Enter the Dragon is a film that is made all the more stunning by its authenticity. There is the feeling that we are watching a great magician at work, a performer so seamless with his art that there is not even a hint of smoke or mirrors. Now, I love The Matrix films, but whenever Neo changes from Keanu Reeves into a wax effigy it takes you out of the movie. As cool as Kill Bill is I have no doubt that 88 angry assassins would have no trouble taking out Uma once the cameras stopped rolling. However, I also have no doubt that the real Bruce Lee could do all the things that we see his film self do and that makes watching it all the sweeter. The plot centers around Lee (The only name we’re given), he plays a Kung Fu master who is sent to compete in a drug lord’s Kung-fu tournament, and spy for the British government. The drug lord also was once a member of Lee’s sect, and must be killed to restore his temple’s honor, so of course the man is really screwed. Sure the plot isn’t that great, but one shouldn’t read the bible for its prose. In this case the bible should be read purely for its ass kicking.
It’s a simple fact of life that no one has ever come close to making violence look as beautiful Lee did in Enter the Dragon. Not John Woo with his slow motion, fire and doves, not The Matrix with its time stopping trickery, not even Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with its weightless, ethereal, beauty. While the description has long been ground into cliché, there is no denying that the fights in Enter the Dragon are balletic. It isn’t even just Lee’s fights that create such beauty. In my opinion his sister actually has the finest fight in the film, with her desperate flight through Hong Kong, traveling from the city, to the docks, to the roof tops, and finally to a defiant last stand in an old warehouse. Jim Kelly was the reigning American karate champion when this film was made and it is easy to see that he truly does know what he’s doing. Hell even John Saxon does a good job looking convincing (Jesus did I just write that?). Every fight is amazing and a testament to the true talent of Lee both on and off the camera, since he was the one who choreographed and directed all of the fight scenes.
That is not to say that it is only fight scenes that make Enter the Dragon worthwhile. After all as much as I love them, if that was all there was there would be nothing to distinguish Enter the Dragon from kung fu films like Master of the Flying Guillotine and Fearless Hyena. There is soul to this particular machine and even though the machine works well on its own, by both presenting the action and then with the equally challenging job of choreographing all of it, it is that soul that makes it come truly alive.
I invite all the critics who would demean this film to watch the scene where Lee finally meets his sister’s killer. After a long and continually escalating fight Lee finally kills the man. But watch Lee’s face as it happens. He runs a full gamut of emotions, from rage, to triumph, to sorrow, to reflection, all in the space of a slow motion five seconds. It is a poetic moment and it demythologizes violence, showing the true humanity of its hero. It’s shown so beautifully and so delicately scored that when you realize it was all the work of one man you are simply left in awe. Now let’s see Paul Walker do that. To start it off, the audio and video quality has been sharpened remarkably from the original release, which was no slouch itself. The first disc begins with an audio commentary by Paul Heller. It nearly put me to sleep, but if it’s your thing, well then there you go.
The first disc also contains five documentaries. “Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon,” which is new but is unfortunately the average talking heads documentary. It lasts about half an hour. “Bruce Lee In His Own Words,” which is exactly what the title says, is a venerable treasure trove to anyone with the slightest interest in the man. It lasts about twenty minutes followed by a gallery of interviews with Linda Lee Cadwell that lasts about 15 minutes, and aren’t particularly interesting aside from a factoid or two. Next is a “Backyard Workout With Bruce Lee” which is a vintage home video. As with the rest of the features, whether a Bruce Lee Home Video has caused your eyes to glaze over or has caused you to run immediately to the store depends on you. Finally, there is a short 1973 promotional featurette that is pretty cool but probably not something you’ll be in a hurry to watch again.
Disc II contains only two documentaries but both are whoppers. “Bruce Lee Curse of the Dragon” was made in 93’ is 87 minutes long, and is a fairly comprehensive look at the man. More excitement to fans will surely be “Bruce Lee: A Warriors Journey,” which is 99 minutes long and contains what has become the holy grail for Bruce Lee fans, rare unedited Game of Death footage. You’ll be drooling. Rounding it off are Trailers and TV Spots that are vintage seventies. Read: Endearingly cheesy.
In the end Warner Brother’s continues to uphold the excellence that they have shown in handling their other gala special editions. It is nice that at least one company seems to value and understand the treasures that their vaults hold.
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