't like what Han was up to.) Of course, there are various plot points I'm not spoiling, but it does seem like there are plenty of things that should have happened in the movie, that didn't. But why quibble? On the whole, it's a good story, with awesome fights, and a few funny bits. And some good background music, though I don't think the music from the banquet scene is on the soundtrack, which is a shame. Um... but the main theme is very 70s. Which makes sense, since the movie was made in the 70s. And I don't know what else to say, except it's just a really cool movie. (I'm almost certainly forgetting things I wanted to say, though.)