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Story Notes for Enter the Dragon

Monday through Thursday, at 8PM | 7C, AMC presents Story Notes — real-time on-air trivia about your favorite movies. Tonight’s movie was Enter the Dragon.

Biographical Notes
Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940. That’s the year of the dragon. He was born between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., which is the hour of the dragon.

Lee didn’t believe in traditional forms of martial arts. He invented his own style called jeet kune do, which means “way of the intercepting fist.”

Lee was born in San Francisco but grew up in Hong Kong. He was 18 when he finally returned to America and enrolled at the University of Washington.

Thanks to her skill as a martial artist, Angela Mao became the first internationally known female kung-fu star.

In the sixties, Lee co-starred as Kato on The Green Hornet. In Hong Kong, it was marketed as The Kato Show instead of its original title.

Lee never competed in a tournament in his martial-arts career. He called them “organized despair.” Lee preferred fighting without rules.

During the seventies, Jim Kelly began training as a boxer to become a better all-around fighter.

As a teenager, Lee would actually fight on rooftops in Hong Kong. In some cases, his opponents would use knives and chains.

Lee angered many traditional martial artists with his fighting style. He eliminated any ornamental movements and focused solely on defeating the opponent.

Kelly’s first starring role was in Black Belt Jones, also directed by Robert Clouse.

Kien Shih spent 50 years of his life in daily kung-fu training.

Shih performed all his own stunts. He was 60 years old.

Lee didn’t just move well onscreen. He was a champion cha-cha dancer in Hong Kong.

Lee never lived to see the success of Enter the Dragon. He died six days before the premiere. His death is shrouded in mystery. Coroners said he died from a severe allergy to pain medication.

Casting Notes
Roy Chiao plays Shaolin Abbott. He played Lao Che in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Braithwaite is played by Geoffrey Weeks. Enter the Dragon was his only film credit.

The young student is played by Wei Tung. He’s now an action-movie director in Hong Kong.

Robert Wall plays Oharra. He was a karate world champion and trained with Chuck Norris.

Mao plays Lee’s sister, Su Lin. She’s a black-belt hapkido champion. Hapkido is also known as the Korean art of self-defense.

John Saxon plays Roper. He played Donald Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Kelly’s only other role before this movie was in Melinda. He’d go on to star in a number of seventies blaxploitation martial-arts movies.

Producers discovered Kelly at a martial-arts studio in Los Angeles. In 1971, he was the international middleweight karate champion.

Peter Archer was born in Australia, but he practiced martial arts in Hong Kong.

Rockne Tarkington, star of Black Samson, was originally supposed to play Williams. He dropped out three days before the crew left for Hong Kong because of a pay dispute.

Han is played by Shih. Shih was a veteran of some 800 martial-arts films. He would regularly play the villain in the martial-arts movies Lee watched as a boy.

Hungarian Ahna Capri had never heard of Bruce Lee or martial arts before this movie.

Capri told her agent she wanted to film a movie outside of Los Angeles. He called back and told her about Enter the Dragon. She was on a plane to Hong Kong that night.

Chiao played Jean-Claude Van Damme’s trainer in Bloodsport.

In China, it was considered taboo for women to portray prostitutes or wear face paint. Producers had to hire escorts for $150 per day to fill the roles.

One of Lee’s attackers is Jackie Chan.

Finance Note
Produced on just a $500,000 budget, Enter the Dragon has grossed over $200 million worldwide.

History Notes
The Shaolin Temple was founded in the fifth century and is famous for its martial-arts teachings.

In the seventies, Hong Kong was a major contributor to the international drug trade. During that time, nearly 30 percent of America’s heroin was imported from Southeast Asia.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), thousands of Chinese fled the mainland for Hong Kong. The migration created a large pool of cheap labor, and most lived in appalling conditions.

The guillotine is named after Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. He submitted a sketch of the device to the French Legislative Assembly in 1789.

Location Notes
The movie was filmed almost entirely on location in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Aberdeen harbor is famous for its floating village. At its peak in the thirties, 30,000 boat people, known as tanka, lived and worked on the waters.

The South China Sea, at 200 feet deep, is relatively shallow.

The training grounds are old tennis courts. In some places, the chalk lines are still visible.

The hall-of-mirrors set was inspired by a restaurant in Hong Kong where the producers ate lunch.

Music Notes
Lalo Schifrin, the composer, is best known for writing the theme to Mission: Impossible.

Schifrin sampled sounds from China, Japan, and Korea to create the soundtrack.

The soundtrack to Enter the Dragon sold more than 500,000 copies, earning a gold record.

Pop-Culture Notes

Critics call Enter the Dragon the granddaddy of martial-arts movies. It made Lee an international phenomenon.

Mao is known by her fans as the First Lady of kung fu.

The guard uses nunchaku (or nunchucks). They were originally used as a farming tool to harvest rice. Before Lee, nunchaku had never been seen by American audiences.

Lee’s incredible physique would inspire bodybuilders for years to come. Six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates cites Lee as one of his biggest influences.

Enter the Dragon inspired countless martial-arts films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It also inspired a number of parodies like Balls of Fury and The Kentucky Fried Movie.

Lee’s technique of redirecting an attacker’s motion is a foundation of MMA fighting today.

In 1999, Lee was named one of Time magazine’s Most Important People of the Century.

Press Notes
In January of 1973, Lee was on the cover of 27 different magazines in Asia.

One newspaper in the early seventies called Lee “bigger than Muhammad Ali, bigger than the Beatles.”

Prop Notes
The flat-bottomed boat Williams travels on is known as a sampan. Sampan means “three planks” in Cantonese.

Quotation Notes
Producer Fred Weintraub: “He wasn’t supposed to stay out there that long on the boat. Bruce made the kids not bring him in so fast.”

Even though the feast took three days to film, they used the same food every day. Producer Paul M. Heller said, “The food on those trays got a little gamy.”

They filmed fight scenes for eight days in a row. Saxon: “I got to tell you, after those eight days I had enough of doing a karate movie.”

Lee said, “Breaking boards and bricks are mere stunts.”

Clouse: “He had the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen. In order to see his hand lash out and hit Bob, we had to speed up the camera.”

Wall said, “Bruce hit like a mule.” The side kick was the only real contact in the fight, and Lee didn’t hold back.

Lee: “I have no fear of an opponent.”

Writer Michael Allin: “I wanted Han to be the Devil but [one] who believed in something and was dedicated to it, which is the worst kind of villain.”

Lee often said, “Empty your mind: be formless, shapeless, like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Lee famously said, “Only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.”

Whether onscreen or offscreen, Lee had the same unflinching gaze. He called it “controlled cruelty.”

Dana White, UFC president, says, “Bruce Lee is the father of mixed martial arts.”

Jhoon Rhee, father of American Tae Kwon Do: “I wouldn’t go in the ring with him. I wouldn’t.”

Weintraub: “We caught a star. I don’t mean [a] movie star. I mean a comet.”

Random Notes
Today, assaulting a police officer can carry a penalty of four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Lee helped to change the way actors were treated by studios. He negotiated his own contracts and took a creative role in the moviemaking process.

On Han’s island, the bear claw is deadly. Most other places, it’s just a delicious pastry.

Script Note
Producers wanted to tell a contemporary kung-fu story without using guns. Allin created Han’s island for exactly that purpose.

Set Notes
Producers cast Saxon because he had a black belt in karate.

The praying mantises were flown in from Hawaii. When they arrived, they refused to fight.

When cameras stopped, the boat capsized, and Archer had to be rescued.

The sumo wrestlers were flown in from Japan. Heller: “They were the heaviest ones we could bring.”

Producers wanted the movie’s production design to resemble the comic strip “Terry and the Pirates.” “Terry and the Pirates” debuted in 1934 and was known for its vivid colors.

Unfortunately, Shih’s voice could not be used in the movie because of his thick accent. His lines were dubbed by Keye Luke (Gremlins, Master Po from TV’s Kung Fu).

On the set, Lee offered $100 to anyone who could catch his hand before he jabbed them. It didn’t cost him a penny.

During one take, Wall accidentally cut Lee’s hand with the broken bottles. The cut needed twelve stitches.

Producers had a very difficult time getting the cat to sit still on the guillotine.

Most of the underground cave set was made of mud and chicken wire.

Lee trained the women playing Han’s daughters so they could overpower Saxon.

Lee grabbed a real cobra. The venom had been milked from its fangs.

Lee tapped the cobra ten times. Only once did he get bit.

There are no special effects added to the nunchaku exhibition. That’s all Lee.

Some of the fight scenes were so complicated, they had to be shot as many as twenty times.

Lee didn’t just do all his own stunts. He choreographed every fight in Enter the Dragon.

One scene was filmed with close to 300 extras from martial-arts schools around Hong Kong.

8,000 mirrors were brought in to build the hall-of-mirrors set. It took hours of coordination to mask any camera or set-light reflections in the mirrors.

Lee hid a small piece of iron in his hand to break the mirrors.

Sport Notes
Su Lin strikes the face and the groin. Attacking pressure points is a major part of hapkido.

Sticking their hands in hot rocks toughens the martial artists’ fingers and skin.

Parkour, or free running, was inspired by Lee’s philosophies and fluid movement.

While the arm bar is regularly used in UFC fights today, biting is not allowed.

Trivia Notes
In Southeast Asia, honor is the focal point of martial-arts training.

Lee had martial-arts studios in Seattle, Oakland, and LA. In L.A., he trained stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn.

Enter the Dragon was the first English-language martial-arts film.

Enter the Dragon represents the first time a major American studio produced a film in Hong Kong. U.S. financing made it possible for the movie to be shown around the world and for Americans to see Lee as a leading man.

The large ship is a Chinese junk boat. A junk usually has large sails and a high stern. The stern is the rear end of the boat.

Heroin is produced from the opium poppy. The sap from the flower is opium in its crudest form. Today, one kilo of heroin can have a street retail value of nearly $200,000.

Lee was incredibly strong for his size. He could do one-handed push-ups using only two fingers.

Lee’s nickname was Bruce Three Legs because he could deliver three kicks very rapidly.

Lee’s character in Fists of Fury also tastes his own blood.

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