Sunday, June 29, 2014

Enter the Dragon (2007)

Enter the DragonSo here it is... more than 30 years since the original theatrical release of Enter the Dragon, Warner Brothers releases the definitive 2 DVD Special Edition. It's a fine offering, long overdue, and considering the reasonable price, really offers a lot of nice extras, though most of them have been available elsewhere and have therefore been seen before (at least by rabid fans like me).

To start with, there is of course the movie Enter the Dragon (ETD) Bruce Lee's magnum opus that was not released until after his unfortunate death in 1973, but sealed his immortality. The plot is simple enough Bruce is a modern day Shaolin monk who is somehow enlisted by the British/Hong Kong government to infiltrate the island of Dr. Han (Shieh Kien), a crusty old renegade Shaolin gone bad who holds a yearly martial arts tournament to recruit talent for an international opium and prostitution racket. Roper (John Saxon), or "Loper" as Bruce says his name, is the established Hollywood caucasian star brought in because of reservations about Bruce's ability to carry the film, while Williams (Jim Kelly) is the token blaxploitation character who, this being the 70's, is kind of a Shaft/Superfly ass-kicker and, in the spirit of horror movies, is the first to die at the hand of Han actually, at his artificial, interchangeable, iron, and oftentimes bladed hand. Even Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, as young Hong Kong stuntment before they became stars in their own right, make infamous appearances as guys on the receiving end of Bruce's wrath. But the real point, or value, of this movie is that Bruce Lee shines throughout with his incredible fight sequences he once again casts Bob Wall as whipping boy, hitting him with lightning fast punches, an insane skip side kick, and a great groin shot that still makes me wince despite hundreds of viewings; he has some fantastic weapons sequences with staff, double escrima sticks, and nunchaku; and he more than lives up to his reputation as the "man with three legs" as he demolishes armies of scrawny Asian guys whose gung fu is pitiful in comparison (check out the guy laughing in the background as Bruce connects three successive roundhouse kicks to one sap's head in the final mob fight). This was totally innovative and amazing in 1973 as the first ever martial arts movie made in Hollywood and despite all the subsequent copycats and modern day wire-fu flicks, no one has ever matched Bruce's intensity, charisma, and moves. There are some classic dramatic sequences as well with Bruce speaking English in his own voice (unlike all of his Hong Kong movies whose English versions are horribly dubbed), such as Bruce teaching a student and rapping him on the head as he expounds some homespun Zen philosophy or Bruce poignantly asking "why doesn't someone just pull a .45 and settle it?" Incidentally, this is the uncut version of the movie with some extra scenes not included in the theatrical release basically Bruce talking quasi-philosophy (well, actually, it's someone else dubbing in Bruce's voice) with his Shaolin elder that he later recalls in the final fight sequence.

Of course, few people who buy this DVD don't know all this already, so what's new? Well, there is a commentary track by producers Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub there's some interesting tidbits, but overall it's disappointingly uninspired. Then there's "Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon" a newly produced documentary short that includes some rare and new footage a clip from Bruce's Hong Kong TV appearance in which he breaks 4 dangling boards; an interview with John Saxon, Lalo Schifrin, and the kid who gets smacked on the head by Bruce in the movie (now apparently a well-known Hong Kong director); and several minutes of on-location footage shot with Ahna Capri's handheld Super 8 camera that has never been seen before (it's short of amazing, but it's new and therefore gold to diehard fans). On disc 1 there's also a soporific Linda Lee (Cadwell) interview, another "making of" featurette with on-location footage shot by the AD, John Little's short "In His Own Words" featuring most of the Pierre Burton interview, and some old black and white movies (with sound) of Bruce kicking his buddies and hitting his heavy bag in his Los Angeles backyard though these have all been previously available in one place or another (including the 25th Anniversary ETD DVD).

Disc 2 includes all of the TV and theatrical trailers for the movie (somewhat repetitive) and two previously released Warner Brothers documentaries Warrior's Journey, which captures and knits together the lost Game of Death footage (GOD) in its available entirety, and Curse of the Dragon, a George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek fame) narrated documentary released around the time of Brandon Lee's death. These are both decent films, with Warrior's Journey a real gem with the GOD footage the definitive way to watch Bruce in widescreen duel nunchakus with Dan Inosanto and try to deconstruct Kareem Abdul Jabbar's fighting style while sporting the iconic yellow and black tracksuit revived by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 1. Curse of the Dragon is interview heavy (Kareem, Taky Kimura, Paul Heller, James Coburn, etc.) but also includes clips from Bruce's childhood movies, his Green Hornet screen test, his appearance at Ed Parker's Long Beach Karate touurnament, and some backyard work-out footage with Coburn. But once again, these films have already been released before on their own, so while decent, they're less than revelatory.

And so, what we have here is by far the best available version of ETD that now exists and probably ever will, complete with a lot of nice extras, most of which have been available elsewhere. It's nice to have it all in one package (there's no apparent need to sell Warrior's Journey as a standalone product anymore) at a reasonable price. On the other hand, Lee worshippers will no doubt wish that there was more why not include the complete Green Hornet screen test, or a Jim Kelly or Jackie Chan interview or commentary track, the complete James Coburn training session footage, all of the Ahna Capri film, more ETD outtakes, or maybe even "Kentucky Fried Movie," a parody of ETD released many years ago... but what can you do Bruce died 31 years ago and this is the legacy he left behind.

I recently watched Enter The Dragon on the Voom HD Kung-Fu network, and it looked relatively good, but not great.

The Blu-Ray version obviously got a lot more attention, care, and cleanup. It is by far the best looking and sounding version I've ever seen of the movie. It sounds like the bass was tweaked quite a bit, because whenever Bruce would hit one of his signature punches, my subwoofer put out one heck of a thump. It sounded great, if not a little over the top.

Some of the signature grain of the original is still there, but the images are much more crisp and sharp than any other version.

Definitely worth it for the Bruce Lee fans out there.

Buy Enter the Dragon (2007) Now

I recently purchased a Playstation 3 and an HD LCD TV, and this is the first Blu-Ray disc that i have bought. Ive seen this movie dozens of times on TV, VHS and DVD and i thought i knew every fight scene back to front. Since seeing it today, i discovered how much i was missing in those old video formats. There really is that much more detail and smoothness in the images. Its a great showing for a 30yo movie. There is also a great deal of documentaries and extras if you dig that kind of stuff.

As for the movie itself...its a classic action movie with fantastic fight scenes, a convincing bad guy, funny bits, armies of dumb henchmen, hot chicks and Bruce Lee in his prime! What more could an action film lover want?

Read Best Reviews of Enter the Dragon (2007) Here

I've watched the recent HD DVD version of this movie and found the picture quality excellent. The colors are richer and the overall quality appears to make the picture jump out at times when viewed with the Toshiba A x1 player.

I don't think it is fair to give the movie a low rating, as one reviewer did, based on the fact that it is an older movie. Comparing any older movie to modern day production values is misleading and inaccurate. Following this comparisson, one would have to give a low rating to all movies not done in the past few years.

Enter The Dragon was innovative for its time and utilized production methods that were top quality for its time.

The transfer itself is the citeria that the review should be judged on, which in this case is done quite well.

As for the comparrison to the 60's James Bond movies, the HD version of You Only Live Twice is superb. Yes, the fashion, music, dialogue,... are not modern day; how can a film escape it's own time period. However, the Connery Bond movie screenplays far outweigh the childish, comic book portrayals in the curent Bond films with only protracted stunt sequences to amuse a child like mentality.

It is interesting that for an "outdated" film like Enter the Dragon, it's character depictions, plot and fight choreography are most often duplicated by today's style of martial art movies.

Have today's "highly evolved" movies no original ideas other than replacing Lee's actual fighting skill, speed, gracefulness and charasmatic screen presence with acrobatic clowns whose abilities are enhanced with wire work.

The picture and sound quality of the HD Enter the Dragon is most striking when viewed on the Toshiba player. It is certainly more entertaining then watch a highly detailed HD version of the inane Pitch Black or recent Jackie Chan, Jet Li films whose silly plot lines and poor acting are to be ingnored just to impress friends coming over to view how amazingly life like the picture quality is!

Once the novelty of watching films on the superior HD DVD passes, classic movies will always stand on their own merit.

Want Enter the Dragon (2007) Discount?

This movie is a classic of any genre. It has such a great dated fill to it like other classic sixties and seventies films such as Goldfinger, Deliverance or Dirty Harry. I love the cast and their interaction. A Chinese, African American and white guy all fighting together like there's nothing out of the ordinary about it, which is how it should be. These days you would have to have some joke where the Chinese guy makes some "innocent" crack about the 'hood or the black man calling the white guy cracker. In this film everyone is treated with equal respect. It seems to me this is something that was more common place in films in the early seventies or maybe it was the influence of Bruce Lee's own philosophies. Whatever the cause, it's nice to see three different races represented as equals.

The plot is a cross between a James Bond movie and the standard Kung Fu pictures. Bruce Lee is recruited by a shadowy government organization to infiltrate a mysterious island as a participant in a Karate tournament. This is basically a character and action driven movie because there isn't much suspense. It's pretty much a given that Han is up to something.

Where this movie shines is the martial arts action. I originally saw Enter The Dragon as a double feature at the drive in in the early eighties. I remember thinking as I watched the first feature (Kill Or Be Killed) that the fighters were fast. That is until Bruce Lee came on. I had never seen anyone move that fast before or since. The final fight in the house of mirrors holds up well and is every bit as thrilling as any fight scene of today.

As for the bonus features, the trailers are interesting if for no other reason then it's amusing to see how far commercials have come. The interview with Bruce Lee is particularly poignant. It makes you wonder what would be next. He had a powerful personality and very definate views on fame and movie making. I think his films would have only gotten better and may have even brought equality and better roles for minorities to the movies decades sooner.

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