Bruce Lee is returning to Hollywood a well-heeled hero
He arrives in this country in mid-August to promote Warner Bros “Enter the Dragon,” his latest film of the kung fu genre responsible for thrusting him from the status of out-of-work actor to international star within the last several years.
It wasn’t so long ago (before ABC and David Carradine made it a household word) that if you’d asked the American on the street what kung fu was he’d probably have answered it was a Chinese restaurant or a Cantonese hors d’oeuvre.
The martial arts adventures now rank as the most popular international box office attraction since James Bond, with Bruce Lee the one super star to emerge as master of the form.
It was in 1969 when Lee, whose greatest claim to fame had been his second-banana portrayals of Kato in “The Green Hornet” series, grew weary of hucking Hollywood’s casting system and moved to Hong Kong for his first stab at the eastern westerns in “Fist of Fury.”
“Fury” led to “The Big Boss” and “The Chinese Connection,” all low-budget, big-grossing productions that gave audiences the chance to get vicarious kicks from exaggeratedly brutal screen action. And which gave Bruce the opportunity to show off the talent that had earned his membership in the karate Blackbelt Hall of Fame.
“Enter the Dragon,” Warners’ executives inform me, will be a departure from the rest in that it presents an increase in quality and a decrease in violence. Some of the other epics eventually got “R” ratings, but only after being edited for US distribution and deleting some of the overwhelmingly bloody scenes.
Portions of “Dragon” were filmed in California, but its main bulk was — like those others — shot in Hong Kong, where, according to producer Paul Heller, “It was much easier to recruit several hundred martial artists we needed to portray the crime lord’s army. There the martial arts are a part of everyday life. Everyone practices them, even the man on the street.”
And even, most certainly, Bruce Lee, the man who boasts an 11-room Hong Kong mansion and a fleet of Rolls Royces and Porsche autos among his recently-acquired luxury possessions.