ENTER THE DRAGON - SPECIAL EDITION
Region 2 (UK) Edition - Reviewed by Mark Frost
Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Kien Shih, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri
When fans are faced with their
going mainstream, odds are they are going to hate the result whether it is
good or not.
fu, you would think it would be the same. I could tell you all the reasons
why Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is an overrated, mediocre
exercise. And I could certainly advise you where to stick Kill Bill.
So why not
Enter the Dragon? Why do all martial arts fans love and respect
In the late
60’s, Bruce Lee was finding it difficult to capitalize on his early
success as ‘Kato’ in The Green Hornet TV series, he was advised to
go to China and try his luck there, where prejudice would not be an issue.
His ethnicity had already cost him the lead in the show Kung Fu -
which Lee devised - to David Carradine, so the advice seemed wise.
role was to be The Big Boss, a violent but superbly effective
revenge film championing the working man. This was followed a year later
by Fist of Fury, the familiar story of the apprentice avenging his
master’s murder. Both films were huge hits in Lee’s native China,
rendering him Asia’s number one star.
He used his
newfound star power to write, direct and headline The Way of the Dragon,
once again playing to the local audience as a small man who conquers all
(including Chuck Norris, in the infamous coliseum showdown).
As Lee began
to shoot his long-cherished pet project, The Game of Death,
Hollywood came calling.
was made as major Chinese producer Raymond Chow and Warner Brothers struck
a deal to create the first Chinese-American co-production.
storyline of Enter The Dragon should be familiar to all, so
briefly: Off the coast of China is a hidden Island which hosts a
prestigious martial arts tournament ran by a mysterious figure called Han.
Government suspect Han of using the tournament as cover for an
international opium smuggling ring, but need solid proof. They send in
their own operative (Bruce Lee) to participate in the contest, and gather
as much evidence as he can on Han before his cover is blown.
For what is
essentially a star vehicle, Enter the Dragon is in a class of its
own. It manages to mix the most popular genres of the day – Action, ‘James
Bond’ spy thriller, Exploitation and Blaxploitation - and come out
with a solid picture displaying everything that was great about 70’s
American cinema. The film still holds up remarkably well to this day.
stalwart John Saxon is brought in to keep American audiences happy, and he
does a fine job, managing to turn in a measured performance, even though
he must know he is playing second fiddle. The character of Williams is
played by karate champion Jim Kelly in his first role. He’s a little
wooden in places, but a lot better than can have been expected of him,
considering he was drafted in at the last minute.
Enter the Dragon
is not an original story in any way, nor is it the greatest kung fu film
ever made – but it has rightfully earned its place as the most well-loved
martial arts film in the world. The film brought Bruce Lee’s amazing
abilities to the masses through a well-judged and engrossing narrative,
managing to be both thrilling to watch and respectful of the Chinese
culture and people, in a way that had not been seen before in a major
American motion picture.
release of Enter the Dragon impressed me greatly back in 1988, but
by modern standards the picture was starting to look a little grainy in
comparison. The new release improves upon this with a strong, vibrant
image and a sharp picture that shows little grain, presented in anamorphic
widescreen at 2.37:1, with an average bit rate
thing that counts against it is, oddly enough, the other Bruce Lee films
that are available on DVD. Hong Kong Legends have released The Big Boss,
Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon and Game of Death in
the last few years, and they look marvelous.
Fist of Fury in your player after only having seen it beforehand on a
lackluster fullscreen VHS will make your jaw drop. HKL performed miracles
on the transfer. The picture was sharp with strong colours and a great
contrast. My thoughts are that if HKL can create this from what must have
been a filthy negative of a low budget production - no-doubt filmed and
stored under less than perfect conditions - then why can’t Warner give the
same attention to one of their most well loved properties which must have
far superior elements to work with?
But HKL will
never get the rights to Enter the Dragon, so we should be happy it
looks as good as it does.
only competition comes from the Asian company IVL who have released a R3
version of Enter The Dragon in 2004. IVL were getting quite a
reputation for their superb transfers, such as the Once Upon a Time in
China and A Better Tomorrow trilogies, and big things
were expected from their Bruce Lee boxset. Sadly, it seems they have
missed the opportunity, and their version of Enter The Dragon is a
slightly grainy and over bright transfer, with fluctuating colours. (Not
forgetting that it only contains Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks – no
English). But fans of The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Way
of the Dragon should certainly still purchase the set, as the IVL
improves on the HKL versions visually – and manages to avoid the picture
cropping problems that HKL are continually guilty of.
provided us with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (at 384kbps) which again
improves on the original DVD release. It is thoughtfully mixed and at no
time heavy handed, with subtle steering and plenty of beef when needed –
such as Lalo Schifrin’s superb score. But I am never one to recommend a
remixed 5.1 from a mono source, so luckily we also have included the
original, un-tampered mono track.
Commentary by producer Paul Heller
I’ll go out
on a limb and say that this is the worst commentary I have ever heard.
Heller is so boring that I am amazed they haven’t re-recorded this from
the last version of this disc. He doesn’t seem to have spent a day on set
so has nothing of any interest to say. Vast silences permeate the track,
with Heller even ringing the writer at one point to discuss the film.
Steel: Making of Enter the Dragon – 30m 10s
Disc one’s highlight is this 30th
anniversary documentary. It’s a bit amateurish and choppy, but it has
producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller reminiscing on the genesis of the
idea and their time spent on the shooting of the picture. (The
film's director, Robert Clouse, died in 1997). Some of
the interview footage used here can be seen elsewhere on the disc, and in
the correct aspect ratio (footage here is cropped to 16:9 to maintain
widescreen throughout, but is shown, bizarrely, in non-anamorpic format).
The big bonus is the inclusion of Anna Capri’s 8mm on-set footage, giving
a fascinating insight into the shooting of this classic.
gallery featuring Linda Lee Cadwell – 16m 04s
incurring the wrath of Bruce Lee fanatics and admit that Linda Lee Cadwell
is starting to get on my nerves. She’s not quite in the Yoko One league,
but she is walking a fine line.
unwrapped the 25th Anniversary disc and sat down to watch, the
first thing I saw was Mrs Lee Cadwell’s face staring back at me. And it
seems that every time I pick up a book, watch a documentary or read an
article about Bruce Lee, she is first in the queue for an interview.
earth must her current husband think of her willingness to extol the
greatness of her first husband at the drop of a hat?
truth is, she knows more about Bruce Lee than anyone else, so if you have
never encountered her before it is well worth listening to what she has to
say. And this disc would certainly not be complete without her. Shame on
movie footage: Backyard Workout with Bruce – 1m 53s
If you have
ever watched a Bruce Lee documentary before, then you will have seen this
footage. A collection of short black and white shots of Bruce doing kicks
and punches for the camera in his garden.
in his own words – 19m 20s
A series of
exerts from interviews played over black and white footage of Enter the
Dragon and Marlowe. It’s perfectly acceptable, but chances are
you will watch it last and by then you will have seen all of this footage
1973 featurette - 7m 39s
This sort of
featurette on something like the recent Spiderman would make me stifle
yawns in only the way a promotional EPK can, but on a 1973 classic like
this it is the first thing I look for. At only 7 minutes, this manages to
cram in as much behind the scenes footage as possible. I find it
exhilarating to see a scene I know like the back of my hand shown from a
different angle – as the famous cavern fight is here.
viewing if only to see Bruce Lee wearing the most lurid suit ever
Lee: The Curse of the Dragon – 87m 27s
prospects are not good for this documentary – the terrible Channel Five-esque
title, the horrendous stock soft rock music playing throughout, and the
intro that would make any Lee fan look to the heavens – “Before Norris,
before Seagal, before Van-Damme, there was…”.
quickly picks up to be quite a tidy eighty-seven minutes containing
revealing interviews from friend and student James Coburn, Way of the
Dragon co-star Chuck Norris and Enter the Dragon co-star Bob
Wall among others.
interest is footage of some of the early films Bruce Lee acted in when he
was a child, shots of James Coburn and Steve McQueen carrying Lee’s coffin
and an early US screen test where he is asked to talk about himself and
his abilities. To see Lee in this confined space with a suit on displaying
various kicks and punches to his interviewer is quite a sight – his speed
is simply amazing.
documentary is let down by its presentation – for some unknown reason, the
creators have decided to dissolve between talking head interviews with the
participant in mid flow, often before they have made their point. I found
myself straining to hear the last of Chuck Norris’ sentence at the cost of
missing the opening of James Coburn’s.
Lee: A Warrior’s Journey – 99m 58s
documentary, another ridiculous title. But this is a much more in-depth
look at the life and teachings of Bruce Lee, with extensive screen time
devoted to discussing Lee’s philosophy of martial arts styles. I was
impressed with the amount of material in this that I had never seen
before, such as shots of Lee’s actual script notes to The Game of Death,
with his storyboards and design ideas, as well as various clips from
martial arts festivals, training sessions and even radio interviews. This
is without doubt the best documentary on Bruce Lee available.
complaint is that for a special feature on an Enter the Dragon DVD,
it doesn’t really have much to do with Enter the Dragon. Instead it
focuses on what was to be Bruce Lee’s opus – The Game of Death. As
we all know, The Game of Death was never finished as Bruce Lee
intended, as he died well before completion. This documentary reconstructs
all of the footage shot by Lee back into a narrative order in line with
Lee’s script notes. To be brutally honest, I don’t think the film would’ve
have worked particularly well if it had been finished, as I have never
been impressed with Lee’s directorial work on The Way of The
Dragon – and I see the same limitations here. But whatever he would
have made of it would be infinitely better than the finished version of
Game of Death released in the cinemas in 1978, complete with body
doubles and cut and paste Bruce Lee heads on stand-ins.
Legends did the same reconstruction job to the footage in their DVD
release of Game of Death, but they saw fit to lace it with
‘inspirational’ soft rock music that wouldn’t be out of place in a
Littlewoods restaurant area in 1987. The Warrior’s Journey cut
wisely tones down the music to something closer to what Lee himself may
For me, this
documentary is worth the price of the disc alone
and TV spots
watch all of these or you’re not bothered. I fall into the latter camp.
I’ll watch one trailer but I’m not interested in multiples with usually
just a frame’s difference. It would be nice if companies could give us
trailers from around all over the world, but here we get the English
gone well beyond what I would expect from an updated release such as this.
They must be applauded for taking the time to re-master the film when they
knew that didn’t have to, and for including such a wealth of very valuable
special features. The only negative being the loss of text notes and the
isolated music score from the last release.
respecting martial arts fan should not think twice about buying this for a
second or, more likely, third time, and the more casual film viewer should
be ashamed of themselves if they don’t have this gem in their collection.