Bruce Lee actually struck Jackie Chan in the face with one of his fighting sticks. He immediately apologized and insisted that Chan could work on all of his movies after that. Unfortunately, Lee died before he could keep his promise.
An extra challenged Bruce Lee to a fight to see if he really was that good. Lee won the fight and sent the extra back to work.
The production had trouble finding actresses to play prostitutes, so they hired real-life prostitutes.
In 2004, this movie was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in the United States and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
The movie was made for $850,000, and took in over $90 million worldwide at the box- office.
The hundreds of extras needed to play street people were real people from the streets of Hong Kong.
This is one of two English-language movies in which Bruce Lee speaks with his natural voice. The other is Marlowe (1969).
The movie was filmed without sound. All of the dialogue and effects were dubbed in during post-production.
Bruce Lee's final film to feature his direct involvement. Several of his films released after his death consist of archive footage from previous films.
Bruce Lee was once put into an armbar during a sparring session. His opponent asked what he would do in this situation, and Bruce responded, "Why, I'd bite your leg, of course." In the movie, Roper does that in his fight with Bolo.
On the set, Bruce Lee offered one hundred dollars to anyone who could catch his hand before he jabbed them. It didn't cost him a penny.
Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong three weeks before this movie's premiere. Game of Death (1978), which was completed after Lee's death, includes footage from his funeral.
Over 8,000 mirrors were used to set up the "Hall of Mirrors" where the climactic duel takes place.
This was the first Chinese martial arts films produced by a major Hollywood studio.
There were often arguments between Bruce Lee and producer Raymond Chow, one ending with Lee storming off the set. Lee felt that Chow was trying to assert himself as the mastermind of the movie, and that he wasn't being kept informed of everything going on in their partnership, while Chow thought that business was his side of the partnership and that he didn't have to consult Lee on every decision and told Lee to get on with the acting.
Fights broke out on-set between stuntmen and extras hired from rival families of Triads.
Bruce Lee wanted to use this movie as a vehicle for expressing what he saw as the beauty of his Chinese culture, rather than it being just another action film.
According to Robert Wall, Bruce Lee was using cannabis during filming and kept a jar of brownies on his desk, which he ate while they were talking between takes.
Bruce Lee, playing a secret agent, wanted to use a gun in at least one scene. Thanks to the producers nixing this idea, the annoyance Lee portrays on-camera is real.
The scene in which Lee states that his style was the style of "Fighting Without Fighting" and then lures Parsons into boarding a dinghy is based upon a famous anecdote involving the sixteenth century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden.
Warner Brothers wanted to call the movie "Han's Island" because it thought international audiences would be confused by an action movie titled "Enter the Dragon". Other alternate titles were "Blood and Steel", this was a first draft script title, and "The Deadly Three", a reference to Bruce Lee's, John Saxon's, and Jim Kelly's characters.
Often regarded as the movie that started the "Kung Fu craze" in America and beyond.
Bruce Lee suffered some on-set injuries. His hand was severely cut while shooting O'Hara's death scene, when Bob Wall mistimed his thrust of the broken bottle towards Lee (fake glass was not available). When Lee held the poisonous snake that guarded the secret entrance to Han's drug lab, the snake bit him. Fortunately, the snake's venom gland had been removed.
The opening fight sequence between Bruce Lee and Sammo Kam-Bo Hung was shot after principal photography, and completed at Lee's request.
Robert Clouse was chosen to be the director after Bruce Lee watched a choreographed fight scene turn into a real fight on-screen in Darker Than Amber (1970) between Rod Taylor and William Smith.
The praying mantises were flown in from Hawaii. When they arrived, they refused to fight.
The filmmakers wanted to tell a contemporary kung fu story without using guns. Michael Allin created Han's island for exactly that purpose.
Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee's wife, has a short cameo as a partygoer at Han's banquet. She appears in a purple dress and is walking around amongst the banquet servers and entertainers.
Some of the fight scenes were so complicated, they had to be shot as many as twenty times.
On director Robert Clouse's first night in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee insisted that they go out together to a movie theater to watch one of his movies. Lee told Clouse that he wanted him to experience the atmosphere, but the real reason was that when they had first met, Clouse was unaware of Lee's reputation. Although the outing was to impress Clouse, it was also to psych Lee up for the production.
Bruce Lee didn't show up for work for several days due to nerves because he knew the importance of the movie in terms of finally giving him international appeal. The studio bosses told Robert Clouse that money had been spent and not to stall, so Clouse filmed other scenes until Lee was ready.
In the finished screenplay, there were no details of what was happening in the action sequences. They would be written as "They will be choreographed by Mr. Bruce Lee".
When the extended Cantonese/Mandarin versions were released for the first time in English in 1998, some extra dubbing had to be done, because no English dialogue existed at that time for those scenes. One of the scenes involved Roy Chiao (Shaolin Abbott) and Bruce Lee. Chiao was still alive (he died shortly thereafter), and was able to dub himself, but Lee's voice was supplied by his biographer John Little. Luckily, Lee's real voice was left alone for the scenes that originally used it.
Major communication difficulties emerged from using Chinese and American crews. There was a shortage of translators and often no adequate Chinese words for some of the English jargon and technical terms and vice versa. Matters were further complicated because people who made mistakes would often simply disappear from the set rather than lose face.
Five hundred Chinese workers built the set from scratch, without power tools. Some sets were built out of chicken wire and mud. The steel bars of the prison cells were made by shaving down pieces of scrap wood because labor was cheaper than round pieces of wood.
When John Saxon arrived on-set, he thought, and acted as if, he was the star of the movie.
Bruce Lee trained the women playing Han's daughters so they could overpower John Saxon.
Bruce Lee was concerned about the character he was portraying in this movie. He was unsure whether the West would accept a Chinese hero and whether the Chinese would accept his new approach. According to Robert Clouse, screenwriter Michael Allin made flippant remarks that Lee shouldn't worry about such things, claiming that the only reason the movie was being made was because it was cheap and that it wasn't a fine piece of literature. Lee tried to brush this aside, but Allin persisted in his attitude and made script alterations. Knowing that Lee had trouble pronouncing certain words, he contrived to include as many "r"s into Lee's dialogue as he could. Eventually, Lee refused to work with him anymore and demanded a new script. The producer suggested that Allin lay low for a few days. To Lee's utter anger, he encountered him on a ferry in Hong Kong.
The producers discovered Jim Kelly at a martial-arts studio in Los Angeles. In 1971, he was the international middleweight karate champion.
Rod Taylor was originally considered for the role of Roper, but he was thought to be too tall compared to Bruce Lee, with whom he would have been sharing many action scenes.
Doves were required for a scene. However, someone misinterpreted the order, and brought frogs instead.
Each morning, the soundstages had to be cleared of dogs and squatters that had spent the night sleeping on couches or on the floor.
The courtyards where Han's martial arts students train were actually modified tennis courts.
Ahna Capri told her agent she wanted to film a movie outside of Los Angeles. He called back and told her about this movie. She was on a plane to Hong Kong that night.
According to producer Fred Weintraub, Robert Clouse was the only one who wanted to direct the film.
The training grounds are old tennis courts. In some places, the chalk lines are still visible.
The sumo wrestlers were flown in from Japan. According to producer Paul M. Heller, "They were the heaviest ones we could bring."
This movie was heavily advertised in America before its release. The budget for advertising was over one million dollars. It was unlike any promotional campaign that had been seen before, and was extremely comprehensive. In order to advertise the movie, the studio offered free karate classes, produced thousands of illustrated flip books, comic books, posters, photographs, and organized dozens of news releases, interviews, and public appearances for the stars. Esquire Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and Newsweek Magazine all wrote stories on the movie.
The scene where Han takes Roper down to his underground opium factory via his "guillotine lift" was the last scene John Saxon shot.
The producers wanted the movie's production design to resemble the comic strip "Terry and the Pirates".
The first scene Bruce Lee filmed was his scene with Betty Chung. On the first take, his face developed a nervous twitch that was obvious in close-ups. Nothing was said about it while long shots and various angles were improvised. The ploy worked, after lunch, the twitching nerve had settled down, never to reappear.
Hungarian Ahna Capri had never heard of Bruce Lee or martial arts before this movie.
The crew filmed fight scenes for eight days in a row. John Saxon recalled, "I got to tell you, after those eight days I had enough of doing a karate movie."
When Parsons (Peter Archer) asks Lee (Bruce Lee) "What's your style?", Lee replies, "the art of fighting without fighting." Although this is a play on what Lee subsequently does to Parsons, it was also the philosophy behind the style Bruce Lee created, Jeet Kune Do, to achieve maximum effectiveness with minimal movement and expenditure of energy.
Lighting set-ups were often changed overnight, meaning that whole scenes had to be shot all over again.
Many of the fight scenes were choreographed, rehearsed and filmed in eight days straight, which took its toll on John Saxon.
Jim Kelly replaced Rockne Tarkington, who quit the movie three days before production was due to start because he thought the pay was too low.
The popular video game Mortal Kombat borrows multiple plot elements from this movie. Liu Kang is heavily influenced by Lee (Bruce Lee). Lee, a benevolent Shaolin monk who fights shirtless in black Kung Fu pants. Shang Tsung is basically a mystical version of Han, holder of the island tournament, with an underlying sinister purpose.
Kien Shih, who played the main villain Han, in real life was a close friend of Bruce Lee's father since they both worked in Cantonese Opera business. Kien worked as a makeup artist and Bruce's father as an actor. Their relationship was so close that Bruce addressed Kien as "uncle" and Kien called Bruce "nephew". During a break when filming Enter the Dragon, Bruce got a premonition and said to Kien, "Uncle, I feel that you will live longer than me." Surprised to hear that, Kien then replied, "Nephew, don't force yourself too hard. You are overworking yourself." Bruce died one week before Enter the Dragon was released in Hong Kong.
The hall of mirrors set was inspired by a restaurant in Hong Kong where the producers ate lunch.
Among the stuntmen were members of the Seven Little Fortunes, including Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, and Biao Yuen. This was arguably instrumental in the trio's further association with Golden Harvest studios, which launched their careers.
One scene was filmed with close to three hundred extras from martial-arts schools around Hong Kong.
The crew couldn't find a location to use for Han's island. Roy Chiao, who played the monk at the monastery, had his own little plane and knew of the places in Hong Kong where you could fly a plane without permission from mainland China, so producer Paul M. Heller spent the afternoon flying around with him with the plane door off, taking photographs of various islands and mansions so Han's island could be created in a composite photograph.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Black Samson (1974) co-stars Rockne Tarkington and William Smith were the original actors intended to play the characters of Williams and Roper.
According to director Robert Clouse, when director of photography Gil Hubbs arrived at Golden Harvest Studios, he found most of the camera equipment in disrepair and with none of the lenses he wanted to use. Hubbs took the initiative of hiring the equipment he needed from another supplier, upsetting the producers and Golden Harvest, who were presented with additional costs. Even so, the entire movie was shot using just two cameras and three lenses. The second cameraman, Charles Lowe, was presented with similar problems in the lighting department, where equipment was so badly rusted it was, in his words, "now only good for one last stand in India".
The popular 1980s martial arts video game Double Dragon features two enemies named Roper and Williams, a reference to the two characters Roper and Williams from this movie.
The John Landis comedy anthology film Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), in its lengthy "A Fistful of Yen" sequence, features a comedic, note for note remake of this movie.
Composer Lalo Schifrin sampled sounds from China, Japan, and South Korea to create the soundtrack.
Bruce Lee chose Robert Clouse to direct because he was impressed by a fight scene in Darker Than Amber (1970).
The fourth wall is broken briefly when just after of Roper's flashback, a Chinese child stands up in the ship to the left of Roper's boat, in the top of the left corner of the screen.
The success of Jim Kelly in this film launched him on a whole new career in blaxploitation films throughout the 1970s.
The flat-bottomed boat Williams (Jim Kelly) travels on is known as a sampan. Sampan means "three planks" in Cantonese.
When Han (Kien Shih) spoke to a trapped Lee (Bruce Lee), Han said "Your skills are extra ordinary". What was meant was "extraordinary". One assumes that the meaning was lost in the translation.
Jackie Chan: Appears three times in the film. He is one of Su Lin's attackers (she knees him in the groin), and twice later, towards the end of the movie in the big cave fight scene. Lee grabs his hair for a while before breaking his neck. He is also one of the stuntmen that Lee hits when he wields two sticks (according to Chan).