Enter the Dragon

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Enter the Dragon
Enter the dragon.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese龍爭虎鬥
Simplified Chinese龙争虎斗
Directed byRobert Clouse
Produced byFred Weintraub
Paul Heller
Raymond Chow
Written byMichael Allin
StarringBruce Lee
John Saxon
Ahna Capri
Bob Wall
Shih Kien
Jim Kelly
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyGilbert Hubbs
Edited byKurt Hirschler
George Watters
Distributed byGolden Harvest (Hong Kong)
Warner Bros. (International)
Release date
  • 19 August 1973 (1973-08-19) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryHong Kong
United States
Box officeUS$90 million (worldwide)[1]
(Hong Kong)
US$22 million (USA)[2]

Enter the Dragon is a 1973 martial arts action film starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, and Jim Kelly. It would be Bruce Lee's final completed film appearance before his death on 20 July 1973 at age 32. The film premiered in Los Angeles on 19 August 1973, one month after Lee's death.

The film, which was directed by Robert Clouse, is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts films of all time.[3] In 2004 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4] Among the first films to combine martial arts action with the emerging Blaxploitation genre, its success led to a series of similar productions combining both genres.[5] The film's themes have also generated scholarly debate about how they reflect the changes taking place within post-colonial Asian societies following the end of World War II.[6]


Lee, a highly proficient Shaolin martial artist and instructor from Hong Kong, is approached by Braithwaite, a British intelligence agent investigating the suspected crime lord Han. Lee is persuaded to attend a high-profile martial arts competition on Han's private island in order to gather evidence that will prove Han's involvement in drug trafficking and prostitution. Shortly before his departure, Lee also learns that his sister's killer, O'Hara, is working as Han's bodyguard on the island. Also fighting in the competition are the indebted gambling addict Roper and fellow Vietnam war veteran Williams.

At the end of the first day, Han gives strict orders to the competitors not to leave their rooms. Lee makes contact with undercover operative Mei Ling and sneaks into Han's compound, looking for evidence. He is discovered by several guards but manages to escape. The next morning, Han orders his giant guard Bolo to kill the guards in public for failing their duties. After the execution, Lee faces O'Hara in the competition and ends up killing him. With the day's competition over, Han confronts Williams, who had also left his room the previous night to exercise. Han believes Williams to be the intruder and beats him to death when he refuses to co-operate. Han then reveals his drug operation to Roper, hoping that he will join his organization. He also implicitly threatens to imprison Roper, along with all the other martial artists who joined Han's tournaments in the past, if Roper ever refuses. Despite being initially intrigued, Roper refuses after learning of Williams' fate.

Lee sneaks out again that night and manages to send a message to Braithwaite, but he is finally captured after a protracted battle with the guards. The next morning, Han arranges for Roper to fight Lee, but Roper refuses. As a punishment, Roper has to fight Bolo instead, whom he manages to overpower and kill after a grueling encounter. Enraged by the unexpected failure, Han commands his remaining men to kill Lee and Roper. Facing insurmountable odds, they are soon aided by the island's prisoners, who had been freed by Mei Ling. Han escapes and is pursued by Lee, who finally corners him in a hidden mirror room. The mirrors give Han an advantage, but Lee breaks all the room's mirrors to reveal Han's location, and eventually kills him. Lee returns outside to the main battle, which is now over. A bruised and bloodied Roper sits victorious while the military finally arrive to take control of the island.



Due to the success with his earlier films, Warner Bros began helping Bruce Lee with the film in 1972. They brought in producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller.[12]


The screenplay title was originally named Blood and Steel. The story features Asian, White and Black heroic protagonists because the producers wanted a film that would appeal to the widest possible international audiences.[13] The scene in which Lee states that his style is "Fighting Without Fighting" is based upon a famous anecdote involving the 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden.[14][15]


John Saxon is a black belt in Judo and Shotokan Karate,[16] who studied under grandmaster Hidetaka Nishiyama for three years.[17] In negotiations, his agent told the film's producers if they wanted him they would have to change the story, the character of Williams would be killed, not Roper. They agreed and the script was changed.[18]

Rockne Tarkington was originally cast in the role of Williams. However, he unexpectedly dropped out days before the production was about to begin in Hong Kong. Producer Fred Weintraub knew that karate world champion, Jim Kelly had a training dojo in Crenshaw, Los Angeles so he hastily arranged a meeting. Weintraub was immediately impressed with Kelly and he was cast in the film.[19] The success of Kelly's appearance launched his career as a star: after Enter the Dragon, he signed a three-film deal with Warner Bros[20] and went on to make several martial arts-themed blaxploitation films in the 1970s.[21]

Jackie Chan appears as a guard during the underground lair battle scene and gets his neck snapped by Lee. He also performed several stunts for the film, including the scene where Lee's character quickly climbs a rooftop at night. However, Yuen Wah was Lee's main stunt double for the film.[22]

Sammo Hung appears in a brief fight scene against Lee at the start of the film.

An urban legend surrounding the making of Enter The Dragon claims that actor Bob Wall did not like Bruce Lee and that their fight scenes were not choreographed. However, Wall has denied this stating he and Lee were actually good friends.[23]


The film was shot on location in Hong Kong. All scenes were filmed without sound: dialogue and sound effects were added or dubbed in during post-production. Bruce Lee, after he had been goaded or challenged, fought several real fights with the film's extras and some set intruders during filming.[24] The scenes of Han's Island were filmed at a residence known as Palm Villa near the coastal town of Stanley.[25]


Argentinian musician Lalo Schifrin composed the film's musical score. While Schifrin was widely known at the time for his jazz scores, he also incorporated funk and traditional film score elements into the film's soundtrack.[26] He composed the score by sampling sounds from China, Korea, and Japan. The soundtrack has sold over 500,000 copies, earning a gold record.[5]


Box office[edit]

Enter the Dragon was heavily advertised in the United States before its release. The budget for advertising was over $1,000,000. It was unlike any promotional campaign that had been seen before, and was extremely comprehensive. In order to advertise the film, the studio offered free Karate classes, produced thousands of illustrated flip books, comic books, posters, photographs, and organized dozens of news releases, interviews, and public appearances for the stars. Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweek all wrote stories on the film.[27]

The filmed grossed an estimated $21,483,063 in North America on its release in 1973,[2] on a tight budget of $850,000.[28] It was one of the most successful films of 1973.[27]

In Hong Kong, the film grossed HK$3,307,536[29]—huge business for the time, but substantially less than Lee's Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon. In India, the movie opened to full houses. Unfortunately, the Indian Censor Board found the film too violent and restricted it to 'Adults Only'. Even so, it ran four shows a day, with rampant blackmarketing of tickets.[30]

Worldwide, the film grossed $90 million,[1] including $65 million outside of the United States.[31]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was well received by critics and is regarded by many as one of the best films of 1973.[32][33][34][35] Critics have referred to Enter the Dragon as "a low-rent James Bond thriller",[36][37] a "remake of Dr. No" with elements of Fu Manchu.[38] J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote, "Of course the real showcase here is the obvious star here, Bruce Lee, whose performance as an actor and a fighter are the most enhanced by the perfect sound and video transfer. While Kelly was a famous martial artist and a surprisingly good actor and Saxon was a famous actor and a surprisingly good martial artist, Lee proves to be a master of both fields."[39]

Many additional acclaimed newspapers and magazines reviewed the film as well. Variety complimented multiple aspects of the film, claiming that film was overall "rich in the atmosphere", the music score was "a strong asset" and the photography as interesting.[40] Additionally, The New York Times gave the film a rave review. The review stated "The picture is expertly made and well-meshed; it moves like lightning and brims with color. It is also the most savagely murderous and numbing hand-hacker (not a gun in it) you will ever see anywhere."[41]

The film currently holds a 95% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with 43 reviews counted and an average rating of 7.8/10.[42] In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[43]

The film also ranks No. 474 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[44]


After its worldwide release in 1973, the full uncut film was unavailable in the United Kingdom because all scenes showing martial art weapons like chainsticks or throwing stars were cut by the British Board of Film Classification over concerns they promoted violence. Although some cuts were restored in 1988, when the film was first made available on VHS, scenes involving chainsticks remained banned. It was not until 2001, when the film was reclassified for video, that all previous cuts were fully restored.[45]


The film has been parodied and referenced in places such as the 1976 film The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the satirical publication The Onion,[46] the Japanese game-show Takeshi's Castle, and the 1977 John Landis comedy anthology film Kentucky Fried Movie (in its lengthy "A Fistful of Yen" sequence, basically a comedic, note for note remake of Dragon) and also in the film Balls of Fury. It was also parodied on television in That '70s Show during the episode "Jackie Moves On" with regular character Fez taking on the Bruce Lee role. Several clips from the film are comically used during the theatre scene in The Last Dragon.

In August 2007, the now defunct Warner Independent Pictures announced that television producer Kurt Sutter would be remaking the film as a noir-style thriller entitled Awaken the Dragon with Korean singer-actor Rain starring.[47][48][49] It was announced in September 2014 that Spike Lee would work on the remake. In March 2015, Brett Ratner revealed that he wanted to make the remake.[50][51] In July 2018, David Leitch is in early talks to direct the remake.[52]

The little-known 1985 Nintendo arcade game Arm Wrestling contains voice leftovers from the film, as well as their original counterparts.

The popular video game Mortal Kombat borrows multiple plot elements from Enter The Dragon.

The popular 1980s martial arts video game Double Dragon features two enemies named Roper and Williams, a reference to the two characters Roper and Williams from Enter The Dragon. The sequel includes opponents named Bolo and O'Hara.

Lee's martial arts films were broadly lampooned in the recurring Almost Live! sketch Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan.

Home media[edit]


Universe (Hong Kong)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) letterboxed
  • Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese
  • Supplements: Trailer, trailers for Way of the Dragon, The Big Boss, Game of Death, Legacy of Rage, star files
  • All regions, NTSC

Fortune Star – Bruce Lee Ultimate DVD Collection (Hong Kong)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: Cantonese (DTS 5.1), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Mandarin (DTS 5.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English
  • Supplements: Original trailer, new trailer, still photos, slideshow of photos, celebrity interviews, unseen footage, Game of Death outtakes, Enter the Dragon alternative opening, 32-page booklet
  • Region 3, NTSC

Zoke Culture (China)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:40:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: Traditional, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, French
  • Supplements: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, "Blood and Steel: Making of Enter the Dragon", "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words", Linda Lee Cadwell interview gallery, "original" 1973 making-of featurette, "Backyard Workout with Bruce Lee"
  • All regions, NTSC

Warner – 30th Anniversary Special Edition (America)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Supplements: Disc 1: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, "Blood and Steel: Making of Enter the Dragon", "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words", Linda Lee Cadwell interview gallery, "Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon" original 1973 documentary, "Backyard Workout With Bruce Lee" Disc 2: "Curse of the Dragon" feature-length documentary, "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey" feature-length documentary, theatrical trailers, TV spots
  • Region 1, NTSC

Warner – 25th Anniversary Special Edition (America)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Supplements: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, Isolated music score, an all-new introduction and interview with Linda Lee Cadwell, "Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon" original 1973 documentary, "Backyard Workout with Bruce", "Bruce Lee In His Own Words", theatrical trailers, TV spots, cast and crew biographies, "Significance of Belts in Martial Arts" notes, "Heir to the Throne" – Jackie Chan notes, retrospective of Hong Kong martial arts films notes and stills, behind-the-scenes notes, reel recommendations – 16 movies
  • Region 1, NTSC

Warner – Limited Edition (United Kingdom)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1) anamorphic
  • Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Supplements: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, isolated music score, an all-new introduction and interview with Linda Lee Cadwell, "Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon" original 1973 documentary, "Backyard Workout with Bruce", "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words", theatrical trailers, TV spots, cast and crew biographies, 10 exclusive Enter the Dragon postcards, 8 reproductions of original lobby cards, reproduction of the original press brochure
  • Region 2, PAL


Kam & Ronson (Hong Kong)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:35:1)
  • Sound: Cantonese (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1), Cantonese (Dolby True HD 7.1), Mandarin (Dolby Digital EX 6.1), Thai (Dolby Digital EX 6.1)
  • Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, English, Thai
  • Supplements: "Alternate opening credits", trailer, photo gallery
  • Region A

Warner (North America and South America)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:40:1)
  • Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
  • Supplements: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, "Blood and Steel: Making of Enter the Dragon", "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words", Linda Lee Cadwell interview gallery, "Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon" original 1973 documentary, "Backyard Workout with Bruce Lee", "Curse of the Dragon" feature-length documentary, "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey" feature-length documentary, theatrical trailers, TV spots
  • All regions

Warner (40th Anniversary Edition – Remastered)

  • Aspect ratio: Widescreen (2:40:1)
  • Sound: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital Mono), German (Dolby Digital Mono), Italian (Dolby Digital Mono), Japanese (Dolby Digital Mono), Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0), Polish (Dolby Digital 2.0), Russian (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Greek, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Turkish
  • Supplements: Audio commentary by producer Paul M. Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, "No Way As Way", "Wing Chun", "Return to Han's Island", "Blood and Steel: Making of Enter the Dragon", "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words", Linda Lee Cadwell interview gallery, "Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon" original 1973 documentary, "Backyard Workout with Bruce Lee", "Curse of the Dragon" feature-length documentary, theatrical trailers, TV spots
  • All regions


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  13. ^ Locke, Brian (2009). Racial Stigma on the Hollywood Screen from World War II to the Present: The Orientalist Buddy Film. Springer. p. 71. ISBN 9780230101678.
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  15. ^ "Bully Busters Art of Fighting without Fighting". Nineblue.com. 12 August 2007.
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  20. ^ Clary, David (May 1992). Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 18–21.
  21. ^ Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak, 2009. pps.129-130
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  28. ^ Variety says the film earned $4.25 million in North American rentals in 1973. See "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  29. ^ "Enter The Dragon (1973)". IMDB. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
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  48. ^ CS (August 5, 2009). "Will Rain Awaken the Dragon ?". ComingSoon.net.
  49. ^ Rich, Kathy (November 13, 2009). "Exclusive: Rain Confirms He's Still Considering Enter The Dragon Remake". Cinema Blend.
  50. ^ Sternberger, Chad (September 16, 2014). "SPIKE LEE TO REMAKE ENTER THE DRAGON". The Studio Exec.
  51. ^ mrbeaks (March 21, 2015). "Brett Ratner Is Trying To Remake ENTER THE DRAGON". Ain't It Cool News.
  52. ^ Mike Fleming, Jr (July 23, 2018). "Remake Of Bruce Lee's 'Enter The Dragon' Has 'Deadpool 2's David Leitch In Talks". Deadline.

External links[edit]