Enter the Dragon – 40 Years Ago Today

Today is the 40th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s film, Enter the Dragon. After the massive success of his Hong Kong martial arts films, with all manner of imported Hong Kong martial arts movies suddenly growing in popularity, Hollywood finally sat up and took notice of Bruce Lee in 1972. The result was Enter the Dragon, a film that the original movie posters heralded as “the first Hollywood-produced martial arts spectacular.” It was a film that arguably transformed not only Hollywood fight choreography forever, but also popular culture. The following is an excerpt from The Treasures of Bruce Lee: The Official Story of the Legendary Martial Artist by Paul Bowman, regarding the fight scene between Lee and O’Hara (played by Robert Wall).

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The beauty and brilliance of the scene derives from Lee’s amazing speed. First, he wins point after point against O’Hara with single back-fist strikes that are delivered faster than the camera can actually record. The humiliation of this causes O’Hara to break protocol and to try to cheat. In response, Lee moves into a breathtaking kicking sequence. When the kneeling O’Hara illegitimately grabs his leg, Lee delivers a jumping back-flip kick. Lee then waits for O’Hara to return to the fight. But in the face of every one of O’Hara’s attacks, Lee floors him, with beautiful spinning back kicks as well as a kick to O’Hara’s groin delivered by falling to the ground and kicking upwards as O’Hara attempts a jumping kick.

The relentless humiliation leads O’Hara to attempt to attack Lee with two broken bottles. Lee responds in a memorable sequence, all shown in slow-motion: he disarms O’Hara with a kick to the forearms, then floors him with several head-kicks, and finally a powerful sidekick, before ultimately finishing him off by jumping on him. We don’t see exactly which part of O’Hara’s body Lee stamps on, because the camera focuses close-up on Lee’s face. However, the close-up actually emphasizes the intensity of this moment.

This is only one of many memorable moments in the film. It is entirely due to Lee’s character and fight choreography that Enter the Dragon made such an impact and remains so significant and memorable. It is easy to forget, but one must remember that most Westerners had never seen anything like the character that Lee played, and fewer still had seen anything like the truly astonishing fight choreography.

In fact, it was this film that truly put kung fu on the global map. Before this film, few Westerners had even heard of Oriental martial arts. Americans had heard of Karate, Judo, Tangsoodo and Taekwondo, because of the US military involvement in Japan and Korea. But virtually no Westerner knew anything about Chinese kung-fu. However, Carl Douglas summed it up exactly in the 1974 disco track that became one of the best-selling singles of all time: After Enter the Dragon, “everybody was kung fu fighting.”

Bruce Lee is remembered not only as the martial artist who inspired people to better themselves physically and mentally but also as an actor, a writer, a director, a teacher, and a philosopher. Authorized by Bruce Lee Enterprises, The Treasures of Bruce Lee tells this unique man’s story – his aspirations, his family life, his passion for martial arts – as never before, through painstaking research, never-before-seen memorabilia, and rare, unpublished photographs. It includes 5 posters and 15 removable facsimile items from the Bruce Lee Archives, including handwritten poems, membership cards, and Lee’s illustrations and notes on all aspects of martial arts.

Don’t forget to check out BruceLee.com for special bundle offers!



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on June 11, 2013, in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. any one seen this re-make of the famous Bruce Lee – O’hara scene – it’s hilarious http://youtu.be/Vx-0b0vtZdE

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