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August 17, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-08-17

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A ''t E t rt i mt Pag Six Tuesday, August 17, 1976

En ter the Dragon:
S ick implications

"YOU let him best you, didn't
you?" snarls Thunderball
arch - villian Emilio Largo to a
disheveled flunkie. Having ut-
tered this damning disapproba-
tion, the reigning scoudrel of
the decade-old James Bond
epic orders his cowering goon
picked and and swiftly trans-
ported to his new assignment-
lunch in Largo's private - shark
infested swimming pool. So far
as we know, the poor unfortu-
nate's only offense was to get
caught spying in Bond's hotel
room; Sir James subsequently
douses him in a hot shower,
whacks him around a little,
then turns him loose, leaving
the hood battered but basically
successful in his mission - he
has found the information he
was seeking.
But this technicality carries
no weight in Largo's system of
ethics: In a one-on-one man-vs-
man conflictdhisdemployee was
beaten, and decisively so.
Therefore he must die, and die
painfully. The simple savag-
ery of this reasoning, with all
the machismo sadism inherent
therein, struck me then and
long afterwards as the most of-
fensive single act of brutality
I had ever seen in a motion pic-
ture, an atrocity undiluted by
the traditionally unteal high of
the Bond genre. Yet this was
merely one overt segment set
amidst a more subtle whole;
it tokk an ostensibly cinematic
howler called Enter the Dra-
gon to convert the violence
ethos into a veritable religion.
Dragon's plot would hardly
seem geared to stir any deep
emotions: A group of Kung Fu

champions from around the
world are invited to participate
in a tournament held on an
island - fortress off the coast
of Hong Kong. Housed on the
island is a large-scale martial
arts school presided over by
the evel Han, a Fu Manchu
throwback who uses the school
as a front for a drug smuggling
manufacturing operation. Enter
special agent Bruce Lee, pos-
ing as a tourney participant in
order to get the goods on Han.
Lee pirouettes his way
through a series of blood and
gore interludes, liberates Han's
island prisoners, gains re-
venge for the murder of his
sister then finally dispatches
Han himself in an extended,
cliche - ridden hall of mirrors
sequence. It's all quite frenzied
and furiously paced, but etched
in such a lame - brained two-
dimensional artlessness that
only a comic book fanatic
could identify with its charac-
ters' motivations. But it is the
underlying drives in this film
that matter, and it is here that
Enter the Dragon begins to
emerge ominously, in the words
of Yeats, as some rough beast.
In a negative way, the film
is a hybrid perhaps unique in
cinema: Some works such as
Clockwork Orange make a
great show of pretending to ab-
hor the brutalities they depict
on-screen; Dragon makes no
such pretensions - it revels in
its violence, feasts on it. It is
the sole catharsis the only
means to proveone's hanhood,
the lone method to show that
you're alive. It's pow, zap -
and if you can't make it, buddy,
then you deserve to be ploughed
It's the Thunderball syndrome

carried gruesomely further:
midway through the film, Han
confronts three guards over
their failure to apprehend the
prowling Lee. Chagrined and
shamed, he demands they
"prove" themselves by sending
them up one by one against a
hulking goliath of a marshall
arts champion. The camera
stays stonily face forward as
bones snap, the victims shriek
and the giant laughs gleefully,
his eyes gleeming in orgasmic
possession. It is a horrifying,
debasing sequence which no
amount of camp or inanity can
Beneath its mayhem, Dragon
seems to be to be chronicling-
indeed, rejoicing in - the col-
lective withering of the human
spirit. It's fascistic message is
twofold: 1) Kill or be killed. 2)
Don't worry about it - deep
down it's fun. Perhaps the film
could be written off as mere
patterns of Oriental revenge
and face - saving; but Dragon
was made for Western audi-
ences and was obviously meant
- however innovently - to
touch some dark chord in our
native psyche.
I sat watching the jamjacked
audience whoop it up over the
large-screen obscenities, and
wondered how many of them
were two or three - time re-
turnees, wondered how many
of the cheers and exhortations
were just the letting off of
steam or the verbal surfacing
of monsters that would make
William Golding seem prophet.
Just to be on the safe side, I
said a small prayer for love,
gentleness and the other rari-
fied qualities that lift man
ever so slightly above the

Jeffrey Selbst
te. the ci
WELL, TIlS IS IT. Your commentator is making plans to
leave town; he has, one might say, his bags packed.
Therefore, as this is the last you will hear from him in a
long time, he plans to use his remaining time and space wise-
ly by trying to sum up what may be one of the more artisti-
cally tumultuous summers in recent Ann Arbor history. That
by itself is a rare thing, for arts events usually only occur
when students are around in full force to enjoy and/or pay
for them. However.
To begin with, probably the most significant - Aaron Cop-
land graced the stage of our own Hill Auditorium this past
May, and who knows but that it could be the last time we
have a chance to see him. The man is seventy-six, and pos-
sibly the greatest living American artist. He and the Phila-
delphia Orchestra also put on an unbelievable show for us,
replete with pieces by the great Americans - Ives, Schuman,
Barber at al. I remember too the conversation I had with
him at the WUOM studios. I mean, there he was - AARON
COPLAND-and I just sat there goggling, asking stupid ques-
tions, to which he gave kindly and immensely tolerant replies.
That was right around the time that Vincent Price, Roddy
McDowall, and Coral Browne hopped into town with their rather
bland Charley's Aunt. Somehow the Ann Arbor audiences con-
trived to give that thing a standing ovation, at least the night
I was there. Which is a- pity. The criteria for that greatest
of all accolades is getting less and less stringent.
MARDY MEDDERS and her bunch did a Peter Pan at
the Union which, as I recall, the critics rather liked. Disliking
the play, I didn't even go to see it. I rather regret that now,
but that's the way it goes.
There was a Superstar production, by the PTP's Michigan
Repertory company, which was perfectly dreadful, a combina-
tion of the worst taste and poorest production I have seen in
this town for quite a while. I remember too, that I stood out-
side the auditorium during the intermission and spoke with
an old acquaintance. I hold him it was the worst thing I'd
seen since a particularly obnoxious show called Loot. He told
me that they were directed by the same person, one Cathy
Thanks to the good humor of the PTP and their charm-
ing policies, I didn't see the other three shows in the Michi-
gan Rep season. I did receive a note that someone named
William Redfield had called me, apparently to complain that
I was "sabotaging" the PTP by my complaints lodged in their
direction in this column. In view of what has transpired, I
find that rather droll. Bue we pass on.
Early in the summer there was a dinner theater presenta-
tion of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
at the Ann Arbor Inn. That little show is really better left
unremembered. But somewhere around the same time was the
Ann Arbor premiere of the film Underground, about the rene-
gade radicals of the sixties now living out their lives in pas-
sive resistance. That was a treat.
ON A MORE RECENT NOTE, I saw a production of Die
Fledermaus this past weekend, by the School of Music Opera
group, that just left my mouth hanging open. At last count I've
seen seven productions of this particular opera, and I can safely
say that from an acting standpoint, this was the best of any.
Moreover, the singing and staging were a delight, not to men-
tion the costuming. I found the sets on the whole drab, but
the entire production was really stunning. I understand they're
doing Ward's The Crucible next year; that will likely prove a
mistake. But thank God they can make mistakes, they don't
have to concentrate as assiduously as the Met on purely the
fiscal motive. I think it must be the monetary factor that pre-
vents the Met from putting on Der Rosenkavalier more often
- I could see that twice a year. I hope the Music School tries
that one sometime in the near future, taxing though it may be
to young voices.
AND OF -COURSE, I have to mention the stellar event of
any Ann Arbor summer, the various Arts Fairs. A gentleman
of my acquaintance suggested I devote no more than two lines
of print to that generally sorry affair. I'll do more than that -
out of respect for the charming South University fair, I'll men-
tion it. There. As to the East U, Main and Maynard Street fairs
and sidewalks sales, the real dirt is better left unsaid. But I'm
glad it only comes once a year.
I must say, I've been pleasantly surprised by the events
of the summer; to the extent that there have been any, they
have been slightly offbeat - such as t' ippearance, at Sec-
ond Chance, of Herman's Hrmits sans hlaan. For the artistic
betterment of the city I would take certain steps, like killing
off most of the street artists and scrubbing cement to remove
illiterate scrawlings, and that sort of thing.
Well, look. This is my last chance to crab it public, and
I have to get it out once and for all, right? So leave me alone.

Rosa Parks
ROSA PARKS, the woman who spawned the Civil Rights movement by refusing to give up
her bus seat, now lives in Detroit and attended the festivities August 10 as the new musi-
cal "Selma" opened at the Music Hall Center.

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