Movie time: Enter the Dragon, in high-definition

So, Enter the Dragon is one of those quintessential martial arts flicks that anyone who is into biffo on celluloid has seen at least twice. I first watched the movie years and years ago on late-night TV, and absolutely loved the combination of crazy afros, flares, martial arts biffo, bad dubbing and crazy 70s porno music. I won’t go into the importance this movie played in the grand scheme of East / West martial arts movies in contemporary cinema (which, to be honest, hadn’t been equaled insofar as Eastern influence on Western martial arts film making until The Matrix hit the silver screen in 1999, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog… or two!), as I’m sure IMDB or Wikipedia will have plenty of accessible info on this movie (plus any half-decent Bruce Lee biography will give enough space to discussing it). So, this is about watching the movie, again, and why I still think it’s awesome 🙂

So, I bought the original R4 DVD release when it initially came out and watched it several times; when it got re-released later on with extra features and what-not, I then bought it again! I’m such a sucker for this stuff 😛 And when Wifey and I picked up a PS3 at the end of 2007, once again I fed the money-making machine that is Hollywood and bought it in HD on Blu-Ray a few months later. And I recently convinced Wifey that it would be an awesome idea to watch it, and she (quite surprisingly) agreed!

Watching it again, having studied martial arts for 4-5 years now and having had the opportunity to learn and read more on various styles and their respective histories, it’s still a pretty awesome movie. Surprisingly, there actually wasn’t a lot of fighting in it compared to some of the other Bruce Lee movies, much less than what I remembered. Sure, there are some amazing moments of truly brilliant choreography, and more than its fair share of crazy zooming close-ups of Bruce or one of the other cast striking a crazy pose, but at the end of it, of the time dedicated to the film, there’s plenty of other scenes dedicated to somehow trying to wrap some kind of James Bond-derived spy/thriller action or plot, laced with a bit of sex, watered-down philosophy on martial arts (watered down not because of the late Mr Lee, but to make it palatable to the masses Warner Brothers were marketing the film to; that being said, it was very ahead of its time…) and a bit of token character development. It’s hardly the most striking example of 70s film, but it’s still a damn good ride!

Hmmm, I’ve wandered off-topic… again 😛 Must be from being absent from the blogosphere for so long, will just have to write more posts on my blog and get back into it! Anywho, waxing lyrical aside, it was awesome to take a trip back in time, but this time it was in such high clarity! I know that the film stock would have hardly been of super-high quality, but it was great being able to watch the movie with so much detail compared to the previous DVD releases of the movie. Colour was also reproduced with greater accuracy and depth, and seeing it in 24p was awesome – no 3:2 pulldown or PAL speedup. The audio was certainly a bit clearer, but the production values weren’t exactly high in this regard even in the first instance, so let’s not pretend it’s any different this time 😉

So, what new insights came out of the recent viewing that I can appreciate now better than before? John Saxon’s form actually wasn’t too bad when he was being choreographed correctly (he apparently got just shy of his brown belt in karate at one point in the late 50s/early 60s, stumbled across an interesting interview with him here), though he doesn’t get a lot of screen time delivering biffo. Jim Kelly is quite impressive on-set, there’s a certain grace and power to his techniques that’s pretty amazing when you consider Hollywood-produced martial arts films in the 70s and even 80s often lacked grace and flow when depicting martial arts on-screen, though that’s probably more to do with bad choreography than anything else…

And of course there’s Bruce, he really does look awesome delivering all his signature moves and silly close-ups. Still, as much as I love him in this movie, I think for pure biffo, Way of the Dragon wins out (though the fact that Chuck Norris is in that one certainly helps!), and there’s something about the enthusiastic, raw energy in The Big Boss that really appeals to me as well… wasn’t much of a fan of Fists of Fury, so I’ll leave that one out of discussion – it’s good mind, but I prefer the others.

There’s something timeless about Enter the Dragon, and while I’m sure the movie won’t exactly convert anyone to the joy that is martial arts movies, it still makes for an awesome ride and was definitely worth the purchase… again… on Blu-Ray.

On the topic of martial arts flicks, haven’t watched too many of late, but John Woo’s apparently back in awesome form with his new flick (even if it is two films chopped and joined into a single film to please the West [grumble, grumble]), so might have to add that one to the list of movies I should check out. Oh, and Wifey and I recently re-watched Kill Bill vol. 1, might have to suggest vol. 2 soon and post some impressions on them afterwards. I know it’s hardly cutting-edge discourse, but I like rambling on about the occasional movie on this blog, so hopefully it’s likewise appreciated by those reading my random thoughts printed on these pages!

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