Everything in Enter the Dragon leads to one moment, where the brooding pace is allowed to completely let loose into a massive brawl in the courtyard belonging to Opium dealer Han. Lee (Bruce Lee) has infiltrated Han’s organization, which uses the cover of a fighting tournament, but has been discovered.
He fights back with the odds against him, until hundreds of prisoners are freed from their cells and join the fight. It is stunning choreography, both in the foreground with focus on Lee and co-star John Saxon, and in the background where countless individual brawls are taking place.
Still, Enter the Dragon is not through, staging a truly remarkable confrontation between Lee and Han (Kien Shih) inside a room of mirrors. This is a visually remarkable fight, utilizing the reflective surfaces to create wildly unique frames that trick the audience. Shooting the sequence was undoubtedly a nightmare, yet a camera never appears on screen, the crew using a box of mirrors with a single hole to obscure the device. There is no music, just silence as Lee looks for his foe, a tense, involving battle that remains one of the best of the genre.
Of course, Enter the Dragon still has around 90-minutes to fill before that finale, and it does so by mimicking James Bond. Despite being obviously categorized as a martial arts film, this is a spy thriller, with a carefully plotted infiltration. Han is a mystery until he reveals his plans to an unsuspecting Roper (Saxon).
A product of its time, Enter the Dragon gives Jim Kelly a role, one year before starring in the hilarious blaxploitation classic Black Belt Jones. His character is given little to work with besides a priceless monologue when he is accused of snooping around Han’s camp. A quirky soundtrack is undeniably ‘70s as well, but suits the period well nonetheless.
Enter the Dragon opens with Bruce Lee offering some of his philosophies and thoughts, important as they come into play later. Lee’s opponent in the tournament is Oharra (Robert Wall) who enters the ring with a block of wood, and smashes it with his fist. Ever a traditionalist, Lee smirks and quips, “Boards don’t hit back.” That is Lee’s charisma, charm, and intelligence in a single line, something Enter the Dragon captures better than any of his other films. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Warner delivers a surprisingly strong VC-1 effort for Enter the Dragon (identical to the HD DVD release), although one with a rather severe aliasing issue. Apparently, this was encoded at 720p and then upscaled, causing significant stair-stepping on nearly all edges. This is most evident around faces, although background objects also show the problem.
Those with smaller sets will find the problem difficult, if not impossible to spot. However, it is not contained or limited. Every edge appears blocky, a disappointing problem for a transfer that would have otherwise been a stunner.
The film has few moments of damage, and those are typically limited to specks. Colors are wonderfully vivid, with slight bleeding of the reds noted in the opening scenes. Detail is inconsistent but surprisingly crisp when it comes through. Facial textures are maintained cleanly. Black levels are somewhat murky and faded, rarely achieving any depth. Light edge enhancement is noted, but minimal. A fine grain structure is at work, and the codec handles it cleanly. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Warner does not include the original mono audio mix, instead mastering a 5.1 mix, then compressing it in Dolby Digital. None of the film’s audio was captured on set, but instead re-recorded later. It is blatantly obvious at times, leading to an unnatural quality to the dialogue. Sound effects, particularly glass breaking, are strained terribly.
Lalo Schifrin’s score is the only highlight, providing some bass during the opening frames as drums are struck. It also bleeds well into the rear channels, the only work they receive. The stereo channels offer no distinct separation, and the center handles the dialogue as well as it can. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Audio]
Warner packs all of the extras from the two-disc DVD edition onto the Blu-ray, and these are fantastic supplements. A commentary from producer Paul Heller is informative, if dry in spots. Blood and Steel is a fine half hour making-of, filled with footage from the set and interviews.
Bruce Lee – In His Own Words is an interesting interview with Lee covering a wide variety of topics. Lee’s widow Linda provides her thoughts on 10 different topics in her own interview section. The latter lasts for 16-minutes.
Some brief footage of Lee working out at his home is followed by the excellent documentary Curse of the Dragon, focusing on the family and its tragedy. Another documentary is a superb biography on Lee’s life titled A Warrior’s Journey. These two docs run well over three hours combined. A stack of 11 trailers follow. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Extras]