Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Enter The Dragon

Enter the Dragon, 40th Anniversary.  Would you believe that?  Those badasses at the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put on a great event that was equal parts celebration, education and entertainment.

Film executive, producer, writer and movie poster collector Stephen Chin was on hand to introduce an original print from 1973 of ETD (something about a transfer where colors don't fade) and discuss the extraordinary life of one Bruce Lee.  Sometimes we forget how extraordinary.  Sometimes we forget that Bruce Lee and Kung-Fu/martial arts movies weren't always a part of the worldwide pop culture lexicon.

An exquisite line up of guests were on hand to speak about the Bruce and Enter The Dragon.  Producers Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub, cinematographer Gilbert Hubbs, Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon, bad guy and Karate stud Bob Wall, co-star John Saxon (of From Dusk Til Dawn!) and 6 time Oscar nominated composer Lalo Schifrin (Bullit, Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry)!

What's great about these events is that they are well moderated so each guest has ample time to speak, a variety of subjects are covered and the lack of audience Q&A means no awkward quemments (question/comment) or long winded, personal diatribes from frustrated viewers/wannabe filmmakers.

- Fred Weintraub knew Lee was something special and tried to find projects for him but Hollywood had no faith in an Asian leading man.
- One project turned into Kung Fu, the TV series starring David Carradine.  Another was a buddy picture with Woody Strode (Spartacus, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Professionals) that stalled out.
- FW encouraged Lee to put some action on film as a demo he could show naysayers.  Lee went to Hong Kong and made The Big Boss and Fists of Fury which became overseas hits.
- It was still a tough sell but Warner Brothers put up half the $400,000 budget to produce ETD.
- Hong Kong super producer Raymond Chow ended up being barred from the set.
- Lee and Bob Wall were training partners for years, probably because Wall could take real hits in sparring and in the movies.  Wall also trained with Chuck Norris for decades.
- Lee and the cast sustained multiple injuries during filming due to his commitment for realism in fight scenes.
- John Saxon almost backed out of the film at the last minute.  Bonded with Bruce over home gyms.
- Lee wanted to meet Lalo Schifrin, who was under great stress to score the film quickly.
- Lee and Schifrin both considered themselves artists who fused thousands of years of tradition in martial arts and music into new forms and styles.
- Lee trained to Schifrin's famous theme song from Mission:  Impossible.
- Thanks to ETD, in the early 70's, 20% of films shown in U.S. theaters were Kung-Fu movies.
- Lebanon was the first territory outside of Hong Kong to screen Bruce Lee movies.

Much, much, MUCH more was discussed but I guess you had to be there.  The film rolled and looked great.  You forget how ripped Bruce Lee was until you see it on the big screen.  Young Bolo Yeung's popping pecs look the same here as they did twenty years later in Bloodsport (JCVD alert!).  I had also forgotten how funny this movie is, due to it's 70's-ness and the quirky performances.

Stephen Chin's awesome collection of martial arts movie posters from around the world filled the lobby.  It was a great reminder of Bruce Lee's living philosophy; be determined, be dedicated, never be dismissed and always be ready to kick some ass.

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