Think old-school kung fu movies, and whose fists of fury likely come to mind? Bruce Lee’s. And if the thought of him dispatching bad guy after bad guy gets your blood flowing, kick down the doors of the Freer Gallery this Friday night, December 10, at 7:00pm, to check him out in the classic martial arts film Enter the Dragon (1973).
In what was the first Chinese martial arts movie to be produced by a major Hollywood studio, Bruce Lee (1940-1973) plays a Hong Kong martial artist recruited by British Intelligence to go on an undercover operation. His mission? Head out to a crime lord's remote island and investigate suspected illegal drug operations while taking part in a martial arts tournament. No problem. He's Bruce Lee! It’s a Bondian plot, indeed, complete with a super villain lacking an appendage. Lee brings down the boss (who vaguely resembles a one-clawed Wolverine) in a famous battle sequence that takes place in a hall of mirrors.
Sadly, Bruce Lee died shortly after filming the movie, adding to the film's allure, but like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lee's iconic status has only grown more powerful following his death. (The 32-year-old actor died after taking a painkiller.)
And what makes this particular Bruce Lee film special, such that it even warranted preservation in the National Film Registry?
“It showcases Lee at his best,” says Tom Vick, the film programmer at the Freer and Sackler Galleries Film. “It’s the rare kung fu movie that was embraced by fans and critics at the time, and it remains highly-regarded today.”