(director: Robert Clouse; screenwriter: Michael Allin; cinematographer: Gilbert Hubbs; editors: Kurt Hirschler/George Watters; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Bruce Lee (Lee), John Saxon (Roper), Shih Kien (Han), Ahna Capri (Tania), Angela Mao Ying (Su Lin), Jim Kelly (Williams), Bob Wall (Oharra), Yang Sze (Bolo), Geoffrey Weeks (British Agent, Braithwaite); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Heller/Bruce Lee/Fred Weintraub/Leonard Ho; Warner Home Video; 1973-Hong Kong/USA)

“It’s worth catching this schlock art film to see Lee play a 007-type super-agent, who is an expert in kung-fu.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-crafted, with outstanding kung-fu fight sequences, Bruce Lee film; in fact, his last one, as he died unexpectedly after this film was completed. It’s worth catching this schlock art film to see Lee play a 007-type super-agent, who is an expert in kung-fu. But don’t press me as to why it’s worth catching other than the showcasing of Lee’s incredible martial arts skills.

Lee (Bruce Lee), a Shaolin monk, accepts the assignment of participating in a martial-arts competition as a cover for investigating a gun running, opium smuggling and prostitution ring for British intelligence when asked to by agent Braithwaite.

Under director Robert Clouse (“Gymkata”/”The Pack”/ “Force: Five”), a veteran Hong Kong action filmmaker, the superficial story by Michael Allin has legs only because of the crisp action scenes and the breathless fast pace that leaves no time for thinking about its inanity or sluggish dialogue–instead the viewer is left to be in awe of the skillful martial arts fighters and to, perhaps, relish all the gruesome violence supplied without any guns or high-tech gadgets.

Lee is told by his handlers that the evil Han (Shih Kien), a renegade former Shaolin monk, with a missing hand filled by a steel claw, needs to be kept under watch in his island residence to get the goods on his criminal activity. He’s further told that Han’s bodyguard Oharra (Bob Wall) tried to rape his sister and she committed hara-kiri eight years ago rather than yield. That’s enough motivation for Lee to go after the baddie, without any reservations.

John Saxon has a good turn as a believable American kung-fu expert, who enters the tournament after being on-the-run from the mob over gambling debts. Jim Kelly plays a loud-mouthed American black activist on-the-run from the racist cops. These two kung-fu experts are residents on Han’s island, but ally with their old friend Lee to go after the vast Han empire.

It was the first Hollywood-based kung-fu film on what was soon to be a popular genre sweeping across an international market, and this one is highly regarded as one of the better martial arts films. It’s a must-see for martial arts fans, and a good intro to the genre for the beginner or casual martial arts fan.