There's not a lot that I can say about Enter the Dragon that hasn't already been said many times before. It's the film that introduced martial arts movies to much of the world and made Bruce Lee, who tragically died just before it was released, into international star and household name. Six months ago Warner Brothers released this classic film on HD DVD and now, at last, it has come to Blu-ray. Fans of the film will be happy because this movie looks great in HD and the disc is filled with enough extra material to make a solid stand alone DVD. This is an all around great package for a great film.
If you've never seen this movie, the plot will sound awfully familiar. That's because it's been recycled time and time again over the years, seldom with the same level of excitement as the original however. Lee (Bruce Lee) is a Shaolin monk who is recruited by a government agency to go after a renegade member of his temple, Han (Kien Shih). He's the head of a crime syndicate that has been distributing drugs and prostitutes throughout the region. The government needs proof of his criminal activities though, and that's where Lee comes in.
Han lives on a remote fortress island and never comes to the mainland. Once every three years however he holds a martial arts tournament. Lee enters and when he's not competing tries to find the evidence that the authorities need to raid the island. It won't be easy however. Han has a legion of trained soldiers who guard his operation and who are willing to kill anyone who gets too close to the truth.
In this post-Matrix world, Enter the Dragon is still impressive. Without the aid of fancy camera tricks or wires to make him fly, Bruce Lee (who choreographed all of the fight scenes) was able to make an exciting and stunning film. It's not necessarily because of his high kicks or fancy moves; the movie is still so thrilling today because of how fast Lee can move. During the fight with Oharra Lee punches so quickly that you can barely see him move. My children, jaded by seeing wire-fu movies for years, audibly gasped at seeing the speed at which Bruce could attack. Yet he's so graceful and elegant while he's fighting, he makes it look like an intricate dance.
This movie was the first kung-fu film to be made by a major US studio, and the higher production values also help the movie look fresh after all these years. The set design is top notch and makes the film interesting to watch. The banquette scene, with birds in cages hanging from the ceiling, sumo wrestlers competing and a Chinese dragon dancing around, is a good example of how much work went into some of the scenes. The final battle in a mirror room also worked very well, giving the scene a unique look while also preserving the tension.
This film is presented on a 50 GB BD. A Blu-ray player is needed to play this disc.
This Blu-ray disc looks great, especially for a film that is over 30 year old. From the first scenes viewers will be impressed. The red, yellow, black, and blue outfits of the Shoalin temple monks in the beginning are bright and strong and really jump off the screen. Like the colors, blacks are reproduced well; they are solid and deep without being crushed. The level of detail is generally very good, though there are one or two areas that are just a tad soft. This is most certainly the way the movie was filmed however. This picture has been restored and looks great, though there are a few spots on the print. Fortunately these were rare and never distracting. Presented with its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the image quality is sure to please.
This film is presented with a DD 5.1 audio track which is not as impressive as the video. The audio track is showing its age a bit. The range isn't as wide as it could be, and the higher frequencies are crushed a bit. While the bass sounds fine (though the sub woofer is rarely used), the dubbing and added sound effects don't mesh with the rest of the track. The whip cracks and snapping branches that accompany every karate punch sound even more artificial than they do on the earliest DVD release of this movie. That goes back to the film's origins. The soundstage is only put to average use. The front sees a fair amount of panning and localization, but the rears are underutilized for much of the film. Even with these defects, this is a solid sounding disc.
Warner Brothers really went above and beyond the call of duty when assembling the extras to be included on this disc. Too often bonus materials were left off of BR discs, especially in the early releases. No one can complain about the bonus features on this disc though.
First off is a commentary track with producer Paul Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin. This is a nice addition for fans of the film as Heller offers up some good information on the creation of the film, but overall I found this track to be somewhat on the bland side. Much more interesting are the two full length documentaries included on the disc: Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey and Curse of the Dragon. The former clocks in at an hour and forty minutes and is an excellent look at the martial artist's life and career. The latter, narrated by Star Trek's George Takai, runs nearly 90 minutes and looks at the tragic short life of Bruce and his actor son Brandon (who was killed on the set while filming The Crow in 1993.) Both of these are excellent documentaries and would have made a nice DVD by themselves.
But wait, as they say on late night infomercials, there's more.
Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon is a half hour look
at the creation of the film and is filled with interviews with the cast
and crew. It is a very interesting look at the production that's
full of information. (I was surprised to learn that Bruce Lee was
very nervous when filming first started and they had to ease him into it.)
Bruce Lee: In His Own Words is a 19 minute montage of vintage interviews
with the star and The Linda Lee Caldwell Interview Gallery consists
of a series of short clips with Bruce's wife that run about 15 minutes
in all. Also included is the original electronic press kit from 1973,
a series of trailers for the film, and a short clip of Bruce Lee working
out on his own. Overall this is a really complete package that is
just as much fun to watch as the movie itself. (All of the
bonus items are presented in SD.)
Enter the Dragon is the best known martial arts film, and justifiably
so. It is still entertaining and exciting over thirty years later
and its style and content have influenced decades worth of films.
This Blu-ray disc presents this classic in all of its colorful glory with
a sharp image and decent sound. If that's not enough to get you to
buy this classic, the copious bonus features including two full length
documentaries surely will. This is an all around great disc.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.