ENTER THE DRAGON
ENTER THE DRAGON ($27) is the granddaddy of American co-produced martial arts films, and back in 1973, the movie that took the genre mainstream in this country. With Warner Bros. backing the production, ENTER THE DRAGON is certainly an upscale martial arts movie from the early 1970s, which also greatly benefits from a series of terrific fight scenes choreographed by Bruce Lee himself. Of course, ENTER THE DRAGON is also notable as the last film that Bruce Lee completed before his untimely death, not to mention that this movie helped cement his legendary stature in martial arts cinema and as a pop culture icon.
The plot of ENTER THE DRAGON is stylistically reminiscent of a James Bond adventure, although it does remain a bit on the thin side, providing the bare necessities to move from one action sequence to the next. In ENTER THE DRAGON, Bruce Lee portrays a Shaolin monk named Lee, who is invited to participate in a martial arts tournament sponsored by Han (Kien Shih), a former member of the Shaolin and present day crime lord. At the behest of the authorities, Lee agrees to participate in the tournament at Han’s island fortress, which will allow him to gather evidence of criminal’s drug trafficking and white slavery rackets. The cast of ENTER THE DRAGON also features John Saxon as an American martial arts expert named Roper and Jim Kelly’s as Williams; both choices obviously designed to broaden the film’s appeal to the middle America and blaxploitation audiences.
Warner Home Video has made ENTER THE DRAGON available on DVD in an approximately 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This release offers improvements on previous DVD incarnations, and in general, looks great for a martial arts film from the early 1970s. The image appears sharp and provides a solid level of detail, although there is the odd shot that looks a bit softer. Colors are nicely saturated and pretty stable, with only a couple of minor instances where a warmer hue appears fuzzy. Blacks are solid, whites are clean, plus the contrast and shadow detail are good for their era. The film element used for the transfer displays some minor blemishes and some grain, but both are easy to overlook. Digital compression artifacts never really make their presence known.
ENTER THE DRAGON comes with a pretty good Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The remix of the older sound element gives the track a more spacious quality and certainly helps to open up Lalo Schifrin’s jazzy/Asian flavored score. Most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the sound with a relatively smooth quality. Sure, the sound is still somewhat dated and the dubbing of some of the Asian actors is a bit laughable, but the 5.1 remix enhances the action sequences and actually makes some of the exaggerated sound effects, work a whole lot better than they do in plain monaural. Voices are crisply rendered and dialogue always completely understandable. As for the bottom end of the track, it is solid enough for the material. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features producer Paul Heller and writer Michael Allin, which has been carried over from the previous DVD release of ENTER THE DRAGON. Blood And Steel: The Making Of Enter The Dragon is a thirty-minute program featuring James Coburn, Paul Heller, Fred Weintraub and John Saxon that looks at the film’s production, plus it allows the participants to share their reminiscences of working with Bruce. Bruce Lee In His Own Words runs nineteen minutes and consists of footage of Lee combined with various recorded comments on his life and philosophy. The Linda Lee Cadwell Interview Gallery is a series of short interview segments with Bruce Lee’s widow, which run approximately sixteen minutes in total. An original "Making-of" featurette from 1973 and backyard workout footage of Bruce Lee closes out disc one.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Curse Of The Dragon clocks in at eighty-seven minutes and offers a feature length look the unexpected death of Bruce Lee in 1973 and the equally unexpected death of his son Brandon some twenty years later. Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey runs ninety-nine minutes and provides a detailed look at Lee’s career, plus it provides one with an extensive look at footage from his final and uncompleted film- GAME OF DEATH. Four theatrical trailers and seven TV spots close out the supplemental materials.
ENTER THE DRAGON is highly entertaining and a truly classic martial arts film starring the legendary Bruce Lee. Warner has done a great job with their two disc special edition, offering the finest looking presentation of the film yet, in addition to some really great supplements. If you are a Bruce Lee fan, this is the edition of ENTER THE DRAGON to own. Highly recommended.
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