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Enter the Dragon(1973)
Recruited by an intelligence agency, outstanding martial arts student Bruce Lee participates in a brutal karate tournament hosted by the evil Han. Along with champions Roper and Williams, he uncovers Han's white slavery and drug trafficking ring located on a secret island fortress. In the exciting climax, hundreds of freed prisoners fight in an epic battle with Lee and Han locked in a deadly duel.
For more about Enter the Dragon and the Enter the Dragon Blu-ray release, see Enter the Dragon Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Shih Kien, Bob Wall, Bolo Yeung
Director: Robert Clouse
» See full cast & crew
Enter the Dragon Blu-ray Review
Remastered video, lossless audio, new features, same great film. What's not to love?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 11, 2013
Show of hands: who among you fancies himself a martial arts cinema fan? Good, good. Now keep your hand up if you've never had or taken the opportunity to watch Enter the Dragon. Look around. Everyone with their hand in the air is a walking contradiction; a poor, deluded soul weened on watered down beat-em-ups and Rush Hour all-nighters; a misguided action junkie who hasn't savored one of the most influential kung fu delicacies of all time. That's not to suggest anyone and everyone who partakes of Dragon's gritty goodness will suddenly declare it a timeless classic. Not everyone will gravitate to the late Bruce Lee's charisma and philosophy, or director Robert Clouse's unflappable direction. Not everyone will tolerate Lee's American co-stars, or enjoy the visceral simplicity of the film's story. But I have yet to come across someone who comes away from the film with a shrug of their shoulders; who isn't thoroughly impressed with Lee's lightning-quick strikes and bone-shattering attacks; or, for that matter, someone who who thinks Lee was anything other than a master of his art. Even some forty years after his tragic death, Lee remains a force to be reckoned with, as does Enter the Dragon.
Enter the Dragon tells the violent tale of Lee (Bruce Lee... hold any 007 jokes until the end please), a Shaolin warrior recruited by a not so by-the-book intelligence agency to infiltrate a martial arts tournament hosted by a reclusive billionaire named Han (Shih Kien). Lee learns Han is a former Shaolin student-turned-megalomaniac; a crime lord suspected of trafficking drugs and prostitutes from his remote compound, a heavily-guarded island that lies just beyond the boundaries of international jurisdiction. After agreeing to take on the mission, Lee finds himself on a ship, joined by a pair of American fighters bound for the same tournament: Roper (John Saxon), a gambling addict trying to pay off his Mafia debts, and Williams (Jim Kelly, sporting an awe-inspiring afro), an activist fleeing the Los Angeles police. When the trio arrive on Han's island, they establish their dominance with swift authority, handily besting any fighter Han throws at them. But as Lee darts from shadow to shadow, gathering evidence of Han's illegal activities, he has no choice but to fend off an endless flood of baddies, face the man responsible for his sister's death, and unleash his patented brand of tendon-tearing, spine-snapping showmanship on his toughest competitors.
Filmed in 1973, when a jump kick involved actual jumping and kicking (sorry wire-fu fans, no physics-defying nonsense here), an era in which stuntwork required true martial artists to risk their well-being to pull off split-second screen choreography, Enter the Dragon is packed with brutal combat and jaw-dropping acrobatics. Lee's fists are legitimate murder weapons, granting his every blow urgency and authenticity. Crack all the smiles you'd like at the cheesy '70s sound effects that accompany each move, but just try to concentrate on anything else other than the spectacular skills on display. But Dragon's greatness extends beyond its action. Lee's solemn performance grounds the entire production, injecting pathos and gravitas into scenes that might otherwise fall flat. The fire and pain in his eyes, the deadly intent balled up in his fists, even the occasional grimace or ounce of guilt transforms Lee into a man torn between vengeance and honor. The entire cast rises to meet him too, hitting harder and pushing longer if only to keep up with Lee's commanding presence. I know, I know... despite his character's supposed prowess, Saxon moves with all the grace and ease of a wounded animal, but even he nails the complexities of his shady antihero.
Sadly, Lee died six days before Enter the Dragon opened in theaters, robbed of the opportunity to enjoy the praise fans and critics the world over have enthusiastically showered on his work over the decades. It's hard to imagine a finer swan song than that, although I'd kill to see what Lee would have done next, or the year after that, or a decade later. Or today, older but as dangerous on screen. The film's thrilling martial arts sequences will make anyone who gives them a chance wince, cheer, and shake their heads in disbelief. More shocking, though, is the sting of grief that lodges itself deep in the heart over the loss of an unrivaled martial arts talent snuffed out in his prime. I love the film more every time I watch it; I'm already looking forward to the next, and eventually to the time my son is old enough for a proper introduction. If you haven't seen Enter the Dragon, there's no time like the present. Chances are you won't regret it.
Enter the Dragon Blu-ray, Video Quality
Although the 2007 Blu-ray debut of Enter the Dragon earned high marks for its video presentation upon its initial release, time hasn't been so kind. It's clear now that the 2007 release is flawed and dated; a fact Warner's 2013 remastered 40th Anniversary Edition BD solidifies more and more with each passing scene. However, it's important to note before diving into the studio's new 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer that Lee's final film appearance will never look the part of the fresh and fierce martial arts stunner. Gritty, grainy, soft and starkly lit, it shows its age as often and as clearly as Lee shows off his skill. Colors are often washed out by the sun, shadows are unforgiving, delineation is typically unrevealing, and the original photography is prone to a host of inherent problems.
That said, Enter the Dragon has quite simply never looked better; I seriously doubt it could look much better than it does here. It not only outclasses, out-paces and out-maneuvers its 2007 counterpart (which, by comparison, is backed by an aged master and a less-than-exacting encode), it features a far more natural, film-like image, largely free of the anomalies that afflict its 2007 predecessor. Anomalies are all but MIA -- there aren't any major bouts of artifacting, banding or aliasing to contend with -- and both color accuracy and contrast consistency are exceedingly faithful to the filmmakers' intentions. Detail is more satisfying too, edge definition is more precise, grain is much more refined, and artificial sharpening and noise reduction either haven't been implemented or have been employed so judiciously as to not hinder the presentation in any way. Again, some viewers will confuse the film's widespread softness and more troubled shots as signs of a botched transfer, but such subjective complaints should be dismissed. Objectively, this is now the definitive presentation of Enter the Dragon, and I can't imagine a respectful remastering ever being more rewarding than this. Of course, I said the same thing years ago about the 2007 release. Only time will truly tell if the 2013 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray remains the definitive be-all, end-all release of the film, or if future fans are in store for an unforeseen 45th or 50th Anniversary miracle.
Enter the Dragon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much the same could be said about Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. To the casual listener, the mix might not be all that impressive. To the cinephile or audiophile, though, Enter the Dragon's long-awaited lossless experience doesn't disappoint in the least, delivering the film as it is rather than artificially make it something it's not. Dialogue, shouts, whispers, jabs, full-force attacks and, really, just about every smashed crate, cracked rib, splintering mirror, devastating kick or whirring nunchaku that graces the soundscape is hindered by the thin, punchy tone of the era. But as 40-year-old martial arts classics go, all is as it should be. Voices are clean and clear (albeit obviously, I'd argue endearingly ADR'd), Lalo Schifrin's chopsocky score sounds fantastic, the LFE channel digs in and unleashes its power, and the rear speakers lend subtle presence to the film's environments and interiors without robbing the sound design of its personality and period charm. Like the 40th Anniversary Edition's video transfer, Warner's lossless audio track isn't going to wow modern moviegoers hoping for the latest and greatest in classic-film sound mixing. But for those who've spent years longing to hear Enter the Dragon at its purest and most raw, for those who've quietly suffered with the 2007 release's lossy Dolby Digital track, the audio upgrade alone might be worth the price of admission.
Enter the Dragon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of Enter the Dragon includes several small collectibles: promotional postcards with never-before-released production art and photographs, a replica of the "deputized ally" card distributed at the Enter the Dragon premiere, an embroidered iron-on patch, a motion lenticular card, and a booklet that previews photographer Dave Friedman's "Enter the Dragon: A Photographer's Journey," which will be available for purchase on August 15th.
When it comes to extras, the 40th Anniversary Edition only disappoints in one regard: "A Warrior's Journey," the 100-minute documentary featured on the film's 2007 Blu-ray release, is nowhere to be found. Three new HD featurettes are offered up in exchange, but while each one is welcome, the new content doesn't make up for the loss of such a candid and extensive documentary.
Enter the Dragon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Enter the Dragon has practically become synonymous with kung fu cinema, and for good reason. It's possible there's none better, and even more possible we'll never see someone like Bruce Lee again. All of which makes Warner's 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray that much more enticing. With a newly remastered video transfer, a lossless audio track, and a wide selection of extras new and old, the only disappointment to be had is the absence of a 100-minute documentary previously included on the inferior 2007 BD release. Ultimately, though, the 40th Anniversary Edition is, in almost every way, the version of Enter the Dragon to own. Add it to your collection today.
Enter the Dragon: Other Editions
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Enter the Dragon Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Enter the Dragon 40th Anniversay Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu... - March 4, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release Robert Clouse's Enter the Dragon in a Collector's Edition Giftset on June 11th. The film, which helped bring interest in the Asian martial arts genre to mainstream Western cinema, has ...
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