Having only been born in í81, I canít say I was around for the Bruce Lee-mania this kicked off, but I can see how this absolutely took North America by storm. Other than imports from Hong Kong, nobody had ever really seen anything like this, with the mystique from Bruce Leeís tragic demise a few months before the film came out giving him a James Dean-like aura that- if anything- made him even cooler. In Asia, Lee was a megastar long before ENTER THE DRAGON ever saw the light of day, but this made him palatable to a North American audience. Lee had a lot of qualities his contemporaries in martial arts movies didnít have. For one thing, he went to university in the States, and spoke perfect, unaccented English. He also had a certain rebellious attitude that made him fit in with the anti-authoritarian cinema of the era, making him almost seem like a kind of Chinese Steve McQueen (who coincidently was one of Leeís pupils).
ENTER THE DRAGON itself is paced like lightening. Running just under 100 minutes, itís absolutely jam-packed with brilliantly choreographed action (staged by Lee himself), and a fun spy plot that establishes Lee as kind of a Kung-fu James Bond- all to a kick ass score by Lalo Schiffrin. If ENTER THE DRAGON has a failing, itís that too much time is spent on John Saxonís Roper, rather than Lee or even the late Jim Kelly, as Saxon- while fine- wasnít anywhere near their league as a martial artist. Thankfully, Lee never really takes too much of a backseat to Saxon (who mainly exists to romance Hanís island madam- Ahna Capri), and all of the memorable action sequences are Leeís. Highlights include his nunchaku battle with Hanís guards (look quickly for Jackie Chan as the guard who gets his neck snapped), and the final, brutal battle with the claw-handed Hand in a maze of mirrors (my choice for one of the most memorable action sequences of all time).
The Blu-ray also includes a doc from 1993 called The Curse of the Dragon which came out around the time I first saw ENTER THE DRAGON and thus, was one I watched a few times as a teen. Narrated by George Takei, Curse is pretty sloppy, with terrible crossfading between interviews having people get cut-off in mid-sentence. Itís also filled with lots of mumbo-jumbo about his death (not helped by the tragic death of his son Brandon on the set of THE CROW which happened around the same time) and myth-making that portrays Lee as an almost Christ-like figure of martial arts. Itís all very cheesy- but typical of the era, although some of the interviews are decent (such as the stuff with Chuck Norris and James Coburn).