To attract an ethnically diverse audience, John Saxon (white), Jim Kelly (black) and Bruce Lee (yellow) together played "the deadly 3" in the 1973 martial-arts motion picture, 'Enter The Dragon'. Martial arts which comprised karate (such as Tae Kwon Do), kung fu (invented by Chinese Buddhist monk Daruma in 525AD), judo (meaning "the gentle way" invented by Jigaro Kano in 1882), Hapkido and Aikido (combined judo and karate), Kendo and Naginata (using bamboo weapons) and Tai Chi Chuan (a ballet-like version of karate).

Set on a fictitious island somewhere in the South China Sea, also known as the secret chamber of the inscrutable crime lord Mr. Han's evil empire, 'Enter The Dragon' took viewers into a world of international prostitution, white slavery and drug manufacturing. Shih Kien played Han, a character described as "a Fu Manchu throwback" who used a martial-arts school as a front for his shady operation.

Bruce Lee played an undercover agent trying to "penetrate a fortress without wall protected by an invincible army" to break up an opium and prostitution ring. Betty Chung played Mei Ling and Angela Mao Ying played Su Lin. 'Enter The Dragon' was the first American-made martial-arts film and Li Xiao-Long's (said to mean "little dragon" in Chinese) "landmark martial-arts epic". 

It was understood Bruce Lee was the highest-paid actor in the world at the time of his death in July 1973. 'Enter The Dragon' costed $550,000 to make - reportedly "a modest budget even by 1973 standards" - but grossed some $150 million around the world by 1987. The average Chinese film costed roughly $85,000 to make, a "remarkably low sum by American standards". One producer who financed his own films made known, "It's hard to lose money if you know what you're doing. And where else can you quadruple your money in a few weeks?" 

Director Robert Clouse insisted, "And it ('Enter The Dragon') keeps finding a new audience. I get letters from kids saying, 'I've seen 'Enter The Dragon' 100 times." One reviewer made the comment in 2007, "It ('Enter The Dragon') was a really good storyline, and it's still applicable today. We haven't stopped the drug trade. Bruce Lee was 20 years ahead of his time." The son of a Chinese opera star, Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940 but grew up in Hong Kong. He was said to have regularly been expelled from schools. By the time Bruce Lee was 18, his reportedly exasperated father decided to send him back to the United States. 

Bruce Lee dropped out of the University of Washington to pursue acting. After appearing in bit part on television, he was discovered by Raymond Chow. Bruce Lee became the hottest property in the Chinese film business when he appeared in the movies 'The Big Boss' (1971 renamed 'Fists of Fury' for the U.S. market) and 'Fists of Fury' (1972 renamed 'The Chinese Connection' for the U.S. market).

Producer Fred Weintraub approached Bruce Lee to star in 'Enter The Dragon'. It was the movie 'Enter The Dragon' which said rocketed Bruce Lee to international stardom. At the time, Ida Peters of the 'Afro-American' declared, "'Enter the Dragon' is the biggest drama ever to be built around the martial arts. It is also the first film of this kind to be made by a major Hollywood film company (Warner Bros. in association with Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest)." 

'Enter The Dragon' was spoken in English, not dubbed. It was noted most Chinese actors could not speak "good Madarin", the official language of China. Raymond Chow reportedly filmed all his pictures without sound. Then a team of skilled dubbers would come in to make the sound track. Kim Potter of 'The Michigan Daily' made the comment in 1976, "Beneath its mayhem, 'Enter The Dragon' seems to be chronicling – indeed, rejoicing in – the collective withering of the human spirit.

"It's fascistic message is twofold : 1) Kill or be killed. 2) Don't worry about it – deep down it's fun. Perhaps the film could be written off as mere patterns of Oriental revenge and face-saving; but 'Enter The Dragon' was made for Western audiences and was obviously meant – however innocently – to touch some dark chord in our native psyche."

Back in 1973, Robert S. Elegant of the 'Los Angeles Times' reported, "Between 3% and 5% of the budget for the low cost (Chinese) productions regularly goes for innumerable half gallon plastic bottles of red sticky liquid (referring to synthetic blood)." Albeit "the (martial-arts) genre provides a maximum of brutality with a minimum of blood." One scriptwriter told the press, "At the close of a day's shooting, a typical set looks like a front line dressing station after a major battle. We Chinese are a violent people – and that's what the audiences want.

"Basically, almost every really successful movie of the past decade (until the 1970s) comes down to one thing – revenge. For good reason, we Chinese are too obsessed with revenge. After all, we feel we've been kicked around by foreigners for the past 200 years. But the passion for revenge goes back much further. Confucius himself warned against the passion 2,500 years ago. The vendetta was a fixture of Chinese society long before Sicilians and hillbillies adopted the blood feud as an interesting way to pass time. Celluloid plus revenge plus violence equals profits."

One screenwriter revealed, "The simple message is that violence is apparently more appealing than the convoluted sexual and psychological intricacies of the West." Fred Wintraub told 'United Press International' in 1973, "This is the first time a Chinese actor (Bruce Lee) has ever been billed above the title. I like to think of the picture as sort of a James Bond film but with fists instead of pistols. I see the martial-arts films becoming a staple movie product like Westerns and mysteries. Karate schools are opening up as never before. Two years ago (in 1971) there were 300 karate schools in the country (in the U.S.), now (in 1973) there are more than 3000. They've made about 200 of these films (martial arts) in Hong Kong and about 20 of them have been released around the world.

"Most of them are terrible. Americans like martial-arts pictures because the hand-to-hand fighting is more personal than gun fighting. Almost everyone has been struck or hit by another person, but few have had a gun pulled on them. The big factor about our picture and all martial-arts films is simplicity. We've gone back to a pure delineation between the good guy and the bad guy. There's none of this anti-hero baloney. There's no equivocating. The hero is all good. The villain is all bad. Who needs a villain who might have a good side to him?"

Producer Paul Heller recounted, "We began working on this movie ('Enter The Dragon') more than a year ago (in 1972). That was months before 'Five Fingers of Death' was released. The difference between this first American martial-arts picture and the Chinese ones is story and production. Ours isn't a series of fights hung on a thin storyline. Our script is simplistic but it's based on a martial-arts tournament involved in international intrigue and drug smuggling."

The 1976 film 'Private Eyes' was renamed 'Mr Boo' for the Japanese market. It was understood it costed Raymond Chow only $500,000 to make 'Mr Boo' which earned $1.7 million in Hong Kong, $10 million in Japan and $5 million in Southeast Asia. In the People's Republic of China, Raymond told 'United Press International' in 1979, "That's not likely to happen soon. My films would be unsuitable to the Chinese government which frowns on sex, violence and anything that smacks of capitalism. Bruce Lee was definitely a capitalist. Also, China is unwilling to spend big money on the foreign exchange.

"But China is potentially the biggest movie market in the world. They only make 10 movies a year on the mainland and they are full of propaganda. There are no messages or political elements in my films. Until that government changes I will continue to make films for the free world. (From 1978 to the present day, the Chairman or President of China had been Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.)

"Chinese films are specialized to deal with the different restrictions of the various Southeast Asia governments, cultures and censorship. Each country looks differently on sex, violence and nudity. But the content of these pictures is diversified – comedy, drama, romance, action-adventure. Action films are most popular because they have minimum dialog, important because of the many different dialects in Southeast Asia. Chinese and international films gradually are growing closer together. I will continue to make movies for both cultures, profitably, I hope."

The martial arts sequences in 'Enter The Dragon' was choreographed by Bruce Lee. Michael Allin wrote the screenplay. Milo Uyehara of Rainbow Publications told the 'Los Angeles Times' in 1973, "Bruce Lee's first 2 movies broke all records in Singapore and they had never heard of him. Maybe it's because the films are so exciting. People, at least some people, have had enough of cowboys brawling in front of saloons. The trend has been gradually upward for years. When 'Kung Fu' (starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine) came out on TV (in October 1972), it was the right thing at the right moment."

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