- May 7, 2001
Enter The Dragon – Two Disc Special Edition
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 102 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: 3 Panel gatefold Digipak with cardboard slipcover case
On May 18th, Warner Brothers is set to release three more of their highly coveted Two Disc Special Editions. Due to be released is the 1956 Academy Award winning film for Best Picture, Around The World In 80 Days, 1994’s Wyatt Earp, and the feature film, the 1973 Bruce Lee classic, Enter The Dragon. The film was directed by the late Robert Clouse and stars martial arts legend, Bruce Lee.
Lee (played by the late great martial arts expert Bruce Lee), is a member of the Shaolin Temple and master of the martial arts. He has been recruited to infiltrate the island fortress of a man who is suspected of drug trafficking and heading a slave trade. The suspected trafficker is Han (played by Shih Kien) who is a Shaolin monk who has disgraced his temple with his scandalous actions. It’s also learned that the man was responsible for the death of Lee’s sister (by suicide). Lee travels to the island along with Roper (played by John Saxon) and Williams (played by Jim Kelly) under the guise of attending an annual martial arts tournament.
Just one thing I’ve got to get off my chest… You have no idea how refreshing it was, to spend two hours watching a marshal arts film where I didn’t have to watch characters run up the side of walls, do the proverbial back-flip and then be slightly suspended in time as they leash down hell on their opponent. I’ve almost reached a threshold whereby making that specific technique the proviso as to whether I’ll actually watch the film or not… I’ve really had my fill. Sorry for the rant and thanks for listening... Needless to say there is none of that nonsense in this film which was not only the first American produced martial arts film, but it may very well the best.
Regardless of its age, it’s an extremely good production and still highly entertaining. The film was a catalyst for martial arts pictures which perhaps lead to legitimize and form the genre. It was a precursor for many films since, very few of which have equaled. Unfortunately, the man responsible for the ultimate success of the genre never lived long enough to see its embrace. Bruce Lee died at the age of 32, just three months after he completed the filming of Enter The Dragon and never had the chance to see the movie’s premiere.
From what I understand there have already been several DVD versions of this film previously released, unfortunately I don’t own any of them, so it’s difficult for me to compare them. But I can say this; I’d be mightily surprised if this wasn’t far and away the best the film has ever looked. I was quite impressed.
Presented in its OAR of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen, this transfer has a lot going for it. The colors were extremely vibrant and saturated nicely although I did notice some bleeding – very slight. Flesh tones were impressive, always looking accurate. There was a very nice sense of shadow detail as well as a nice sense of dimensionality rendering a beautiful film-like image.
Image detail was also quite impressive appearing mostly sharp throughout its entirety with only a few occasions of softness. Facial close-ups, for the most part, were spectacular. There was only a very slight amount of fine grain and the print looked amazingly clean and virtually blemish free. I only noticed a couple of very slight occasions of light shimmer and a few occasions of slight artifacting, but never any edge enhancement.
While I can’t compare this to previous releases, I can give pretty good marks in that it most certainly exceeded my expectations.
Enter The Dragon comes with a Dolby Digital encoded 5.1 soundtrack that does a satisfactory job. While I don’t have a lot of negative things to say, there aren’t many superlatives to throw around either.
The track was extremely clean with absolutely no hiss or other anomalies. The overall tonal quality of the track was rather natural, bordering on slightly raw – a trait I find most typical of 70’s films. Not good – not bad, just an observation.
Dialogue was always clear and intelligible aside from some of the language obstacles many of the actors were faced with. It’s pretty obvious that much of the dialogue throughout this film has been dubbed, which (depending on the camera angle etc.) can be distracting, albeit none of which is transfer related.
There is a moderate amount of dynamic range – perhaps better than average, again keeping in mind this film is 30+ years old. The soundstage is somewhat wide but by no means would I refer to it as spatial. Not sure if the predecessor was in 5.1 or simply 2.0, but either way there is very little gleaned from the 5.1 track. There is a proverbial jet flyover, some ambient noise during the ending fight sequence but not a lot of surround activity to speak of. LFE was basically non existent.
It’s very difficult reviewing an improved version when you don’t have the previous version to compare it to, never mind a film that admittedly, I am not all that familiar with. So having said all that, the audio portion was rather average but never disappointing.
This set is absolutely jam packed with special features.
On Disc One:
[*] Commentary by Paul Heller who was one of the original producers of the film. Shortly after, writer Michael Allin is introduced, surprisingly, by way of speakerphone(?). When Mr. Allin speaks, it is somewhat difficult to hear what he saying since this method is rather unorthodox and muffled. Much of the conversation focuses on the location and the obstacles they encountered during the shoot in Hong Kong. While Mr. Heller offers up a great deal of information, he is not easy to listen to. He speaks very slow and is rather monotonous with plenty of dead time throughout the duration of the feature.
[*] Blood And Steel: Making of Enter The Dragon features James Coburn, Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub this is an interesting little feature that discusses how the entire project eventually came together including the concerns of Warner Bros. and their reluctance to embrace the project. There are a number of clips of the cast and crew involved while they each discuss their participation in the film. Duration 30:09 minutes.
[*] Bruce Lee: In His Own Words is a short featurette showing older B&W footage and sound clips which focuses on the philosophy of martial arts and Mr. Lee’s thoughts relating his application of the arts as a human being. Also shown are a number of B&W stills of behind the scenes of the production of Enter The Dragon. The feature was directed and produced by John Little in 1998. Duration 19:19 minutes.
[*] Linda Lee Cadwell these are a number of short clips as she discusses her late husband and a number of tidbits relating to the great artist. There are 10 clips in all. Total duration: 16:04 minutes
[*] Lair Of The Dragon Duration contains two features. The first, 1973 Featurette is a short documentary focuses on the location shoot and the second, a Backyard Workout With Bruce Lee which is a short video showing Bruce Lee working out. Duration 7:38 minutes and 1:52 minutes.
The remainder of the special features are located on Disc Two. They are:
[*] Curse Of The Dragon is a 1993 feature that delves into the curse of the Lee family and discusses the mysterious deaths of Bruce and his son which also goes into great detail regarding the martial arts. Duration 1 hour, 27 minutes.
[*] Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey is an extremely lengthy look at Bruce Lee’s career with the focus on his acting career. Much of this feature is spent discussing Lee’s unfinished film, Game Of Death. Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes.
[*] There are four Theatrical Trailers included, they are: Mysterious Island, Champion of Champions, Island Fortress and Deadly 3.
[*] And finally, there are eight TV Spots included. They are: Roper, Williams And Lee, Deadly 3, The Island Of Han, Review Spot, Champion Of Champions, The Fury Is Back, and The Crown Prince Of Combat.
There are a number of special features included on the set most of which are done quite well and offer up a ton of anecdotes relating to the legendary actor/artist as well as the groundbreaking film. Some might be disappointed to learn, the isolated soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin is not included as an option.
Special Features: 4.5/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
If you were to look at my library, the genre that might seem the most underrepresented would be without question, the martial arts genre as I have never really been a huge fan. That’s not to say I don’t have a huge amount of respect for what Bruce Lee accomplished not only athletically, but with this film. What the film lacks in plot (and acting if we’re going to be terribly honest), it most certainly makes up for with plenty of realistic action fight sequences and a highly entertaining yarn that will keep your interest piqued for the duration, not to mention paving the way for dozens of other stars and similar attempts at recreating Lee’s efforts.
As if there’d be any doubt… WB has delivered yet again with a two disc SE absolutely crammed with special features and a presentation of the film that is surely the pinnacle of the existing format. Fans of the film and the genre should be delighted.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
Release Date: May 18th, 2004