It is always sad when people die before their time, and it is a testament to Bruce Lee's legend that his fame continues, so much so, that I've seen at least four different documentary programs this year featuring either cursory or a wealth of info about the enigmatic martial artist.
One of the unfortunate things setbacks any popular figure or event faces when being compiled for a documentary is the filmmakers being able to say something new. From the start, I got a sense that Bruce Lee: The Legend Lives On was going to be one of those cases where I wasn't going to see much I hadn't already seen. And, by the end, when I saw that there were absolutely no credits, no one taking responsibility for the documentary, well, I wasn't too surprised. Not that it was terrible, but it was just a slapdash affair of the standard interviews with his brother, his students (including right hand man Taky Kimura and the recently deceased James Coburn) , one of his school teachers, various actors/film producers (including Jackie Chan and the Vice Pres of Golden Harvest), interspersed with the standard Lee bio info , some clips from his films and candid stills. Some if the info is in annoying scrolling (or should I say 'stuttering') text at the bottom of the screen.
Wheras a doc like When We Were Kings gives new insight and captures the fever of a popular well documented event like the Rumble in the Jungle and the monolithic charisma that was Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee: The Legend Lives On is the same old, same old. Same History- his early training/teaching, developing his philosophy of fighting, falling in with Hollywood stars, becoming a tv and film phenom, his untimely death. Same Anecdotes- he was single minded about what he wanted to do, charismatic, demanding, a perfectionist, yet also amiable, loyal, and good natured. At a mere one hour and ten minutes they apparently didn't have enough footage for a full feature of a man that obviously lead a very rich life, and this is compounded by the fact that they further pad out the film by showing sequences from his movies, entire fight scenes, such as the finale from The Big Boss. And, all of the film footage is terrible, like they tried to unearth the worst quality clips possible.
Well, in conclusion, there are just so may better docs about Lee. Check your local listing for any number of them on cable, be it Discovery Channel, A&E Biography, or on AMC, the last one I saw, which covered Lee's life and the recently discovered and restored Game of Death footage. I do think there has never been a definitive Bruce Lee documentary, one that I felt truly covered all the ground and provided a well-rounded, head and shoulders above the rest, perfect documentary about the man and his impact. We will still have to wait for that one. One thing is for sure, sadly, Bruce Lee: The Legend Lives On is not it.
Picture: Full-screen. As I said, the film clips are of terrible quality, grainy, very washed out, and look worse than an EP vhs. The interview footage is very standard video, all fixed camera close-ups, no real varying angles, so I guess they only had the one camera. The transfer is unimpressive, the colour, contrast and sharpness is decent enough, but the resolution is pretty low and the transfer suffers from minor pixellation and very noticeable edge enhancement.
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo. Once again, pretty typical. Gets the job done but nothing speculator.
Extras: zilch... not even a menu of the chapter selections.
Conclusion: Really, this is only of interest to Lee purists and fanatics who want to make sure they see everything Bruce Lee related. While much of the interview footage I hadn't seen before, none of the people in Lee's life said anything I hadn't seen them say in other, better, Lee docs. Add to that the low quality of the production- this one gets a "skip it."