Enter The Dragon: 30th Anniversary SE

Enter The Dragon: 30th Anniversary SE (1973)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Bruce Lee, John Saxon
Extras: Commentary Track, Feature-length Documentary, Featurettes, Home Videos, Trailers, TV Spots and much more

It is hard to believe, but it has been 30 years since martial arts superstar Bruce Lee died an untimely death. Warner Home Video has now released a 30th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of his most popular and spectacular film "Enter The Dragon, " which even improves upon the previously released Special Edition. The film would have undoubtedly marked the stellar rise of the "Dragon" in Western hemispheres if fate had not tragically changed the course of events. Nevertheless, Bruce Lee is still known and remembered as the world’s supreme martial artist and a dedicated actor, whose goal was to make the beauty and elegance of the Asian culture more tangible and understandable for audiences around the world. He has succeeded in his venture, but the price was too high for some.

On a remote island off the coast of Hong Kong, Han runs an isolated martial arts school, training only the most elite scholars. The former Shaolin student is also running a profitable drug ring, preparing opium to be shipped to the coast. The police know about him, but they need evidence. An annual martial arts contest, hosted on the island, is the ideal time for them to smuggle in one of their own agents (Bruce Lee) and put an end to Han’s criminal efforts. Lee wants to punish the mighty Han both for the drug ring and for breaking the Shaolin’s code of honor. He travels to the remote island where an incredible number of martial artists meet to test and prove their skills. Soon, Lee starts nightly field trips into the guarded fortress in search for the drugs’ evidence. His efforts do not remain unnoticed. Han makes an example of the guards who carelessly let someone sneak into the secret halls, making it unmistakably clear what will happen to the intruder once the intruder’s identity is discovered.

"Enter The Dragon" is a film masterpiece, combining Asian influences with Hollywood filmmaking. This Special Edition, which includes 3 minutes of additional footage that were cut from the movie’s original U.S. theatrical release, restores the film’s efforts as a whole. It shows the traditional background of the Shaolin and the responsibilities they teach a true martial artist, superimposing it over a racy secret agent story with acclaimed Hollywood actor John Saxon and judo world champion Jim Kelly. Shot on location in Hong Kong, the film perfectly captures the flavor of the oriental setting with an elaborate production design and gorgeous cinematography. The costumes and images are as colorful as the culture and tradition of Asia and with the film’s photography they come to life right there on your TV set.

The best way to describe "Enter The Dragon" to someone who hasn’t watched the movie before is that it is a James Bond-like action film, with the main star’s athletic body acting in place of the secret agent’s omnipotent gizmos. Much of the film is reminiscent of Bond’s signature, which has supposedly helped to make the film more attractive to Western audiences. This appropriation of Bond’s signature even goes as far as the film’s antagonist carrying around a white fluffy cat and surrounding himself with beautiful, lethal women. This resemblance sets the film apart even more, however, because it is a constant reminder that, unlike 007, Bruce Lee is capable of executing all the actions we see on screen. He does not need technical wizards to save his hide. His spiritual balance and his incredible martial arts skills are what keep him victorious. This credibility is what levers all of Lee’s work into realms untouched by Western filmmakers. Only Jackie Chan, who has taken on Bruce’s heritage and helps make Asian action movies palpable to Western audiences, could be compared with the honesty, skill, determination, and charm the charismatic Bruce Lee brought to the screen. Not by coincidence, Jackie can also be seen in "Enter The Dragon". He worked as a stuntman in the film in a number of the breath-taking fight sequences. Seek to 1:21:22 on the disc and take a closer look at the guy bear-hugging Bruce. It is none other than Jackie Chan, who, only seconds later, gets his neck snapped by the master himself.

Much has been said about Bruce Lee and his legacy, and the fact that he is still as much of an icon as he was 25 years ago speaks for itself. If you have never seen one of Bruce’s movies, start with "Enter The Dragon". It is exemplary for his motivations and the way he tried to educate the world about the grace and power of martial arts. Before we even see him fight for the first time, it becomes clear that he is a man of wits and brains. Fully aware that violence does not solve anything, his instinctual approach is to avoid confrontation… but woe to you if you dare tackle the "Dragon". Bruce Lee was born in the year of the dragon, according to the Chinese calendar, and his full Chinese name was translated to English – "Little Dragon Lee", which resulted in his nickname "Dragon". This also explains the film’s somewhat cryptic title "Enter The Dragon", which needs to be read down the lines of "Here comes the Dragon", as the film was supposed to raise Bruce Lee’s awareness in Western countries. Unlike Western cultures, who look upon dragons as fierce fire-breathing creatures devouring people for the fun of it, Asian cultures worship the dragon as a wise and mighty creature. Despite its size and its sheer strength, the dragon is extremely graceful and uses its age-old knowledge to solve problems for the good of the many, relying on its untamable powers only as a last resort. Like his namesake, Lee is gentle and friendly, exhibiting no hostility in his mannerisms. However, when unleashed, he turns into the most agile energy bundle that has ever graced the silver screen. His perfect body reveals itself to be all muscles while remaining completely wiry and well proportioned. His lithe form makes every WWF wrestler look like an obese clown. His every moves are precise, unpredictable, and to the point, making him a lethal human weapon.

Warner have gone to quite some lengths to makes this release something special. First off, the film’s transfer is spectacular, with a stunningly sharp image that shows no signs of age and visually improves even upon the previous release. Not s hint of grain is evident and colors are vividly rendered, creating a bold picture that leaps off the screen. Especially the colorful interior shots of Han’s palace are wonderfully vibrant and rich without ever over-saturating. Skin tones are always natural. The image has solid black levels, reproducing the cinematography just as it was intended with impenetrable pools of black and radiant pools of light to counter them. The DVD Features the original 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> version of the movie in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. No edge-enhancement is visible and the compression is flawless without introducing any compression artifacts.

The film’s audio has been equally well treated, coming as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> transfer that had been used on the previous release already. It is engaging and dynamic, giving the audio good breathing room and taking some of the harshness out of the original recording. Dialogues are well-integrated and always understandable and Lalo Shifrin’s score is beautifully supporting the film’s imagery, as he is creating an amalgam of 70s west coast music and traditional Asian tunes.

The DVD also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by producer Paul Heller in which he reminisces about the making of the movie and the unique experience it must have been.

The first disc of the DVD set also contains three featurettes. The first one is a new look back at the making of the film. With new interviews of cast and crew members, it manages to paint a nice picture how the film came together and how the production went through its tribulations on location in Hong Kong. "Bruce Lee: In His Own Words" and the original 1973 promotional featurette are also included on this release once again, just as on the previous release. Home Video footage provided by Lee’s wife Linda is also found on this disc.

The second disc of the DVD set contains the feature-length biography "Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey" by John Little, which is full of insights and details about Bruce’s life. It even goes as far as covering his last movie "The Game Of Death" in such detail that it tries to reconstruct how Bruce had intended to cut the movie. It is a wonderful love letter to Bruce Lee and adds so much to the release.

George Takei narrates producer Fred Weintraub’s examination of the Lee legacy in a featurette called "Bruce Lee: The Curse Of The Dragon."

The DVD is rounded out with a rather complete selection of trailers and TV spots that were used to promote the film in 1973.

The whole film brings back memories of Hollywood’s glorious heyday, when focus was put on a film’s content and its unique presentation, both visually and aurally, and when every movie seemed to have a mesmerizing spark that made it an almost singular, memorable experience. Sadly, many movies these days do not have this special quality about themselves, making films like "Enter The Dragon" even more notable. The film drags you in from its first establishing shot to the last end credit – which credits are surprisingly short – and you will never notice that almost two hours have passed while you watched this film. There are so many things to detect in the detailed scenery that the film definitely asks for repeated watching. Warner’s 30th Anniversary Special Edition release on DVD improves noticeably on the previous release on many fronts and
makes this a thoroughly enjoyable and informative experience every time you throw in this disc. It is a brilliant film that comes on an outstanding DVD release that should be part of any DVD Collector’s library. This is movie magic coming to life and you simply cannot afford to miss this spectacular film. This disc will make sure that Bruce Lee’s spark will glow for years to come and that we will never forget his extraordinary talents and skills. Long live the Dragon!