Enter the Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good representation of the source.
Overall sharpness was good but erratic. While most of the movie exhibited solid clarity, exceptions occurred, so we occasionally got some soft images. These appeared to stem from the original photography – cheap action flicks from the 70s didn’t worry too much about perfection – and the instances didn’t cause substantial concerns.
No issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. With a natural layer of grain, I witnessed no obvious signs of digital noise reduction, and print flaws weren’t an issue. The movie seemed clean and fresh.
Colors appeared positive. The movie offered a bright palette that the disc reproduced nicely, so the tones consistently came across as peppy and dull. Black levels also were deep and resonant, while low-light shots mainly appeared concise and well-defined. Shadows occasionally seemed slightly opaque, but not in a significant way. Though it showed its age at times, this remained a pleasing presentation.
The film’s remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack also worked well for a movie from the early Seventies. The mix opened up the soundfield in a moderate manner and gave us a decent sense of environment. Music showed solid stereo imaging, and effects blended acceptably to the sides. Occasional panning occurred, such as when we’d heard a guy get tossed from the middle to the right. Mostly the mix stayed with general elements, though, as it preferred to depict the elements in sporadically specific terms.
Surround usage seemed modest but decent, as these elements also mostly stayed in the realm of general support. Some environmental info cropped up from the rear along with reinforcement of the score. These gave the mix some breadth but not a great deal of presence.
Audio quality varied. Dragon featured so much awkward dubbing that it occasionally looked like a film shot in a language other than English. (It wasn’t, but it was shot silent and had the speech looped later.) The lines blended poorly due to their quality as well, for virtually all of them sounded artificial. The intelligibility remained fine, but they didn’t connect well with the action; the dialogue completely lacked any natural feel.
Effects tended to be over the top – think the exaggerated “wham!” material from the 1960s Batman TV series - but they maintained a good sense of range and accuracy. The hyper hits and kicks seemed concise and worked fine. Music was surprisingly bright and rich, as Lalo Schifrin’s uber-70s score showed solid clarity and fair dynamics. Overall, the track mixed highs and lows to earn a “B”.
How did the Blu-Ray compare to the Special Edition DVD from 2004? Audio was a little warmer, though the lackluster quality of the source held it back.
The same was true of the visuals, as the Blu-ray made the movie’s shortcomings more obvious, especially in terms of definition; soft photography seemed less apparent on DVD than on Blu-ray. Nonetheless, the Blu-ray was clearly tighter, cleaner and more film-like than the DVD.
The 2013 “Ultimate Collectors Edition” Blu-ray mixes old and new extras that open with an audio commentary from producer Paul Heller, who offers a running, screen-specific track. In addition, occasionally snippets from a speakerphone conversation between Heller and writer Michael Allin get edited into the chat.
That makes it sound like we might learn a lot about Dragon, but we don’t. Some of the topics covered include the origins of the flick and its development as a vehicle for Lee, locations and issues connected to shooting in Hong Kong, stunts and the cast, and the original title and reasons for its change. Mostly we depend on solo remarks from Heller, as the bits with Allin pop up only a handful of times. Those actually offer the most interesting moments, but they’re so rare they make little impact.
Instead, we mainly listen to Heller meander about… not much of anything. A few decent tidbits appear, but he mostly tells us about generic elements and doesn’t let us know a lot of solid information. Vast amounts of dead air appear, though Heller becomes a little more active toward the end.
The film’s climax includes the strongest material, especially as we get some insight into the methods of the Asian film crews. Unfortunately, it’s way too little, way too late, as the commentary generally seems dull and uninformative. Skip this clunker.
Up next we get a documentary called Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon. This 30-minute and 15-second program includes comments from Heller, Allin, producer Fred Weintraub, cinematographer Gil Hubbs, composer Lalo Schifrin, and actors John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Robert Wall, Tung Wei, Sammo Hung, Peter Archer and James Coburn. They cover the origins of the project, Lee’s difficult path to the American screen, the rushed production, sets, locations and visual design, challenges of working in Asia, casting, Lee’s anxiety, fight choreography, the score, and story developments on the fly.
While the audio commentary blathers on and on, “Steel” presents a nicely concise look at the flick. It follows events in a logical manner and rapidly moves through them in a lively and informative way. A lot of good anecdotes show up along the way in this solid program.
Another featurette follows via Bruce Lee: In His Own Words. It fills 19 minutes and 22 seconds and presents archival interviews with the actor. Lee speaks about the martial arts, reactions to stardom and success as an actor, his personality and attitudes. Fairly introspective, “Words” gives us an interesting examination of Lee’s mindset and philosophies.
After this we find a Linda Lee Caldwell Interview Gallery. This provides 10 separate short snippets that run a total of 16 minutes, 29 seconds – with no “Play All” option, unfortunately. Bruce’s widow talks about how they met, his path as an actor, his teaching and philosophies, what Dragon meant to Bruce and his work on it, and some anecdotes from the set.
Cadwell seems too interested in maintaining the myth of Lee to tell us much that feels fresh or honest. She delivers bland memories that I get the feeling she’s told ad infinitum and refined into folklore.
We get a 1973 Featurette that goes for seven minutes, 41 seconds as it shows movie clips and footage form the set. It exists as a promotional piece, for it mainly tells us about the story and touts the quality of the production. Still, it includes some decent behind the scenes material. Don’t expect to learn much from it, but enjoy the glimpses of the set.
The set also includes Backyard Workout with Bruce. It fills a mere 115 seconds as it presents black and white footage of Lee as he practices, presumably in his backyard. It’s moderately fun to see for historical reasons.
Next comes a one-hour, 27-minute and 29-second documentary called Curse of the Dragon. Narrated by George Takei, this piece uses movie snippets and archival materials along with interviews. We hear from Heller, Coburn, Weintraub, judo gold medallist Hayward Nishioka, author Alex Ben Block, family friend Shelton Chow, brother Robert Lee, former Lee students James Demile, Ted Wong, Herb Jackson, Jesse Glover and Leroy Garcia, father of American Tae Kwon Do Jhoon Rhee, Lee historian George Tan, Ed Parker Jr., son of the father of American Kenpo Karate, Jeet Kune Do instructor Dan Inosanto, martial arts fight choreographer Pat Johnson, 1964 National Karate Champion Pat Burleson, Bruce Lee’s grave keeper Taky Kimura, author Albert Goldman, and actors Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chuck Norris, and Bob Wall.
Essentially a biography, “Curse” goes through Lee’s early showbiz experience and introduction to martial arts, his arrival in America and teaching martial arts, the development of his own style and rise to fame, personal relationships and professional challenges, Lee’s arrogance and darker elements, completion of Dragon, Lee’s death and controversies, the demise of Lee’s son Brandon, and Bruce’s legacy. Not surprisingly, we get lots of comments about Lee’s greatness, but all the praise doesn’t keep “Curse” from presenting a generally positive examination of Lee’s life. The production makes an annoying misstep in the way it cuts together interviews; participants overlap, which seems rude and odd, like the next speaker interrupts the prior one. Still, “Curse” includes a lot of useful notes and otherwise works well.
We follow this with ads. The disc provides four trailers and seven TV spots.
The remaining components are new to the Blu-ray. No Way As Way lasts 26 minutes, 28 seconds and offers notes from Takei, Linda Lee, daughter Shannon Lee, granddaughter Wren Lee Keasler, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and artist/producer/DJ Steve Aoki. We also get archival comments from Bruce Lee. We get a few notes about Bruce and Dragon, but mostly the participants talk about their life challenges and how they succeeded. This feels like bland self-help platitudes – I half-expected Tony Robbins to pop up along the way.
The Return to Han’s Island goes for 10 minutes, 28 seconds and features a glimpse at the movie’s locations. We go to the original spots and compare how they looked in the film versus how they exist now. I like programs such as this, and “Return” delivers an enjoyable examination of the locations.
Finally, Wing Chun: The Art that Introduced Kung Fu to Bruce Lee runs 20 minutes, two seconds as it gives us info from martial artists David Peterson, Ip Chun, Sam Kwok and Danny Xuan. We learn a little about the wing chun style and its use in the movie. This delivers a general but fairly informative piece.
A few non-disc-based materials finish the package. We get an embroidered patch, a lenticular card, a replica Deputy of the Dragon card distributed at the film’s premiere, and six more cards with movie images/memorabilia. There’s also a booklet with photos and an intro from producer Raymond Chow; it exists to promote a limited edition book from photographer Dave Friedman, but it’s still worthwhile. The other components are less interesting, though.
The Blu-ray only drops one program from the SE DVD, but it’s a big omission: a nearly 100-minute documentary called “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey”. I don’t know why it fails to reappear here, but it’s too bad it goes bye-bye.
Enter the Dragon remains an influential flick and an important one in the history of martial arts movies. Unfortunately, it’s not actually good. It boasts a smattering of strong fight sequences and little else, as it suffers from a thin story and a general lack of inspiration. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio as well as a nice mix of bonus materials. The disc treats the movie well.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of ENTER THE DRAGON