So much of Enter the Dragon is flawless, influential, or enormously entertaining that finding fault in this classic is nearly impossible. Bruce Lee shines, going undercover to expose a crime lord holding a fighting tournament. Every serious martial arts film to follow owes its existence to this 1973 masterpiece.
The hugely influential plot line, that of a fighting tournament set up around a crime syndicate, has been used innumerable times in video games, other movies, and the knock-offs that would follow. Unlike many of the latter, Dragon establishes its characters either through back story or confrontation. There’s always a purpose to the fighting.
Gorgeous cinematography highlights the opening scenes prior to the arrival on Han’s island. Lee stars alongside the charismatic Jim Kelly and John Saxon. Kien Shih takes on the role of Han, deliberately evil in every scene.
Action is loaded into the film’s finale, with small spurts appearing throughout. Some may see the piece as slow-paced until the remarkable payoff, amazingly produced for a sum under $600,000. The end fight between Lee and Han, occurring in front of thousands of mirrors, is a cinematic classic. The care taken to craft spectacular visuals lends a unique air to the proceedings.
Dragon hiccups in a few spots, notably the looped dialogue and repetitive sound effects. The movie was filmed silently then dubbed later in a studio. While it’s at times flawlessly done, at other times it feels sloppy enough to become a distraction. The generic sound of someone falling down is cued up any time someone lands on their back, cheapening the choreography.
Elsewhere, Dragon is a great piece of entertainment. The small doses of humor are properly handled, the fights are fun to watch, and Bruce Lee’s dedication to his craft shows on screen. It’s barely aged a day either. This is the reference for all martial arts films to follow.
A substantial update over the DVD version, this is a glowing disc in terms of video. Color is the immediate portion of the presentation that stands out, including rich reds without a single noticeable compression artifact. While a few scenes appear muddy, dirty, and riddled with grain (Roper’s introduction on a golf course is a lost cause), the rest looks as if it was released a year ago. Beads of sweat on Bruce Lee’s skin are noticeable from a distance, and clarity is remarkable for the age.
The ‘70s-era soundtrack is a nice update for the film, loading the sound field with music at every opportunity. The 5.1 mix doesn’t pack much of a punch, though there is some distinct rear speaker use. The hum of motors in the underground lair is a nice upgrade from the film’s original mono track. Brief moments of other positional audio are noted, if unspectacular. Dragon sticks to the center channel for the most part.