Region 2 (UK) Edition - Reviewed by Mark Frost

Director:  Robert Clouse

Featuring:  Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Kien Shih, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri

When fans are faced with their favourite genre going mainstream, odds are they are going to hate the result whether it is good or not.

With kung 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 this film?

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.

His first 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.

Film history was made as major Chinese producer Raymond Chow and Warner Brothers struck a deal to create the first Chinese-American co-production.

The 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.

The British 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.

Exploitation 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.


The previous 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 of 6.28mb/s.

The only 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.

Putting 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.

Warner’s 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.

Warners have 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. Avoid.

Blood and 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.

Interview gallery featuring Linda Lee Cadwell – 16m 04s

I’ll risk 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.

When I 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.

What on earth must her current husband think of her willingness to extol the greatness of her first husband at the drop of a hat?

But the 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 me.

Vintage home 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.

Bruce Lee 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 used elsewhere.

Original 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.

Worth a viewing if only to see Bruce Lee wearing the most lurid suit ever tailored.


Bruce Lee: The Curse of the Dragon – 87m 27s

The 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…”.

But it 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.

Also of 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.

Sadly, the 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.

Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey – 99m 58s

Another 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.

My only 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.

Hong Kong 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 have chosen.

For me, this documentary is worth the price of the disc alone

Trailers and TV spots

You either 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 language versions.


Warners have 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.

Any self 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.












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