Enter the Dragon

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Enter the Dragon
Traditional Chinese龍爭虎鬥
Simplified Chinese龙争虎斗
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This article is about the movie. For the professional wrestling event, see DGUSA Enter The Dragon. For the snooker player with the same nickname, see Ding Junhui.
Enter the Dragon
Traditional Chinese龍爭虎鬥
Simplified Chinese龙争虎斗
Enter the Dragon
Enter the dragon.jpg
Theatrical release poster
MandarinLóng Zhēng Hǔ Dòu
CantoneseLung4 Zang1 Fu2 Dau3
Directed byRobert Clouse
Bruce Lee (uncredited)
Produced byRaymond Chow
Fred Weintraub
Paul Heller
Bruce Lee
Written byMichael Allin
Bruce Lee
StarringBruce Lee
John Saxon
Ahna Capri
Robert Wall
Shih Kien
Jim Kelly
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyGilbert Hubbs
Edited byYao Chung Chang
Kurt Hirschler
George Watters
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • 26 July 1973 (1973-07-26) (Hong Kong)
  • 17 August 1973 (1973-08-17) (United States)
Running time99 minutes
(English International Cut)
102 minutes
(Current Restored Version)
CountryHong Kong
United States
Box officeHK$3,307,520.40
(Hong Kong)
$25 million (USA)
$200 million (worldwide)[1]

Enter the Dragon is a 1973 Hong Kong martial arts action film directed by Robert Clouse; starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon and Jim Kelly. This was Bruce Lee's final film appearance before his death on 20 July 1973. The film was released on 26 July 1973, six days after Lee's death, in Hong Kong. He was also one of the film's writers.

Often considered one of the greatest martial arts films of all time, in 2004, Enter the Dragon was deemed "culturally significant" in the United States and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[2]

Enter the Dragon was the first Chinese martial arts film to have been produced by a major Hollywood studio – Warner Bros. and was produced in association with Lee's Concord Production Inc. The film is largely set in Hong Kong.

Among the stuntmen for the film were members of the Seven Little Fortunes, including Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. This was arguably instrumental in the trio's further association with Golden Harvest studios, which later launched their careers. The portly Hung is shown fighting Lee in the opening sequence of the movie and Chan shows up as a henchman when Lee is discovered inside Han's underground lair.

The finished version of the film was not significantly different from the original screenplay. Bruce Lee did not revise the script. Bruce Lee directed the film's opening Shaolin Monastery fight sequence. Lee wanted to use the film as a vehicle for expressing what he saw as the beauty of his Chinese culture, rather than it being just another action film. The original script contained most of the dialogue in the movie.[3]


Lee is a Shaolin martial artist from Hong Kong who possesses great philosophical insight into martial arts as well as physical prowess. He receives an invitation to a martial arts competition on an island organised by the mysterious Mr. Han. Lee learns from his Sifu (teacher) that Han was also once a Shaolin student, but had been expelled from their order for abusing their code of conduct.

A British Intelligence agent named Braithwaite approaches Lee and asks for his help in an undercover mission. Han is suspected to be involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. However, since Han's island is only partly in their jurisdiction, they are unable to conduct any formal investigations – Han will not allow firearms on the island, both to impede assassination attempts and to prevent the international authorities from gaining a justification to launch a raid. Han runs a martial arts school to protect his drug operations, as well as holding his tournament every three years to recruit international talent to expand his criminal business. Lee agrees to help Braithwaite, believing his efforts will also redeem the Shaolin honour that Han has tarnished. However, Lee then learns from his father that Han's bodyguard O'Hara had been involved in the death of his sister, Su Lin. Despite feeling ashamed of himself, Lee then finds himself compelled on a mission of revenge as well.

Lee arrives on Han's island and receives a warm reception. Joining him are other competitors including Roper, a down-on-his-luck white American playboy-gambler on the run from the mob, and Williams, an African-American activist on the run after defending himself against two racist white policemen in Los Angeles. Roper and Williams are old friends who also have a betting scam going: one will under-perform until the other can get a bet on the outcome at good odds. Both win their first fights easily.

That night, the competitors are all offered girls of their choice by Han's assistant, Tania. Williams chooses several women, while Roper cunningly chooses Tania (as a mutual attraction is apparent between them). Lee asks for a girl he saw earlier in Han's entourage, who he remembers from Braithwaite's briefing as Mei Ling, an agent whom Braithwaite had placed on the island to gather intelligence: however, she has been unable to escape Han's strict observation. That night, leaving Mei Ling in his bedroom, Lee begins searching the island for evidence and finds a secret entrance to an underground base, where drugs are being manufactured and tested on unwitting prisoners. He runs into Han's guards but manages to take them down and flee before they can identify him. He is seen by Williams, who is outside for some fresh air and practice, despite strict rules against being outside after dark.

The next day, Han warns the competitors about wandering out of their rooms at night. He punishes his guards for failure in their duties by leaving them in the hands of Bolo, his sadistic chief enforcer. Moments later, Lee is called to his first match and his opponent turns out to be O'Hara, who is clearly outclassed and eventually killed when he attacks Lee with broken bottles. Announcing that O'Hara's dishonorable attack has caused him to lose face very badly, Han ends the day's matches. Later, Han summons Williams and accuses him of attacking the guards the previous night. Williams denies this, claiming he wasn't the only one out at night, but changes the subject about leaving the island. As Williams defies him, Han summons his henchmen; Williams takes them out but Han himself is also skilled and beats Williams to death with his cast iron prosthetic left hand.

Later Han takes Roper on a tour of his underground base and invites him to be his representative for his heroin smuggling operations in the United States. Roper is reluctant, but Han shows him the mutilated corpse of Williams and dropping him in a acid pool, hinting that Roper will face the same fate if he refuses to co-operate. The same night, Lee breaks into the underground base and gathers sufficient evidence to warrant Han's arrest, but sets off an alarm while messaging Braithwaite. After fighting with dozens of Han's guards he is eventually lured into a trap and captured.

The next morning, Han asks Roper to fight Lee as a test of his loyalty. Roper refuses, so Han has him fight Bolo instead, but Roper defeats him. The infuriated Han then orders all his men to kill both Lee and Roper. Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, Lee and Roper manage to hold off the enemy until Mei Ling releases the captives in Han's underground prison, who join them in the fight and even the odds. Amidst the chaos, Han attempts to fight his way out, only to have Lee chase him to his museum, where Han retrieves a bladed replacement for his hand. After realising he is outmatched in the museum, Han retreats into a room full of mirrors, which proves disorientating for Lee, until he smashes all the mirrors to foil Han's illusions and allow him to defeat Han, impaling him on his own spear. When Lee returns to Roper, he finds that most of Han's men have been defeated and rounded up, but Roper also finds Tania's lifeless body lying amongst the wreckage. Lee and Roper exchange a weary thumbs-up just as military helicopters arrive in response to the distress call.



Jackie Chan's character gets his neck snapped by Bruce Lee

The scene in which Lee states that his style was the style of "Fighting Without Fighting" and then lures Parsons into boarding a dinghy is based upon a famous anecdote involving the 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden.[9][10]

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, most notably for the more acrobatic feats in the film, such as flipping over the abbot's arms at the beginning and the scene where Lee does a back-flip when O'Hara catches his leg during their fight.[11]

The title of the film was originally intended to be Blood and Steel. Enter The Dragon was filmed without sound. All of the dialogue and effects were dubbed in during post-production.


Further information: Enter the Dragon (soundtrack)

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.[12]


Box office[edit]

In 1973, Enter the Dragon grossed an estimated $25,000,000 in North America,[13] and an estimated $90,000,000 worldwide,[13] on a tight budget of $850,000.[14]

In India, the movie opened to full houses. In Hong Kong, the film grossed HK$3,307,536[13]—huge business for the time, but substantially less than Lee's Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon. By 1999, Enter the Dragon had grossed more than $200,000,000 worldwide.[15]

Critical response[edit]

The film was well received by critics and is regarded by many as one of the best films of 1973.[16][17][18][19] Critics have referred to Enter the Dragon as "a low-rent James Bond thriller",[20][21] a "remake of Doctor No" with elements of Fu Manchu.[22] 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."[23]

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.[24] In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[25]

The film also ranks No. 474 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[26]


Cartoon by Neal Adams depicting the final fight between Lee and Han from Enter the Dragon (Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, October 1975).

The film has been parodied and referenced in places such as the 1976 film The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the satirical publication The Onion,[27] 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) 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.[28]

The film was considered for two of the American Film Institute's 100 series lists. Lee's character was considered a possible candidate for AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains list.[29] The film itself was also a candidate for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding movies.[30]

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.

American Film Institute recognition

Home video releases[edit]


Universe (Hong Kong)

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

Zoke Culture (China)

Warner – 30th Anniversary Special Edition (America)

Warner – 25th Anniversary Special Edition (America)

Warner – Limited Edition (United Kingdom)


Kam & Ronson (Hong Kong)

Warner (North America and South America)

Warner (40th Anniversary Edition – Remastered)


  1. ^ Chase, Donald (25 October 1992). "Re-Enter the Dragon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "National Film Registry Titles of the U.S. Library of Congress (1989–2009)". AMC Filmsite.org. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Fred Weintraub Producer of Enter the Dragon
  4. ^ Ryfle, Steve (10 January 2010). "DVD set is devoted to '70s martial arts star Jim Kelly". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "Car Accident Claims Ahna Capri". Inside Kung Fu. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Lee's Dragon co-star dies at 96". BBC. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Bob Wall Interview: "Pulling No Punches"". Black Belt. Retrieved 2 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "A King of Kung Fu Films Savors Work and Honors". The New York Times. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Bruce Lee Said What?". Martialdirect.com. 12 August 2007. 
  10. ^ "Bully Busters Art of Fighting without Fighting". Nineblue.com. 12 August 2007. 
  11. ^ Video on YouTube
  12. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Lalo Schifrin: Enter the Dragon [Music from the Motion Picture] – Review". All Music Guide. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c "IMDB: Box office business". Retrieved 26 August 2007. 
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Stein, Joel (14 June 1999). "The Gladiator BRUCE LEE". Time. p. 3. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  16. ^ http://variety.com/1973/film/reviews/enter-the-dragon-1200423093/
  17. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1973". AMC Filmsite.org. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "The Best Movies of 1973 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  19. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1973". IMDb. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Enter the Dragon, TV Guide Movie Review. TV Guide. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  21. ^ The Fourth Virgin Film Guide by James Pallot and the editors of CineBooks, published by Virgin Books, 1995
  22. ^ Hong Kong Action Cinema by Bey Logan, published by Titan Books, 1995
  23. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (21 June 2013). "Tournament of Death, Tour de Force: 'Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray'". PopMatters. 
  24. ^ "Enter the Dragon Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  25. ^ "Enter the Dragon: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  26. ^ "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire magazine. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  27. ^ Rumsfeld Hosts No-Holds-Barred Martial Arts Tournament At Remote Island Fortress | The Onion – America's Finest News Source
  28. ^ Fleming, Michael (9 August 2007). "Warners to remake 'Enter the Dragon'". Variety. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  29. ^ "The 50 Greatest Heroes and the 50 Greatest Villains of All Time: The 400 Nominated Characters". AFI.com. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  30. ^ "America's Most Heart-Pounding Movies: The 400 Nominated Films". AFI.com. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 

External links[edit]