Within the span of only four films, the legendary filmmaker and martial artist Bruce Lee left a tremendous impact and legacy upon the world of cinema, becoming an international icon of the genre who sadly passed away much too soon but gave moviegoers four beloved classics. Celebrating over 50 years of his legacy, Arrow Video brings Lee's four movies plus two Bruceploitation features to 4K Ultra HD in an attractive ten-disc box set. The first three movies and Game of Death are UHD discs with outstanding Dolby Vision HDR videos and excellent DTS-HD MA soundtracks. The rest are Blu-rays with also excellent audio and video presentations of each, four of which are bonus discs housing exhaustive featurettes and alternate versions of the aforementioned Bruceploitation movies. With an impressive assortment of bonus material and extras, the UHD box set, dubbed Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest, is a Highly Recommended collector's item and addition to the library.
The Big Boss
Not only is The Big Boss cherished as Bruce Lee's feature-length debut, for which it deservedly should be immortalized, but the martial arts film also deserves to be remembered for revitalizing interest in kung fu movies, overtaking the wuxia films that were popular in Hong Kong cinemas at the time. Although The Chinese Boxer by the Shaw Brothers is officially the first true classic, it was this Golden Harvest production that cemented the subgenre as box-office gold while also achieving massive international success. Part of it can be attributed to a contemporary plot that features modern sociopolitical issues, like drug trafficking, immigrating to another country in search of work and people having to contend with employers exploiting said immigrants. The other is undoubtedly Lee's screen presence. Even though he doesn't do much for the first half of the story except gripe about how he can't break his "no-fighting" promise to his mother, Lee, nonetheless, steals the show as the silent, strong type while giving audiences a few glimpses of his fighting talents, which I feel is intentional so that his explosive moment during the factory riot is all the more dramatic and poignant. In the end, the movie may arguably be the weakest of Lee's films, but it is nonetheless a fun watch to see the film that introduced the legendary martial artist to the world, the one that skyrocketed him to superstardom. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Fist of Fury
My favorite part of Fist of Fury is the park scene where Lee's angry but still grieving Chen Zhen is refused entry and confronted by a rude Japanese man who publicly humiliates our would-be hero. The hot-tempered Chen not only beats up the man and his friend, but Lee goes one further by kicking the offensive sign and breaking it in midair. It's a great, memorable moment that blatantly renounces bigotry and clearly establishes the plot's anti-colonialism theme. Borrowing a similar theme from the aforementioned The Chinese Boxer, the story centers around the rivalry between a Japanese dojo and the kung fu school that Chen belongs to, but that conflict begins to escalate into violence when representatives of the dojo interrupt the funeral for the school's master, whose death, as it is slowly revealed, is apparently a mystery.
Unlike the first movie, audiences are allowed first-row seats to Lee's fighting talents about a quarter of the way in when he crashes the aforementioned dojo and single-handedly defeats everyone. From there — and largely due to Lee's hotheadedness, which adds some layered gravity and complexity to the plot — the tension between the schools quickly turns into all-out brawls with more lives being lost and causing more suffering for everyone. Essentially, this martial arts actioner comes with a surprisingly thoughtful and poignant center, making it one of Lee's better and more memorable films. (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
The Way of the Dragon
Without a doubt, The Way of the Dragon is rightfully immortalized by the climactic showdown between Lee and another legendary martial artist — Chuck Norris in his feature-length debut as the brutally lethal Colt. And in that fight, Norris is really the first to present Lee with a legitimate challenge and threat, as though the American fighter hired by a ruthless crime boss (Jon T. Benn) could possibly defeat Lee's more reluctantly and controlled Tang. For me, the nearly ten-minute brawl where the two actors actually managed to make contact is all the more memorable because of the slow buildup to the fight, showcasing Lee's techniques first by piting him against lesser challengers — the crime boss's comical assortment of henchmen — and having him figuratively climb the ladder of worthier contenders. The movie is also forever remembered as Lee's debut as screenwriter and director, and he does remarkably well behind the camera, especially in the long-take, wide-shot fight scenes so that audiences can actually see the choreography. But ultimately, my favorite aspect of the movie is Wei Ping-ou's performance as the boss's bumbling goofy and colorfully eccentric interpreter Ho, providing a welcomed layer of comedy to the delightfully fun action classic. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
A big part of my love for Lee's final film, Enter the Dragon, is really the nostalgia, the bittersweet memories I have of watching the classic martial arts actioner on television as a kid. I recall the movie playing like twice a year on a Sunday afternoon throughout the early and mid-80s. And every time it did, I just had to watch it, laying on my stomach in front of our Zenith wood cabinet TV and be mesmerized by the kickass action, as well as hear Lee's signature "Wataah!" yells. Funny enough, considering how often I've watched the movie, I always seem to forget that Lee's character is originally enlisted by British intelligence at the start of the movie to infiltrate Han's (Shih Kien) criminal operations. Yet, I've never forgotten about the subplot revealing that Han's bodyguard O'Hara (Bob Wall) is the man responsible for the death of Lee's sister, so I keep expecting this story to be a straightforward revenge tale, only to be pleasantly reminded that the script is bit more complicated than that. However, since childhood, I've always distinctly remembered the fight between John Saxon's Roper and Bolo Yeung, the cool and suave Jim Kelly's Williams and, of course, Han's three-knives prosthetic while going toe-to-toe against the unbeatable Bruce Lee inside the mirror room. Enter the Dragon is my most fondly remembered and beloved Lee movie. (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
Game of Death
Everything that could be said of Bruce Lee's final but sadly, incomplete film Game of Death has really all been said. Most already know the history of the production, which severely altered Lee's original tale into a straightforward revenge flick involving the mafia, a fiancée (Colleen Camp) and apparently, a restaurant designed like a pagoda. Using two stand-ins for the Lee role, the movie is honestly a cobbled mess, edited together — sometimes sloppily so — from Lee's other movies, which includes real footage of his funeral, with new sequences directed by Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon) mostly shooting the lookalikes ("Lee-alikes") from behind or under heavy shadows. And yet, in spite of all that, the movie shockingly manages to tell a coherent story about action movie star Billy Lo battling a racketeering syndicate trying to force him and his fiancée into signing with a criminal organization fronting as a management firm. At the end of the day, however, none of that matters because fans are here to watch the actual footage of Lee ascending the pagoda and go one-on-one with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But the part I still find fascinating is the opportunity to compare the legendary martial artist's skills with that of the "Lee-alikes," and well, there is no comparison. None the actors come close to matching Bruce Lee's impressive kicking and punching speed, demonstrating why he is and forever will be the unrivalled and inimitable legend that he is. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Game of Death II (aka, Tower of Death)
As if the first Game of Death weren't bad enough, filmmakers decided to follow it up with a sequel that has nothing to do the movie except for the Billy Lo character returning, and frankly, it barely even counts as a Bruce Lee feature at all since the "Lee-alike" (SPOILERS! . . . kinda) dies about a third of the way into the story. The movie is an obvious cash grab, an attempt to capitalize on Lee's international popularity, one of many such features referred to as Bruceploitation. The revenge flick mostly follows Lo's younger brother Bobby (Tong Lung) trying to avenge his older brother's death, and as good as Lung is in the role, especially in the fight sequences, the character's sleuthing skills are laughably bad, mostly stumbling from one ridiculous clue or lead to another and chatting with hilariously dubious characters that don't actually contribute anything to the plot. My favorite of those is the deranged martial artist Lewis (Roy Horan), who runs a place called The Palace of Death where challengers are invited to fight him and the loser is feed to his pack of lions roaming about his game reserve. Basically, Game of Death II (aka, Tower of Death) is all kinds of bad, but the sequel is nonetheless surprisingly watchable, mainly because it feels exactly like what people imagine a 1970s martial arts flick would be — what, with all the terrible out-of-sync dubbing and comically exaggerated sound effects for the fight choreography. (Movie Rating: 2/5)
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Celebrating over 50 years of Bruce Lee's legacy, Arrow Video brings his four movies plus two Bruceploitation features to 4K Ultra HD in an attractive ten-disc Limited Edition box set, dubbed Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest. All ten — five triple-layered UHD100 discs and five dual-layered BD50 discs — come individually packaged in separate digibook packages, which are housed inside an attractive box that slides open from the top. Imported from the United Kingdom, the box also includes a 200-page hardbound book featuring production notes of the films, five insightful essays and various color photos. Along with a double-sided poster for The Big Boss and The Way of the Dragon, there is an assortment of ten glossy, black-and-white photos of Lee in iconic poses and twenty-four lobby-style postcards for all four films.
The Big Boss
Coming from a new restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, the classic martial arts actioner delivers justice on Ultra HD with an exceptional HEVC H.265 encode, popping with a dynamic and spot-on contrast balance. While whites are clean and energetic, specular highlights supply a crisp, radiant sheen to metallic surfaces and allow for better visibility within the hottest spots, like lightbulbs and clouds in the distance. Fine lines and details are surprisingly razor-sharp, exposing every leaf and blade of grass, the wood grain of the buildings and the fabric of the clothing. Black levels are on point and rich with strong shadow detailing throughout, providing the 4k transfer with appreciable dimensionality. Processed in Dolby Vision HDR, the color palette is also greatly improved, animating the action and drama in sumptuously vivid primaries and bold secondary hues, and facial complexions appear healthy and accurate, revealing pores and minor blemishes in the entire cast. The 2.35:1 image is awash in a fine layer of natural grain, giving it a beautiful film-like quality and making it the best the movie has ever looked. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 90/100)
The Big Boss - The Mandarin Cut
According to the folks at Arrow Video, the original uncut version of the movie was also restored and remastered using the best available elements. However, from the looks of it, it appears that they used the same master created for the 4K transfer above and simply re-edited the previously deleted scenes back into the film. Due to that, this HDR10 presentation is rather inconsistent because those aforementioned elements have not aged well and distractingly stand out, looking significantly blurry and littered with various scratches and bits of dirt. While the positive comments for the video above still apply here, the restored scenes look flatter and duller overall with lackluster black levels and a faded, drab color palette. On the other hand, the look and inconsistency actually add to the presentation's appeal, as it gives the cult martial arts favorite that old-school grindhouse charm. (HDR10 Video Rating: 82/100)
Fist of Fury
Like the previous two movies, the HEVC H.265 encode arrives from a fresh remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, and the results are pretty fantastic with several near demo-worthy scenes. Except for a few soft, blurry moments, which is understandable and expected for a fifty-plus-year-old production, the native 4K transfer is highly detailed with sharp, clean lines along buildings and in the streets, showing that the source remains in terrific condition. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also kicks butt thanks to excellent contrast and brightness balance, showering the action in brilliant whites, accurately-rendered blacks and crisp, radiant specular highlights while also maintaining outstanding shadow delineation throughout. Although the colors seem a tad more subdued and controlled compared to the first movie, the overall palette, nonetheless, appears bolder and fuller than its Blu-ray counterparts. Facial complexions are impressively revealing with natural, healthy skin tones in the entire cast. Awash in a fine layer of natural grain, the 2.35:1 image looks awesome in 4K UHD. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 88/100)
The Way of the Dragon
Lee's third movie arrives with a strong and generally satisfying 4K transfer, but compared to the others in the set, this is sadly the weakest of the bunch, falling on the softer side and occasionally looking out of focus with only a few pockets of sharp clarity, most of which come from close-ups or some exterior shots. But this all appears to be the result of the original photography and the aged condition of the source, not any issues with the encode. Nevertheless, the fresh remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives is a welcomed step up from the previous Blu-ray, yielding better overall definition and sharper details for the most part. The more notable improvement is the heightened contrast and brightness balance, furnishing clean, brilliant whites and dark, rich blacks throughout. Specular highlights provide the 2.35:1 image with a crisp, energetic glow in the lighting and along metallic surfaces, and excellent shadow details allow for great visibility within the darkest, murkiest corner. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also arrives with a spirited, more accurately rendered palette, and facial complexions appear healthy. Awash in a noticeably thick layer of natural grain, the video has a lovely film-like appearance and appreciable depth, sure to make fans very happy. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 76/100)
Enter the Dragon
Arguably, the best well-known Bruce Lee movie turns out also to be the anomaly in the box set because the beloved classic is offered only on Blu-ray. In fact, this is the same AVC MPEG-4 encode as the 40th Anniversary Special Edition, which was provided courtesy of Warner Bros. Given that is the case, I will reiterate my colleague Gordon S. Miller's thoughts of that BD:
"The image looks very clean, free from dirt and wear, and film grain is evident. The colors are bright and vibrant, especially in the single-hue robes worn by different groups of Shaolin students watching Lee spar in the opening sequence. Blacks are deep, with occasional crush in the darkly lit sequences.
"The focus is frequently sharp, revealing clear details and textures, which everyone but Mr. Saxon will appreciate since it makes his toupee all the more obvious. However, there are a few scenes where the limited clarity of the source makes the video look pretty poor. For example, when Roper is golfing and Williams is getting hassled by the cops, there are segments during the scenes that look so different in quality they appear as if they are from different sources." (HD SDR Video Rating: 82/100)
Game of Death
Considering it's production history, the time in between filming and the difference in photographic styles and stock, it should come as no surprise that Lee's final project looks pretty choppy and uneven with many scenes looking noticeably cleaner and better than others. But as inconsistent and somewhat rough as the picture quality may be, overall, the HEVC H.265 encode delivers a relatively worthy upgrade over previous Blu-ray releases and a notable uptick from the French Ultra HD edition by Metropolitan. For the most part, the fresh remaster of the original camera negatives comes with strong, well-defined lines along buildings, streets and costumes, but there are several blurry, soft moments sprinkled throughout, namely the stock footage of Bruce Lee and other scenes as well as a few fight sequences. The Dolby Vision HDR furnishes the visuals with a strong yet somewhat subdued contrast balance, giving it a slightly toned down and overcast look although whites remain clean and bright. Black levels fair a bit better and look darker with strong shadow details, even during those intentional moments where shadows obscure the "Lee-alike" actors. The palette also enjoys a welcomed boost as colors, like the green in the foliage or Lee's iconic yellow jumpsuit, are more accurately rendered and well-saturated, and skin tones appear natural while revealing pores and minor blemishes. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 78/100)
Game of Death II
Like Enter, the sequel to the previous movie is offered only as a Blu-ray disc, which could be a mild disappointment but not all is lost since the result is a great-looking AVC MPEG-4 encode. Struck from a new 2K remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, the HD transfer is surprisingly stable and consistent in spite of the below-average stock footage, flaunting strong definition and clarity within the costumes, buildings and surrounding foliage. However, the video comes with its share of soft, blurry sequences, many of which also have a grain structure that noticeably fluctuates from scene to scene. Nevertheless, the presentation enjoys spot-on contrast and brilliant whites, and brightness levels provide the 2.35:1 image with rich, deep blacks while shadows have excellent visibility of the finer details within the darkest, murkiest corners. Colors throughout are richly-saturated and lively with secondary hues boasting a bold, animated selection, especially during the climatic fight in the underground Tower of Death. (HD SDR Video Rating: 80/100)
The Big Boss
All three versions of the film come with the same newly restored Mandarin, English and Cantonese lossless audio in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono while the original uncut version features only the Mandarin mono soundtrack. The Mandarin track is the strongest of the three and the best way to enjoy the film, as it delivers a cleaner, better-balanced dialogue reproduction and exhibits an excellent mid-range. Background details are crisp and well-defined while the music comes with a good deal of warmth and presence. There is nothing inherently wrong with the other two, as they are enjoyable in their own right. However, the Cantonese track feels like a fresh redub as it sounds artificially clean and modern. In contrast, the English track emphasizes the dialogue, making everything else sound somewhat flatter and giving the movie that comical stereotype of 1970s martial art flicks. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
Fist of Fury
Once again, there are three DTS-HD MA mono options that fans can choose from with the Mandarin being the best and most faithful to the original presentation. While the English and Cantonese options are strong in their own right, the Mandarin soundtrack delivers a fuller, more satisfying soundstage, exhibiting distinct clarity and definition of the background information. A strong mid-range delivers excellent fidelity and a great deal of warmth in the music while a satisfying low-end provides the score and action with some appreciable and presence. Overlooking the occasionally distracting ADR work, dialogue reproduction is also outstanding with precise, intelligible vocals in the center. Overall, it's a surprisingly clean and enjoyable lossless track. (Audio Rating: 84/100)
The Way of the Dragon
Like the others above, fans have their pick of three DTS-HD MA mono offerings, and the Mandarin option takes the top choice, delivering excellent, well-prioritized dialogue with a good low-end that adds a satisfying weight to the action and music. With clean and clear background information providing a great sense of presence, imaging displays impressive clarity and distinction while providing the music with a good deal of warmth and accuracy. The new lossless mix is another fantastic listen. (Audio Rating: 80/100)
Enter the Dragon
As with the video, the same selection of audio options are ported over from the aforementioned 40th Anniversary Blu-ray, so once again, I will share Mr. Miller's thoughts on the lossless mix.
"The audio available is in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, upgraded from 2007's lossy Dolby Digital track. The mix is free from damage and signs of age. The dialogue is always understandable, although obviously dubbed. The latter aspect causes occasional flatness in the voices. The dialogue and many of the prominent sound effects play in the front center channel. The surrounds offer slight ambiance in Lalo Schffrin's score. The funk-influenced music during the opening credits gets the subwoofer thumping and an airplane can be heard moving from front to the back speakers. The 5.1 track offers great balance between the elements and a strong dynamic range." (Audio Rating: 82/100)
Game of Death
Like the video, the original English mono audio has also been restored and remastered into this great English DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack. Granted, the ADR work for Billy Lo can be terribly distracting and near laughable, but overall dialogue reproduction is nonetheless crystal clear and takes priority over the rest of the action. Although fixed to the center of the screen, imaging comes with a great sense of presence and balance, exhibiting clean definition and fidelity in the music while the action maintains excellent distinction and clarity in the upper frequencies. Occasionally, some conversations can feel somewhat flat and uniform, which seems to largely happen in scenes with Dr. Land and his goons. Low bass is pretty limited, but there is enough to give the action and score some appreciable weight. (Audio Rating: 80/100)
Game of Death II
For the sequel, Arrow Video provides the English dub for the international cut while the Hong Kong theatrical version comes with three DTS-HD MA mono options with, once again, the Mandarin track being the stongest. As clean and solid as the English track is, displaying great definition and excellent balance in the mid-range with distinct background effects, the dubbing can be comical and silly, but it also has that kitschy, grindhouse charm that only these classic martial arts movies can deliver. And dialogue takes top priority throughout, and the low-end adds some substance to the music. The Mandarin track is similar to those above with a great, well-balanced soundstage and strong definition in the mid-range while dialogue is clean and distinct in the center. Bass is also strong with a tad of heft for a movie of this vintage. In the end, fans can't go wrong with either version of the movie. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
For this Limited Edition box set, Arrow Video has culled together an impressive and exhaustive collection of bonus material that will take — and has taken — days to sift through. It's a mix of legacy featurettes and a few new additions that are exclusive this edition.
The Big Boss
The Big Boss - The Mandarin Cut
Fist of Fury
The Way of the Dragon
Enter the Dragon (Region Free Blu-ray)
Game of Death
The Final Game of Death (Region B Locked Blu-ray)
Game of Death: Alternate Versions (Region B Locked Blu-ray)
Game of Death II (Region B Locked Blu-ray)
Bruce Lee Documentaries (Region B Locked Blu-ray)
It is truly remarkable that within the span of only four films, one person could have left a tremendous impact and legacy upon the world of cinema. But that is precisely what the legendary filmmaker and martial artist Bruce Lee accomplished, becoming an international icon of the genre who sadly passed away much too soon but gave moviegoers four beloved classics. Celebrating over 50 years of Bruce Lee's legacy, Arrow Video brings Lee's four movies plus two Bruceploitation features to 4K Ultra HD in an attractive ten-disc box set, but only the first three and Game of Death are UHD discs with outstanding Dolby Vision HDR video presentations and excellent DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtracks. The rest are Blu-rays, including Enter the Dragon and Game of Death II, with also excellent audio and video presentations of each, and the other four bonus discs house exhaustive featurettes of Lee's life, impact and legacy, as well as alternate versions of the aforementioned Bruceploitation movies. With an impressive assortment of bonus material and extras, the UHD box set, dubbed Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest, is a Highly Recommended collector's item and addition to the library.
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