the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Warner Home Video presents

Enter the Dragon HD-DVD (1973)

"You have offended my family, and you have offended a Shaolin temple."- Lee (Bruce Lee)

Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon
Other Stars: Ahna Capri, Shih Kien, Bob Wall, Angela Mao Ying, Geoffrey Weeks, Yang Sze, Sammo Hung
Director: Robert Clouse

MPAA Rating: R for martial arts violence and brief nudity
Run Time: 01h:42m:48s
Release Date: 2006-07-11
Genre: martial arts

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

After years of supporting roles such as in The Green Hornet in the 1960s, Bruce Lee went to Hong Kong where he rapidly became a martial arts star. He wanted to make an impact with a martial arts film in the United States, and the opportunity finally arrived with the American/Hong Kong co-production Enter the Dragon. Tragically he died before the film's release, and he ascended to international stardom posthumously. This HD-DVD contains all the content of the two-disc special edition DVD released by Warner in 2004.

Lee (Bruce Lee) is a monk at Shaolin temple, who has learned all his master can teach him. Receiving an invitation to attend a martial arts tournament on the island owned by Han (Shih Kien), a renegade Shaolin monk who has disgraced the temple, Lee also learns that Han's henchmen were responsible for the death of his sister Su Lin (Angela Mao Ying). Recruited by British agent Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks), Lee is asked to also obtain evidence of Han's sex slavery and opium distribution activities. But there are others coming to the tournament, such as in-debt gambler Roper (John Saxon) and his friend a Black Power activist on the run from the police, Williams (Jim Kelly). What Lee doesn't know is that the tournament is a fight to the death.

Although the picture was slapped together rather haphazardly, it does have plenty of visual appeal. The fights are beautifully staged, and there are numerous settings that are highly striking, such as the courtyard of Han's palace, or the fight in the underground complex amidst boiling woks full of opium. There are few moments in martial arts or other films that can rival the impact of the climactic battle with Han (which runs over 20 minutes), finally concluding in a room of mirrors that fragments the protagonists' bodies with spectacular results. Han makes for an excellent villain, with a prosthetic hand that permits replacements including a metal fist, a bear claw and a set of sharp blades. The part, down to the black gloves, evokes Dr. No, and that connection is emphasized both from the Bond-like storyline and espionage as well as the use of Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible), who contributes a thriller score backed with early 1970s wa-wa.

The supporting cast is reasonably good as well. John Saxon, who was himself interested in martial arts, acquits himself with good results, delivering flying kicks with grace and looking quite authentic. An uncredited Sammo Hung is the first of Lee's adversaries in the Shaolin temple, and his bearlike character is entertaining even though he quickly disappears. Karate champion Robert Wall is terrifying as Han's out-of-control bodyguard. But one of the most striking performances in the film is by Angela Mao Ying, a hapkido black belt, who as Lee's sister makes impressive short work of Han's gang until she is finally cornered and outnumbered. She combines delicacy and force while also portraying both vulnerability and determination. It's a fascinating combination, and even though she only gets a few minutes of screen time, her part is indelible.

Lee completely succeeded his goal of bringing martial arts and Oriental philosophy to the West through this picture. Its influence is still felt today, and its popularity remains high around the globe. It is sad that he wasn't able to capitalize upon this success and develop it further, but we at least have this magnum opus to remember him by.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 2.40:1 transfer has some issues, though it does look quite a lot better than the standard DVD. Numerous sequences seem to be rather soft, especially near the beginning of the film. Color is excellent and vivid throughout; the richness of the black and red robes worn by the contestants is dazzling. The master used by Warner is apparently a 1080i version, and there is slight aliasing visible at times, and the striped shirt of Braithwaite shimmers a couple times. The flashback sequences that each contestant has tend to be rather grainy, and the grain isn't terribly well rendered and sparkles somewhat. However, the water in the first half of the picture looks excellent. The Room of Mirrors and the opening sequence at the Shaolin temple have a filtered look to them that seems to eradicate fine detail. Ringing is visible on high-contrast items. However, not only is it a huge improvement over the standard DVD, it looks substantially better than 35mm presentations I've seen of this, so while it certainly could have been better, it's by no means bad.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono is remixed into DD+ 5.1, but it tends to be rather center-oriented in any event. Schifrin's score sounds excellent for its age, and the combat sounds have plenty of impact. Mild hiss can occasionally be noticed, but it's not anything obtrusive.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish
4 Original Trailer(s)
7 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Documentaries
11 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by producers Paul Heller, screenwriter Michael Allin
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras are here in high quantity and generally high quality. Producers Paul Heller and screenwriter Michael Allin (via telephone) contribute a commentary that is fairly dull, with far too many long empty pauses, but it does contain a few interesting tidbits. The highlights are really covered just as well in Blood and Steel (30m:11s), a making-of retrospective from recent years. It includes plenty of interview segments from many different participants, and also includes some on-set home movie footage. Lee speaks from beyond the grave in the 19m:19s interview Bruce Lee In His Own Words, allowing him to enunciate his very personal view of martial arts. A series of ten short featurettes (totalling about 16m) feature Lee's widow Linda Lee Caldwell discussing his past and the making of Enter the Dragon. The 1973 period featurette (7m:34s) demonstrates Lee rehearsing and choreographing the action, while a short (1m:50s) black and white clip demonstrates Lee developing moves in his back yard.

More substantial are Curse of the Dragon (87m:28s) and Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (99m:50s), two feature-length documentaries about the life of Lee. The first, narrated by George Takei, also covers the death of his son Brandon Lee in an accident on the set of The Crow, trying to make hay of the notion of a family curse. To its credit, that seems to be an afterthought that's tacked onto the ending, and it's a pretty good overview of Lee's career in film. The latter film is less straightforward and focuses a bit more on Game of Death, but surprisingly enough there's very little overlap between the two and they're well worth checking out.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

Bruce Lee's finest and final completed picture comes to HD DVD in solid form, though there is a bit of excessive filtering and edge enhancement at times. The extras are numerous and thorough.

Mark Zimmer 2006-08-07