Blu-ray Review: Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection

Bruce Lee is the only actor that can be compared to James Dean. Both actors brought a new level of physicality to their performances. Dean would contort his body to exhibit his inner pain. Lee contorted his body to reflect the pain he was about to dish out on his opponents. James Dean launched the teenager as a central figure in cinema. Bruce Lee launched the martial arts movies into the American mainstream. Both actors died way too young. Their short cinematic outputs have maintained a steady cult following over the decades. Warners has always done its best to keep Dean’s three films available in prime shape. Bruce Lee hasn’t quite had that effort in his home video releases. The first DVD boxset of his Golden Harvest produced films looked like the prints were beaten up by him. Forty years after the passing of the martial arts master, Bruce Lee finally has a boxset worthy of his legend. Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection contains restored high definition transfers of a majority of his work along with several feature film documentaries. Over the course of 4 Blu-rays and 7 DVDs, Bruce Lee comes alive in the digital age. The only film missing from the boxset is Enter the Dragon. You can pick it up on Blu-ray for a low price so don’t whine.

The Big Boss (1971 – 100 minutes) has Bruce play a Chinese citizen arriving in Thailand for work. He lands a job at an ice factory that seems like a nice enough place to work. What he and the other workers don’t know is that the real money come from items frozen inside the ice blocks. Turns out the plant is a front for a drug smuggling operation. The naive employees who report their initial finding quickly vanish. This leads to Bruce having to step up and stop this evil operation. There’s plenty of good fighting include a no hold bar beating inside the ice factory. While this is a rather low budget effort, the gleam of Lee in full force makes it look better than today’s $100 million action flicks. This was originally released in America as Fists of Fury so you might have seen it on TV with the wrong title.

Fist of Fury (1972 – 106 minutes) brings Bruce to Japanese occupied Shanghai in the early 20th century. He’s returned to his Jingwu School to marry his beloved. But his heart is broken on that rainy day since his teacher has died. Even worse is the local Japanese dojo decides that now is the time to insult the “inferior'” race and their worthless marital arts skill. They are looking for a major fight instead of letting Bruce and classmates mourn. This is a bad move since Bruce does not need an army to knock them out with his hands and feet. The feud between Bruce’s school and the Japanese jerks builds until it feels like there will be no end except utter destruction. The film is a flip from Lee’s first since a majority of it was filmed on soundstages instead of real exteriors. The action is even larger than the previous outing. Bruce even breaks out the nunchucks to dazzle the eyes. This film was called The Chinese Connection in America.

Way of the Dragon (1972 – 99 minutes) was Bruce Lee’s action comedy. He arrives in Rome to help out at a relative’s Chinese restaurant. There’s a lot of fish out of water humor as he copes with life in the land of the Pope and Pasta. The concern at the restaurant isn’t merely roaches or mold on the soda machine. Bruce’s uncle is being shook down by a mafia kingpin (Jon Been). Bruce trains the waiters how to use their hands and feet as weapons. This upsets the mobster so much that he brings in the two baddest hitmen on the planet: Bob Wall and Chuck Norris. These two masters of mayhem arrive in Rome ready to paint the town red with Bruce’s body. This battle leads to a marathon fight between Norris and Lee inside the Colosseum. This is one of those times when a major fight lives up to its billing. Lee vs. Norris deliver exactly what fighters strive for in UFC battles. Way of the Dragon wasn’t released in America until after Lee’s death and Enter the Dragon. That’s why it was retitled Return of the Dragon in America.

The Game of Death (1978 – 85 minutes) is a cinematic salvage job. Bruce was began shooting a series of fights for his next movie. The climax of the film had his character battling his way up a building where each floor contained a different fighter that would test his skills. After three fights were shot, Warners Brothers signed him for Enter the Dragon. Bruce put The Game of DeathGame. So they brought in Robert Clouse, the director of Enter the Dragon to create a story around the footage that was in the can. He created a semi-biographical tale of how an actor like Bruce Lee. Mosbters have targeted him for death. Lee gets shot at the end of Fist of Fury and fakes his death in order to go after the underworld figures. Ultimately he shows up at a building that lets him battle Dan Inosanto, Ji Han Jae and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers). This is the only real footage Lee shot exclusively for the film. The rest of the movie contains actors faking to be Lee, old footage repurposed and a cardboard mask on a body double. It’s a mess. Best part of the new footage is Bob Wall going to town on Sammo Hung. The good news is that in the bonus features is the 38 minutes of film that covers the three fights. It is a shame that Bruce couldn’t finish the movie since it would have been the first true Videogame Movie. His fighting of opponents of increasing skill levels are like a game of Punch-Ou!!t or Mortal Combat. The only thing missing is a narrator screaming, “Finish Them!” Clouse’s film is more of a curiosity than a fulfilling flick.

Bruce Lee: The Man and Legend (83 minutes) goes in-depth on the superstar’s memorials in both Hong Kong and Seattle. His funeral brought together James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones). This is a very intimate portrait of a family mourning. There’s a tour of his Hong Kong house before it is shut down. In between the two memorial services, his career is laid out from his work as a child in Shaw Brothers films to his international success of Enter the Dragon.

Bruce Lee: The Legend
(86 minutes) is the original cut of the documentary, and is quite a bit different. This does not open with the funeral footage. There’s more of a chronological pacing to covering his life. There are more clips from his earliest Hong Kong films. The funeral footage isn’t quite as extensive. The focus at the end is on Game of Death being in production. There is a plug for Jackie Chan being the next big star in martial arts cinema. This version is pan and scan.

I Am Bruce Lee (2012 – 94 minutes) is a new documentary that shows the impact Bruce has among today’s stars in acting and sports. Sure you get Mickey Rourke, Gina Carano, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini” singing his praises. But the best is finding out that Ed O’Neill practices the martial arts. Where was this skill during Married…With Children?

Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection is an amazing boxset that delves into all the aspects of the cinematic icon. He’s an actor, athlete, teacher, father and dad. His life, career and death are covered. The four movies are given in their proper versions with a variety of audio options. Remember that these films weren’t made with a microphone on the set. Pick the version that sounds best to you since the soundtracks were created in post-production. Nerds will whine that this is not a complete collection because it lacks Enter the Dragon. But there’s nothing preventing you from buying that Blu-ray and putting it next to the giant booklet on the shelf. The boxset has three classic movies and the portion of The Game of Death that matters. Like James Dean, these movies prove Bruce Lee was able to accomplish so much in such a short time.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for all four of the feature films. The Blu-ray transfers bring out the sweat and blood when Bruce Lee is dishing out the punishing blows. The was an issue on the internet with fanboys claiming that the Blu-rays weren’t from real 1080p tansfers, but merely upscaled from standard definition. This was supposedly the rumor of why this boxset was pushed back a few months. Shout! Factory sent out this notice to explain the original pressing and the new pressings: New Blu-rays for The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon. Contrary to speculation circulating on the internet, the original set did contain hi-def masters of the first three feature films. However, after comments from fans who had received early copies of our set, we discovered that our sources were not the recently restored transfers used for the Blu-rays in Hong Kong and Japan, but rather the original masters done a few years ago in Canada. We therefore acquired the improved masters (the master for Game of Death was no appreciably different), and have included them on this new set, for a truly definitive Bruce Lee collection. The audio varies on the different films. The Big Boss features Original Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS Mono (US Dub), English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Mono and Rare Original English Dub Never Heard Before. Fist of Fury features Original Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Mono, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Mono and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Way of the Dragon features Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Mono, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, English Mono (US Dub), English Mono (Japanese Theatrical) and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The Game of Death features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1., English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English Mono and English Mono (Japanese Theatrical Version)

Big Boss Bonus Features
Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Mike Leeder is enlightening about how Bruce made his first adult feature film as the star.
Trailers (17:26) is six ways the film was sold around the world. The various distributors wanted you to know martial arts movies were about to change with the arrival of Bruce Lee.
US TV Spots (1:14) teased viewers into coming out to the movies.
Alternate Title Sequence (4:44) are the version cut for America when the film was renamed Fists of Fury.
Alternate Finale (0:43) is Bruce’s savage death blows.
Return to Pak Chong: The Big Boss Revisited (9:25) has Daniel Whyte traveling to the locations of the movie in Thailand. The Ice Factory is still in operation.
Bruce Lee: The Early Years: Interview with Gene Lebell, Martial Arts Legend/Stuntman (13:50) lets him recount how he met Bruce on the set of The Green Hornet. He got along great with the actor who knew how to fight on screen.
Interview with Tung Wai (2:37) lets the director describe how Bruce Lee transformed in person when he took of his shirt and flexed his muscles.
Rare Scene Extension (2:20) are a few rough extra clips from scenes.
Bruce Lee v. Peter Thomas (2:25) explains how the German composer’s soundtrack ended up on a movie from Hong Kong.
Still Gallery has dozens of images from the production.

Fist of Fury Bonus Features
Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Mike Leeder remains informative.
Trailers (5:59) include an extra long international trailer and the American version that calls the film The Chinese Connection.
US TV Spot (2:21) has more hits in a minute than entire episode of The Streets of San Francisco. They use “Thus Spake Zarthustra
Alternate Title Sequence (7:30) is for The Chinese Connection. There’s also the English version for territories that wanted to keep it as Fist of Fury.
Alternate Ending (1:21) has “The End” wrap it up.
Remembering Fist of Fury (30:43) has two filmmakers discuss the impact the movie had on their approach to cinema.
Interview with Yuen Wah (9:39) lets him discuss playing the wicked Japanese guy who tells Bruce to get down on all four so he can play his dog. He was Bruce’s stunt double here and in Enter the Dragon.
Still Gallery is loaded.

Way of the Dragon Bonus Features

Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Mike Leeder explains what parts were made in Italy.
Trailers (2:10) include the version calling the film Return of the Dragon.
US TV Spot (0:26) ends with “Boy, can we use him now.”
Alternate Title Sequence (4:53) is for Return of the Dragon.
Celebrity Interviews: Sammo Hung, Simon Yam and Wong Jing (4:33) must have come from a bigger documentary. Sammo speaks of his on screen work with Bruce Lee
Kung Fu? Jon Been Remembers the Shooting of the Film (21:41) is an American actor who just moved to Hong Kong and found himself cast in the movie. He played a mafia boss. Best is his reaction to who would win in a fight between himself and Bruce.
Still Gallery

Game of Death Bonus Features
Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Mike Leeder breaks down the fake Bruces.
Game of Death Revisited (38:58) is the Game of Death that you really need to see. This is all the footage Bruce Lee shot for the film properly edited together. Bruce and his friends (James Tien & Chieh Yuan) go up only three levels for epic battles against Eskrima master Dan Inosanto, Hapkido master Ji Han Jae, and student Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is the movie that people expect to see when they rent Game of Death. These three fights rival Bruce’s battle with Chuck Norris in length and intensity.
Trailers (5:22) don’t explain that you won’t be seeing Bruce Lee as Bruce Lee in a majority of the film. They do promote the Oscar winners so as to let the audience think this will be a classy martial arts film with Gig Young and Dean Jagger.
Still Gallery is from both Bruce’s work and the salvage production.
Game of Death: Outtake Montage (3:38) are clips from Lee’s fights in the tower and not the fake Bruces.
Game of Death: Bloopers (2:59) are Bruce clowning it up and missing connections during the tower fight scenes.
Alternate Opening (1:56) has more little faces of Bruce covering the screen.
Alternate Endings (5:13) are a few variations of how things wrapped up.
Deleted Scenes (5:39) are from the second production. There’s a fight scene that does it’s best to shoot it with the fake Bruce’s back to the camera.
Game of Death: Locations (7:27) is a tour of the exterior locations from Clouse’s remake. Bruce’s version was done on a soundstage.

Bonus DVD
Game of Death Revised (28:46) lets Bob Wall give the real story about the salvage job. He has zero respect for director Robert Clouse. This includes a great tale of how he taught the director a lesson for spreading a rumor that Bruce was going to kill Bob on camera. Besides being a Karate champion Bob is a very successful real estate dealer. Bob is full of amazing stories about how he walked away from a movie contract after his wife pointed out acting would destroy their marriage.
Way of the Dragon (13:38) bring back Bob Wall to talk about his movie debut. He tagged along with Chuck Norris to check out the film. Bruce wanted Bob also to take part in the action. Bob gives great details about the Rome production.
Master of the Game with Dan Inosanto (25:12) talks with the actor from Game of Death. He explains his time on the semi-abandoned film.
Legacy of the Dragon (46:48) is a documentary about Bruce’s life from 2001.
The Grandmaster and The Dragon: William Cheung and Bruce Lee (54:37) deals with the legend and his mentor. Cheung’s life is not the one featured in the new movie The Grandmaster. Wing Chun from Grandmaster was influential on both Cheung and Bruce. Kareem Adbul-Jabbar highly recommends the movie.
Return of the Dragon in 60 Seconds (1:00) is a new movie’s trailer.
Bruce Lee Remembered: New Interviews with (50:55) features Anthony Delongis, Byron Mann, Dustin Nguyen, Director Gareth Evans, and Jason McNeil
Fist of Fury Interviews: Nora Miao, Riki Hashimoto, and Jun Katsumura (43:21) has three major cast members recount their time on the set. Nora also appeared in Big Boss and Way of the Dragon.
Still Gallery covers nearly every aspect of his movie career in photographs.

I Am Bruce Lee Bonus

Backyard Training (11:26) are Bruce Lee’s personal films of his workouts. The two finger push ups are amazing.
Inspiration (3:11) lets Linda discuss her time sparring with her husband during demonstrations.
Bruce Lee In Action (4:50) captures his greatest beatdown moments.
Theatrical Trailer (1:41) prepares you for the legacy of Bruce Lee explored in I Am Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee’s Hollywood Audition (9:02) is for his shot at the Charlie Chan TV series that never happened. The screen test did land him the Kato role in The Green Hornet. He talks about taking care of the baby Brandon Lee.

Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection is what fans of the legendary actor/fighter have always desired.

Shout! Factory presents Bruce lee: The Legacy Collection. Directed by: Bruce Lee, Robert Clouse and Lo Wie. Starring: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Gig Young and Bob Wall. Boxset Contents: 4 films on 4 Blu-ray Discs and 7 DVDs. Rating: R. Released: October 22, 2013.

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