Enter the Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite its age, Dragon presented a pretty terrific picture.
For the most part, sharpness looked quite good. At times, the image became slightly soft, mainly in wide shots. However, those examples seemed pleasingly infrequent, as most of the movie appeared crisp and detailed. No issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed only minor edge enhancement. Happily, print flaws were modest. The occasional speck popped up, and that was about it. Otherwise the movie looked clean and fresh.
Colors appeared excellent. The movie offered a bright palette that the DVD reproduced nicely. The tones consistently came across as rich and brilliant. 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 problematic way. The smattering of issues knocked the transfer down from “A” level, but I still really liked the image.
The film’s remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack didn’t live up to the fine visuals, but it seemed generally satisfying for a movie from the early Seventies. The mix opened up the soundfield moderately 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 hear 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. These also mostly stayed in the realm of general support. Some environmental elements cropped up from the rear along with reinforcement of the score. These give 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. 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.
Effects tended to be over the top but they maintained a good sense of range and accuracy. The hyper hits and kicks seemed concise and bold and worked fine. Music was surprisingly bright and rich. The score showed solid clarity and fair dynamics. Overall, the track mixed highs and lows to earn a “B”.
Warner Bros. packed this new two-DVD special edition of Enter the Dragon with scads of supplements. On disc one, we 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 no more than 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 very dull and uninformative. Skip this clunker.
Up next we get a new documentary called Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon. This 30-minute and eight-second program includes movie snippets, archival materials, and 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 documentary.
Another documentary follows via Bruce Lee: In His Own Words. It fills 19 minutes and 18 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 Cadwell Interview Gallery. It goes for 16 minutes and three seconds as 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.
Inside a domain called “Lair of the Dragon”, we find two components. We get a 1973 Featurette that goes for seven minutes, 38 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.
Lastly, DVD One includes Backyard Workout with Bruce. It fills a mere 112 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.
When we head to DVD Two, we open with an 87-minute and 20-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 another documentary. Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey runs 99 minutes and 45 seconds as it looks at Lee, with an emphasis on Game of Death, his incomplete final film. We hear from Cadwell, Kimura, Abdul-Jabbar, and Hapkido grandmaster Ji Han Jae about its production, which was interrupted so he could work on Dragon and never resumed, and then get some background about Lee, his philosophy and martial arts theories, his growth in movies and his development for Death. Essentially much of that information acts as foreplay for the final portion of the program. That presents surviving footage from Death and follows the movie’s end segments. The material gets redundant at times if you watched the prior show - we already learned a lot about Lee’s martial arts philosophies - but the information about Death is good, and it’s also great fun to see the film footage.
DVD Two ends with some promotional clips. We find four trailers and seven TV spots.
Enter the Dragon remains an influential flick and an important one in the history of martial arts movies. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. It includes a smattering of strong fight sequences and little else, as it suffers from a thin story and a general lack of inspiration. The DVD works well, though, as it presents very good picture plus audio that seems fine for its age and a long roster of mostly useful extras. Fans will feel pleased with the quality release, but I can’t recommend this silly movie to newbies.