Enter The Dragon

Review by Guido Henkel & Lieu Pham

Cover

Enter The Dragon    (1973)
Warner Home Video

Length:         102 mins.
Rated:           R
Languages: English
Subtitles:     English, French, Spanish
Format:       Anamorphic widescreen
                     

The Secrets of the Shoalin

It is hard to believe, but it has been 25 years since martial arts superstar Bruce Lee died an untimely death. Warner Home Video have now released a 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of his most popular and spectacular film “Enter The Dragon”. 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 film making. 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

Contestants

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.

Beware

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

Jackie and Bruce

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

Welcome to my kingdom

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. In certain scenes the image exhibits a very slight graininess, but that’s about it. Colors are solid, vibrant and seem to jump off the screen, making this DVD a worthy entry in their “Special Edition” line-up, especially since much of the film’s cinematography was influenced by the colorful and rich oriental set decorations. This is probably as good as this film has looked since its theatrical release 25 years ago. The anamorphic transfer restores the film’s original 2.35:1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio and does not show signs of chroma noise or pixelation. Hands down, this is an absolutely beautiful disc.

Listen and learn

The same holds true for the film’s soundtrack. Remastered in 5.1 channel Dolby Digital, this soundtrack makes the film breathe and crackle with tension. Carefully remixed, it is not as aggressive a mix as many modern movies tend to be, though it is still a very rich and captivating soundtrack with a wide aural image. Although it displays strong 70’s west coast roots, the music score is beautifully enchanting at times, once again carefully blending Asian themes with Western music. The disc contains an English language track, as well as a completely isolated music soundtrack.

This Anniversary Edition also contains plenty of supplements that will warm the hearts of every Bruce Lee fan. Starting with an introduction to the movie by his wife Linda Lee Cadwell, the disc also contains additional interview segments with her that also touch on some very moving events in her life with Bruce Lee and their son Brandon, who, like his father, died an untimely and mysterious death. It also contains a brand new documentary titles “Bruce Lee: In His Own Words”, which has been assembled from film, video and audio materials from the Lee family archives and the original 1973 behind-the-scenes documentary “Location: Hong Kong With Enter The Dragon”. Add to that various theatrical trailers for the film and 7 TV spots, and you have pretty much everything on this disc that has ever been released for the movie. As a bonus, the disc also contains a running length commentary track with producer Paul Heller and writer Michael Allin, but the events surrounding this film seem to be too long gone, as they idly watch and enjoy the movie in silence for the most part, as opposed to actually commenting on it.

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 Special Edition

The Dragon is loose

release on DVD will make this a stunning and enjoyable experience every time you throw in this disc. It is a brilliant film that comes on an outstanding DVD release. 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!

 
 

July 1998

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