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Screenings 08 July 2021

Enter the Dragon Blog July 2021

This month’s Hippodrome blog is a guest entry by Stirling-based Jack Ferguson, age 26-years, who writes about his visit to the Hippodrome to see Enter the Dragon, the first in the Black Enough season playing throughout July.

Jack Ferguson is studying a Masters in International Journalism at Stirling University and in his spare time is a keen film buff and is trying to work his way through the back catalogue of legendary directors. He particularly enjoys the work of Akira Kurosawa, as his film Yojimbo (1961) inspired Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with No Name’ character in his Dollars Trilogy. He also enjoys the work of Martin Scorsese, especially with his latest release, The Irishman (2019), and he loves Leone’s Once Upon A Time in The West (1968) for its sweeping, epic Ennio Morricone score. This is only the second movie Jack has seen in the Hippodrome, but he wants to return for many more screenings of classic films.

“It’s always a joy to dip into an era of classic cinema. I’m Jack Ferguson and for me, the 1970s was a good decade for cinema, perhaps the best. Directors like Malick, Scorsese and Coppola released their masterpieces that pushed the boundaries of what subject-matter filmmakers could get released into movie theatres. Actors such as DeNiro, Pacino and Nicholson starred in movies that would make them immortal. However, in 1973, a new kind of film was being introduced to many American audiences for the first time, a film that would also make its star immortal. I imagine posters of Bruce Lee were blu-tacked across many bedroom walls after the film came out. Sadly, Lee passed away before the American release of Enter the Dragon, so he never got to experience the international stardom he always craved.

Seeing Enter the Dragon at the Hippodrome really added to the experience. The star-studded ceiling, the squeaking of the screen curtain opening, and the rows of spotless red velvet chairs all work to give the cinema a warm, inviting atmosphere. A nice touch is the music which always plays in the auditorium before a feature begins. That night, they played a mix of tense orchestral music and Kung Fu whaaayyyyyaaas, which really upped the ante before the movie began. The film was screened as part of Josh Toussaint-Strauss’ Black Enough Season of four curated films, and he gave an insightful introduction to the film, drawing inspiration from his Black Enough video series for The Guardian. His description about Enter the Dragon being the film debut of his hero, the Blaxploitation star Jim Kelly, was poignant as you could tell how much he admired Kelly.

Then, the lights dimmed until there was only a ring of golden light coming from the starred ceiling, and then there was darkness…

The plot of Enter the Dragon is straightforward: Bruce Lee plays a character called Lee, an experienced martial artist, who is sent by British Intelligence to the island of the notorious crime lord Han (Kien Shih). A nasty piece of work. Lee begins to spy on Han under the guise of competing in his martial arts tournament, but Lee also wants to avenge his sister, whose death was caused by O’Harra (Robert Wall), one of Han’s henchman. Enter the Dragon is not a film you watch, it is one that you surrender to. You let yourself be taken along for the ride, and what a ride it is. You don’t come for the plot or character development, you come for Bruce Lee. It’s his show, and he nails it. Some of the fight scenes are staggering, the camera follows Lee’s every kick, twirl and flick as he tears into his opponents howling like a coyote, eyes bulging, teeth bared, the crunching of bones audible as Lee snaps necks and breaks backs. The filmmaking is solid, the fight scenes are well captured and choregraphed, and there is good use of flashback when Lee and O’Harra square off against each other before they fight. The flashback is only onscreen for a split second, yet it’s enough to re-emphasise the stakes of the fight; Lee is not just fighting to save his own skin, he is fighting to avenge his sister and the flashback illustrates this very movingly.

As the credits rolled and the lights went up, I realised how much Enter the Dragon has inspired filmmakers today; the quick zoom-in close-ups of The Bride in Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 surely are inspired by the same camera move that zooms in on Lee’s face right before and during fights. The hall of mirrors finale in Enter the Dragon must have been replaying over and over in Chad Stahelski’s mind when he was directing the finale of John Wick 2. The movie is not without its faults; the sidekicks Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly) are introduced at the start with compelling backstories. Roper appears to be a gambler in over his head and Williams is the victim of racial discrimination by police. However, these issues are introduced and then quickly buried once the kicks and flicks begin. Another undercover agent named Mei Ling (Betty Chung) is introduced at the beginning, a romance between her and Lee is hinted at, and then she disappears for the rest of the film, only to turn up at the end out of the blue just to release some prisoners. Shortcomings aside, after I got home, I was whaaayyyyyaaaing and karate-chopping for the rest of the evening. After you’ve watched it, I imagine you’ll be doing the same thing. The reason I enjoy visiting the Hippodrome is because of its diverse film programming that caters to film buffs, which my Dad and me both are. My Dad came with me to watch Enter the Dragon and it was great to watch a film with him in the cinema again after not having had much opportunity to do this during the pandemic. It was an experience that will stay with me and has inspired us to watch more kung-fu films together, creating more happy memories for us both.”

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