Thursday, September 12, 2002

You have offended my family, and you have offended a Shaolin temple: I never tire of watching Enter the Dragon, even when it's ripped to shreds and laden with commercials like it was on TBS the other night.

This movie has two things going for it.

First, the fight scenes are amazing - proving that you don't need Matrix-esque slow motion or Crouching Tiger tree-walking for a quality fight scene. It's all done with camera angels, editing, and Bruce Lee. The lack of technical enhancement as a crutch means they remain the best fight scenes in cinematic history, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it has no peer when it comes to pegging the unintentional comedy meter.

Let's start with Jim Kelly. Jim Kelly is utterly stupefying. I don't know what sort of activity he was engaged in during the filming of this movie, but it wasn't acting.

My favorite scene: Kelly has just whipped his opponent and his buddy, Roper (John Saxon), has just taken some money from a dorky looking guy who was willing to bet on the fight. It's now Roper's turn to fight so he asks Kelly to keep his fish on the line. While Roper is fighting, we see Kelly negotiating with the fish. Finally, after Roper allows himself to be knocked down three times, Kelly turns to the fish - and this is part I love - the fish holds up two fingers as an offer. What the two fingers mean, we don't really know. Then Kelly looks thoughtfully at his hand, extends three fingers and gleefully thrusts them up as if to say, "Ha! You have extended two fingers, whereas I have extended three! Three is one more than two! You are owned!"

Then, Kelly turns back to Roper to subtly indicate it's OK to start kicking butt. So he squints his eyes and gives Roeper a barely perceptible nod - because, as everyone knows, if you squint your eyes it's harder to see you.

See what I mean? Stupefying. You just can't script comedy like that.

Another great scene: Roper is in his quarters at night when the buxom matron of the place comes by leading four girls from which Roper is asked to choose one for the evening. (This was 1970s action movie morality at its
pinnacle.) The girls parade past the camera. The first two are pretty cute, the third not so, and the fourth, well, let's just say somebody must have lost a bet.

In the midst of this linear decline in aesthetics, John Saxon (Roper) has to deliver the line, "Each one more lovely than the last." With a straight face. A thespian tour de force. Seriously, it was a career moment there for Saxon. He gets the Patrick Stewart Award for making inept dialog sound reasonable.

And did you ever see The Kentucky Fried Movie? It was one of those skit-based, eighth-grade-level toilet humor movies that came out at the intersection of the '70s and the '80s. It's mostly bollocks except for one extended parody of Enter the Dragon entitled "A Fistful of Yen." The thing is, I had seen the parody before I saw the original. I was stunned when I found that much of what was in the parody was in the original word for word.

Here is a brief exchange from Enter the Dragon:

ROPER: "And who are they?"
DR. HAHN: "Refuse. Found in waterfront bars."
ROPER: "Shanghaied?"
DR. HAHN: "Just lost, drunken men who don't know where they are, and no longer care."

When I first saw that, I thought they had edited out the rest of the exchange which went like this in the parody:

LU: "And who are they?"
DR. KLAHN: "Refuse. Found in waterfront bars."
LU: "Shanghaied?"
DR. KLAHN: "Just lost, drunken men who don't know where they are, and no longer care."
PRISONER #1: "Where are we?"
PRISONER #2: "I don't care."
LU: "And these?"
DR. KLAHN: "These are lost, drunken men who don't know where they are, but DO care. And these are men who know where they are and care -- but don't drink."
PRISONER #4: "Wait a minute -- I don't know where I am."
PRISONER #3: "Yeah, and I don't drink."
DR. KLAHN: "Guard!" (to #4) "Do you care?"
PRISONER #4: "No."
DR. KLAHN: "Put this man in cell number 1 and give him a drink."
GUARD: "What do you drink?"
PRISONER #4: "I don't care."

The tone and acting in the original is so perfectly similar to the mockery of the parody that the exchanged seemed unfinished.

If you haven't seen Enter the Dragon, you should. In terms of number of imitators, it would be hard to overstate it's influence on film and video to this day. And get the Kentucky Fried Movie, too, and you'll see what I mean.