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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 7/31/98



Enter the Dragon
Special Edition - 1973 (1998) - Warner Bros.

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Film Rating: B+
An important cult film that stars martial arts' greatest champion. Really, could you ask for anything more?

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B+
Crisp clear disc, a remastered soundtrack and a stack of extras make this a virtual must own for every DVD consumer.

Overall Rating: B+
Everything comes together so nice on this, you could watch it over and over again -- and guess what? You won't wear it out 'cause it's on DVD.

Specs and Features

102 Minutes, R, letterbox widescreen (2:35.1), 16x9 enhanced, dual-sided (side A features movie, commentary and notes; side B features documentaries and trailers), Snapper packaging, two documentaries, Location: Hong Kong with Enter The Dragon and Bruce Lee: In His Own Words, audio commentary by producer Paul Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin, interview with Linda Lee Cadwell, isolated music track featuring the soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin, production notes, cast and crew bios, 4 theatrical trailers, 7 TV spots, film-themed menus, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 5.1) and Spanish (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

Twenty-five years ago, a movie busted onto the scene that changed the way Hollywood looked at action movies. It was the first time Hollywood acknowledged martial arts as a money making enterprise and the thanks for that belongs to one man, and one man only -- Bruce Lee. Before Jackie Chan, before Chow Yun-fat -- heck, before Michelle Yeoh, there was a lean, mean fighting machine nicknamed The Dragon. In his lifetime he only saw moderate fame, three films in Hong Kong made him viable -- a string of TV shows in America as Kato in both The Green Hornet and Batman, gave him a name. But it was Enter The Dragon that gave him a legend. A legend that lives to this day. And thanks to Warner Bros Home Video, that legend gets a face lift.

It was twenty-three years ago that Bruce Lee, angry that his career wasn't growing in the States, and distraught that his father had passed away, left America and headed back to Hong Kong. His plan was to take his family, bury his beloved father and do some thinking. That's when fate stepped in taking the guise of Raymond Chow. Chow was the head of Golden Harvest, a scrappy film studio going head to head with the biggest studio in China, The Shaw Brothers Studio (the Kung Fu king is now defunct -- thanks to Chow). Chow saw his chance, and tapped the young charismatic man to star in The Big Boss (AKA The Fists Of Fury). The film was a complete success in Hong Kong, and audiences wanted more. Lee made two more films, The Chinese Connection and Return Of The Dragon. Then fate stepped in once more -- this time disguised as an old friend, Fred Weintraub.

Weintraub knew Lee from his early television days. He gave him his career-making role as Hornet side-kick Kato. He even helped develop Lee's own idea of a wandering Chinese man righting wrongs made against railroad-building Chinese into the TV classic Kung Fu. The role eventually went to David Carradine because America wasn't ready for a Chinese star -- at least that's what the decision makers thought. Weintraub wanted to make a move from TV into Hollywood. He figured, who better an ally for this than Lee. Weintraub put everything together and he took his chance. Of course, Lee was more than willing to finally break down the Hollywood door. But a few things needed to be done first. They needed a script, they needed to keep Raymond Chow happy (he still had a contract with Lee, and a friendship -- which to Lee was more important) and they needed a studio. They got a studio with Warner Bros and they kept Chow in the loop by giving him a producer credit (which marked the first teaming of Western and Eastern studio brass in Hollywood history). The script they got was a brilliant concept (well, all right -- it's not really brilliant, but it was the perfect vehicle) and was written by a young unknown Michael Allin. Allin went on to create blaxpoitation legend Truck Turner for Issac Hayes and he also brought to life Flash Gordon in 1980 (Flash, ahhhhhhh!). And although he still pretty much remains unknown, he was a legend in the exploitation world. The script he created was built by necessity more than anything else. Simple was the way to go -- plus, they had to give a reason for there not to be any guns, because who's to stop a guy from just whipping out a gun and blam, shooting Lee as he keeyahs someone in the face? To solve this, what they did was, put all the action on a remote island where guns were not allowed. Boom. That was it.

The story was simple and perfect. Lee plays Lee, a fierce Shaolin monk in Hong Kong who is invited by the mysterious Han to enter his martial arts contest. Basically, it's a last man standing elimination match attended by the best martial arts champions in the world. Lee's got better things to do, and plans to turn it down. A British government official wants for Lee to attend and do him a favor -- uncover some proof that Han is the world's biggest exporter of heroin in the world. Hey, it takes serious money to have your own isolated island fortress, can't fault him too much. Lee accepts and heads to the contest. In a series of flashbacks, we see some of the other combatants -- John Saxon as the gambling addict Roper, Jim "Black Belt Jones" Kelly as the classic 70s Afro-centric Williams and Robert Wall as Han's right hand man and mean SOB. Ironically, but not coincidentally, all were expert fighters in their own right. This allowed Lee ease as he stunt coordinated the film's fight sequences. Filming this martial arts epic went smoothly and quickly, with little event, outside of a few black-out spells Lee suffered during shooting. These spells would foreshadow his death by a blood clot in his brain shortly after filming wrapped.

Enter The Dragon was released on August 19, 1973 -- almost a full month after Lee's death July 20th. It was a huge success, and would have made Bruce Lee very proud. His hard work came out on screen, and if it wasn't for his premature death, he would have been one of Hollywood's brightest stars.

This new DVD remastering is a true joy to behold. Not only is it a great cult film, but Warner took a lot of time and care in putting together this disc. The print, although showing some age, it's much better than what you've seen in the past. Colors are bold -- which makes the film look wonderful considering the heavy use of color in the film's set design. The sound is one thousand times better in its new Dolby Digital 5.1 format. There's no way you could imagine the original soundtrack for this film was a straight mono. This is a movie meant to be heard, and every swipe, kick and heeyah is laid down with a lover's care.

The special edition aspect of this DVD is also a big plus. You get not one, but two documentaries. The first is the original propaganda film created for the films release. A heavy bass commentator comments on the importance of the film and the style of Lee as footage of the film, and behind-the-scenes footage rolls. Nice and neat. The second is an original production which is made up of stills and footage of Lee culled from private sources, shown with Bruce Lee's thoughts and theories about life, art and martial arts. It's very touching and quite powerful. A comment by the late, great's widow Linda Lee Cadwell is also featured -- and although it's nice, it seems a bit stilted. She's preaching to the choir when it comes to holding her husband up as a legend. Other additions are, a collection of four trailers -- all with a nice 70s touch, some TV spots and a full length (with major gaps) commentary by co-producer Paul Heller. Heller is joined by Michael Allin on a conference phone call used to fill in gaps about Heller's knowledge of the screenplay. It's like listening to your grandfather talk about the most important event in his life. It's very sweet to hear him and Michael discuss Bruce and the making of the film. His points are all good ones, and he knows what he is talking about. Plus, he's easy to listen to, which is a nice plus when it comes to a commentary track. The best thing about this disc, and it isn't even advertised on the package, is the isolated score by Lalo Schifrin. It's a cool 70s groove straight out of a blaxpoitation flick. Very smooth. Enter The Dragon: Special Edition is an altogether nice package.

Bottom line

Few films have the impact Enter The Dragon had on fans. It gave American audiences a reason to worship Bruce Lee, it opened Hollywood up to the current Hong Kong film craze and it gave us a cool pop culture icon to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The extras on this disc seem to be just a gift, considering this would be a must own, even if it were simply a movie-only edition. But the combination of this film and DVD makes for a winner -- and if Bruce Lee were alive today, I betcha he'd to own this film on DVD over any other format. It takes a champion to know one.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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