Bruce Lee's Spaghetti Martial Arts Western Is The Way of the Dragon

Bruce Lee's Spaghetti Martial Arts Western Is The Way of the Dragon ...

The Way of the Dragon was released in 1972 and served as Bruce Lee's directorial debut. The film revolves around Tang Lung (Lee), a young martial artist who arrives in Italy to assist his cousins who are currently being threatened by the local mafia. However, the film also presents itself as a war against genres as it juxtaposes genre staples such as Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy.

Tang Lung is tasked with battling numerous gun-toting gangsters in action scenes that are typical of Spaghetti Westerns such as A Fistful of Dollars.

Tang Lung's characterization owes a debt to Enzo Barbonis' 1970 western They Call Me Trinity. Both are characters that are presented as uncouth and uncultured nobodies in their initial scenes in order to sway the audience to think of them as "country bumpkins." Similarly, Trinity is first introduced as a dirty drifter who orders nothing to eat but a whole plate of beans taken straight from the pan they were cooked in.

Once Upon a Time in the West, which Lee owes the most credit, has some similarities. Leone's film follows Tang as he protects a small local community from a greedy mob boss who wants to buy their property. Finally, sections of Ennio Morricone's Once Upon a Time in the West are interspersed throughout the fight.

Lee is doing a complete reverse of what John Sturges did with The Magnificent Seven, a Western-style adaptation of the Akira Kurosawa epic Seven Samurai, and going further by translating it again through the eyes of the Hong Kong Martial Arts film. All of this demonstrates how fluid both genre and story can be.

The Way of the Dragon is 50 years old this year, and it is remarkable how well it still holds up. It's detailed and entertaining, and it concludes with a final confrontation between two martial arts legends that must be witnessed to be believed.