Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Way of the Dragon (Meng Long Guo Jiang) (1972, Bruce Lee)


There are a great many people out there who will tell you that "Enter the Dragon" is THE martial arts film par excellence, and the greatest movie of the late Little Dragon himself, Bruce Lee. These people are, of course, wrong. This is.
Written by, directed by, and starring Bruce Lee, "The Way of the Dragon" showcases his martial philosophy and incredible skills, as well as a flair for comedy. Lee stars as T'ang Lung (literally "China Dragon"), a naive martial artist who travels from China to Italy to work along with his fellow countrymen in a restaurant - which happens to be located on some prime Rome real estate sought by a Mafia boss and his hired goons. After some humorous "fish out of water" situations arising from his unfamiliarity with Western customs and behaviour (and Campbell's soup!), his amazing kung fu skills are utilised to protect his friends from the predations of the criminal gwai-lo.
 With great villainous support from Jon Benn as the unnamed Boss (whose incredulous "Kung FU?!?" always raises a smile), and the great Wei Ping-Ao giving a reprisal of his fawning henchman role from "Fist of Fury" but with the camp factor cranked all the way up to eleven. The gorgeous Nora Maio is the leading lady exasperated by T'ang Lung's country bumpkin behaviour, and Malisa Longo (credited quite accurately as "Italian Beauty") gives nice eye candy titillation in a brief topless scene.
But the aspect of the movie that everyone is familiar with, and we are all eagerly anticipating, is the gladatorial conflict between Lee and karate champion turned right-wing loon Chuck Norris in the Roman Collosseum. Called in by the Boss after Korean hapkido expert Wong In-Sik and American karate exponent Bob Wall (as Bob / Fred - couldn't they have decided on what his character was called?) have failed, we are introduced to the mighty Colt (Norris) in a frankly disturbing shot that sees him disembark from a plane and march groin foremost straight towards the camera. It's a good thing this movie wasn't in 3-D.
 This clash of the titans is witnessed only by a small Italian kitten who, speaking neither English nor Cantonese, cannot hope to follow the gargantuan combat taking place before his tiny eyes.

But as the fight ends, as it must, with the stunning defeat of Colt / Norris, T'ang Lung must bid farewell to his new-found friends with their new-earned respect, and head off into the distance with his knapsack on his back like Dr. David Banner.

Or like Caine from "Kung Fu".

"KUNG FU?!?"


  1. I wrote this before, but as someone who trained in Jeet Kune Do, the Chuck Norris fight expresses the priciples of that art superbly. Lee tries the "hard" approach and gets knocked on his ass by the bigger opponent, so shifts to the "soft" approach and runs rings round the slower opponent. The kitten was a last minute addition as it was wandering about the set that day and the shot of the kitten playing with something mirrors the cat-like Lee toying with his opponent. The rest of the film is good, but that fight scene is one of the best ever filmed.

  2. It's up with the Danny Inosanto and Kareem Abdul Jabbar sequences in 'Game of Death' (proper Popchusa Jade Pagoda version, not shitty Red Pepper Restaurant version), IMO. But yes, your summation of their battle is excellent.

    The realisation that the kitten will most certainly be dead now has filled me with inexplicable melancholy.

    I really wasn't sure about including this review on the blog, as it's pretty mainstream so i didn't feel fell into the 'weird and psychotronic' purview. But it's so good (and i quite liked me 'KUNG FU?!?' ending of the review) that i kept it in.