Cinema: Compound Fracture

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Directed by ROBERT C. CLOUSE Screenplay by MICHAEL ALLIN

Lee (Bruce Lee) is the invincible master of Oriental martial arts. "What's your style?" inquires an admirer. After a moment of reflection, Lee says: "You can call it the art of fighting without fighting." That seems a clever enough description, if hardly adequate for the bone-crushing yet graceful combat that erupts with virtually every new scene in Enter the Dragon. Lee dispatches his antagonists nimbly, with the kind of Kung Fu acrobatics that make every maneuver, no matter how elaborate, seem effortless.

The fights—all staged by the star himself—have an almost choreographic flow. Their frequency, which keeps the movie racing blindly along, leaves little room for plot, and only a minimum is supplied. Bruce Lee (who starred last spring in Fists of Fury, one of the first of the current wave of Kung Fu epics) is engaged to penetrate an island fortress ruled by Han (Shih Kien), a sort of made-in-Hong-Kong version of Doctor No. Han traffics in dope and white slavery; his only contact with the outside world is the martial-arts tournament he holds every three years. Lee, armed only with his hands and flying feet, is sent to bring Han to justice.

On this mission, he gets a certain amount of support and comic relief from two Americans named Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly). Roper is a fast-talking scam artist; Williams is black and supposedly a prodigious sexual athlete.

Shot in Hong Kong by Warner Bros., Enter the Dragon is made — in English — with Hollywood expertise and a certain rather lighthearted affection for the excesses and silliness of the whole Kung Fu genre. During one of the hero's few moments of repose, he advises a pupil who wants to learn the secrets of personal combat: "Feel — don't think."

With that injunction in mind, the movie can be flat-out fun, a sort of carnival of combat that can turn even a sophisticated audience into a group of gawking kids at a Saturday matinee. In fact, the only real disappointment about Enter the Dragon is that it is Bruce Lee's last movie. Shortly before its release, he died in Hong Kong at the age of 32.

The coroner gave the cause of death as an edema (swelling) of the brain, a finding that is being investigated further in an inquest.