Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blu-Ray Review: 'Enter The Dragon' 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition

At this point in the game is there really anything to say about “Enter the Dragon” that hasn’t already been said? It’s the greatest martial arts movie of all time—we can argue all we want, and there are great examples of the genre that I also love dearly, but there’s no getting around how awesome and culturally relevant the film is. It also just turned 40-years-old. I feel like we should make if a cake with black frosting and a tombstone on it, just for laughs, but it might kick our collective asses. Instead, why don’t we celebrate with a stacked new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray release?

If there are still some of you out there unfamiliar with the film, know that “Enter the Dragon” is Bruce Lee, the baddest man to ever walk the earth, at the peak of his considerable powers. And since he died shortly thereafter, his star never had the chance to diminish in our eyes. We always remember him at his best, that’s part of the allure. The film itself has everything you want out of a martial arts feature, all the key themes and plot points are here. You have honor, duty, revenge, a big tournament, lots of styles and techniques, all under one big banner. Lee has to travel to a rich asshole’s private island in order to get justice for a fallen family member. Along the way he also gets to hang out with John Saxon, Jim Kelly, and Bolo Yeung, and whoop the hell out of people. Not a bad deal, all things considered.

The coolest thing that you comes with the “Enter the Dragon” 40th Anniversary Blu-ray—aside from a pristine transfer of the film, of course—is a gold-embossed packet full of all sorts of goodies. You get one of those holograms of Bruce Lee flipping around his nunchucks. The package also includes a bunch of never before released production art, including stills from the film and set, storyboards, and more. There are two high points, however. First is an embroidered “Enter the Dragon” patch to sew onto you jacket and show off to all of your buddies. Even cooler is a replica of a “Deputy of the Dragon” cards handed out at the film’s premiere. It features a photo of Lee and a space for you to write your name, followed by the words “is Hereby Deputized as an Ally of The Dragon.” Now that’s what I’m talking about.

As if all that swag wasn’t enough, the actual disc comes with a glut of bonus material that dig into every last aspect of the iconic martial arts masterpiece. As far as the actual film goes, there’s commentary track with Paul Heller gives a producers perspective on the film, and Lee, and touches on a little bit of everything. The 30-minute “Blood and Steel: The Making of ‘Enter the Dragon’” deals with the production from script to screen, up through the release and subsequent cultural impact of the film and its star. You also get a vintage short feature from 1973 that shows contemporary Hong Kong as the backdrop from the film. “Returns to Han’s Island” is a ten-minute exploration of the sets and locations that play into “Enter the Dragon.” Most, at least of the ones that still actually exist, are disheveled and broken down, and are more sad than anything else.

As a film, “Enter the Dragon” is a worthy subject for examination—after all, there must be something to it to have stuck in the public consciousness for four decades—but the best parts of the extras are the biographical features that deal with Lee himself. The 26-minute long documentary “No Way As Way,” examines Lee’s ideas and philosophies. Interviews with the likes of George Takei, Sugar Ray Leonard, Steve Aoki, and Lee’s family, examine his emphasis on lifelong, non-traditional learning, and especially the idea of “self-mastery” that was so central to his life. This look is cool because it isn’t just about Lee, it shows how various people implemented his approach into their daily existence. It’s interesting how something like Takei talking about how formative his time in an internment camp was, links back to an action movie.

While “Enter the Dragon” introduced Kung Fu to Western audiences, “Wing Chun: The Art That Introduced Kung Fu to Bruce Lee” digs into the history of the martial art that introduced it to the star. You trace the origins from the Shaolin Temple, its seeds in rebellion, through techniques, and modern incarnations and practitioners. “Bruce Lee: In His Own Words” is exactly what it sounds like, in depth interviews with the star where he espouses and expands on his philosophies and approaches, from martial arts to movies and life in general. There’s even footage of a backyard workout where Lee thrashes his heavy bag and kicks the crap out of the poor little dude holding his pad.

A gallery of short interviews with Lee’s wife, Linda, touches on a wide variety of aspects in quick little bites. You get everything from how they met when he taught a Kung Fu class in Seattle, to incidents on the set of “Enter the Dragon” and how he made it into Hollywood through the backdoor. And as if all of this wasn’t enough to pique your interest, or completely exhaust you, this disc also includes the full-length 1993 documentary “Curse of the Dragon.” You really do get you money’s worth with the “Enter the Dragon” 40th Anniversary Blu-ray.

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