Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Deluxe Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 2 - 2.35:1 (non-16x9 Enhanced), Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1993 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Rob Cohen (Director
Running Time
121:24 Minutes
(Not 114 Minutes as stated on packaging) 
Other Extras Introduction by Linda Lee Cadwell
Menu Audio
Featurette - The Making Of Dragon (6:11)
Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Storyboard Sequences (5)
Featurette - Jason Scott Lee Screen Test (3:39)
Featurette - Outtakes (5:17)
Featurette - Interview With Bruce Lee (7:11)
Picture Gallery - Dragon Promotional Materials
Production Photographs
Bruce Lee Photographs
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (63:21)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Rob Cohen

Columbia Tristar Home Video
Starring Jason Scott Lee
Lauren Holly
Nancy Kwan
Robert Wagner
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $39.95 Music Randy Edelman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Polish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    If you have seen any films that star such people as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, or Dolph Lundgren, to name just a few, then you have seen Bruce Lee's influence at work. While Bruce was not the first martial arts action star, he was one of the first to break into the Hollywood market, and certainly the most influential. Today, he is survived by his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, who wrote the biography this film is based on, as well as a son who died as the result of an accident on the set of The Crow, and a less famous daughter named Shannon who makes a cameo appearance in this film. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is a dramatization of Bruce's life story, and only has a polite relationship with the facts. Linda's view of Bruce tends to gloss over the negative side to his personality, but this is somewhat important to the film. Instead of a clinical biography, this film concentrates more on entertaining the viewer with a compelling version of a legendary man's life story. How well it succeeds with each individual viewer is dependent on two things. First of all, the more you expect to see hard facts about Bruce Lee, the more you will be disappointed. Secondly, the more you expect to see a large-scale action movie, again, the more you will be disappointed. Dragon sits on the fence between a drama about a man who succeeds in spite of many obstacles (including his own death) and a romance about a woman who will stand by him in spite of everything.

    The film begins with some sequences in Hong Kong that depict Bruce being trained in the art of Kung Fu. Bruce, or Little Dragon as he is known at this point (I think his given name was Chinese for Little Dragon, but that is how he is called in the subtitles, in any case), soon finds himself in serious trouble with the British authorities after severely injuring one British sailor in the process of defending a young woman and her honour. Soon, Bruce is sent to America with the assumed identity of Bruce Lee (Jason Scott Lee). While there, Bruce negotiates situation after situation through use of the skills attained from the vigorous martial arts training of his childhood, and meets his future wife, Linda (Lauren Holly), in the process. Eventually, some of the Americans he is attending university with ask him if he will train them in his style of martial arts. This doesn't sit well with the Kung Fu grandmasters, and Bruce eventually finds himself facing an angry organization who pit him against a rather nasty opponent in the ring. Essentially, if he can defeat this opponent using his martial arts skills, then they will not interfere with him training his students in the art of kung fu. The bout leaves Bruce in a hospital bed, where he undergoes a rather extended period of rehabilitation, all the while dictating notes about a new style of martial arts of his own design to Linda. After another sequence in the ring in which Bruce demonstrates the effectiveness of his newly developed style, he is contacted by a Hollywood producer (Robert Wagner), who asks the immortal question of whether Bruce can do his fighting magic on camera.

    Most of Bruce's life story after this point is fairly well known, and it is pointless to repeat it here, except to say that during the production of Enter The Dragon, Bruce began collapsing because his brain was swelling. Although I do not know the exact term for this condition, it is also well-known that shortly before Enter The Dragon was released, Bruce slipped into a coma and died. The voice-over at the end of the film explains these facts in a certain overly dramatic fashion, but it is the best summation I've ever heard of the plot: "Three weeks before the opening of Enter The Dragon, the film that brought him international fame, Bruce fell into a mysterious coma and died. He was thirty-two. Over twenty-five thousand people attended his funeral in Hong Kong, but I buried him back home in America to be close to us. All these years later, people still wonder about the way he died. I prefer to remember the way he lived." This is what makes Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story work so well: it does not restrict itself to being just another martial arts flick. It treats us to spectacular fight sequences, a compelling love story, and a drama about a man who accomplished more in a short lifetime than most people do in a very long one. Another area where it scores an extra point is the involvement of people who personally knew Bruce Lee, and we're not just talking about his widow (Robert Wagner is one such person, and Jerry Poteet, who taught Jason Scott Lee how to execute the fight sequences, was trained by Lee himself). In plot terms, this is a very worthy addition to anyone's film collection.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. This makes a complete joke of the 'Deluxe Collector's Edition' tag on the cover. How can a film be a collectible piece when it is incompatible with the way that all televisions will be designed in the very near future? 4:3 shaped televisions are on their way out, Universal, and they will be completely phased out (according to the government's timetable) less than ten years from now! This omission is not acceptable on DVD at all, and this is especially the case for a DVD that bears the unnecessary tag of "Deluxe Collector's Edition". A note to Columbia Tristar: you've raised the price of your entire range to forty dollars regardless of the quality, so why bother using this insulting moniker on any title now? Anyway, while the resolution of this transfer is not anywhere near as bad as that of The Thing, it certainly would have looked better if it had been 16x9 Enhanced. Details in the nightmare sequences are particularly unclear, but this appears to be because of the manner in which they were photographed. The picture is very sharp in spite of the lack of enhancement, although details in the background of any shot had a tendency to become blurred. Shadow detail ranged from being average to good, but was again somewhat hampered by the lack of enhancement. Thankfully, low-level noise, a problem that plagued the VHS version of this film in the few night-time sequences, was absent.

    The colour saturation was variable, and there are moments in the same shot where skin tones change dramatically, but thankfully these problems are occasional. Most of the time, thankfully, the colour saturation is balanced and accurate, although at times it appears to be slightly oversaturated due to the excessive amount of yellow in some skin tones (even some non-Asian actors show a touch of this at times). Perhaps I am slightly oversensitive to this problem, but sometimes I got the feeling that the intensity of certain colours like red and yellow were a little too high. MPEG artefacts were absent from the presentation, but film-to-video artefacts were noticeable in spite of their rarity. During the sequence in which Bruce fights for the right to teach Kung Fu to whomever he wants, one man's shirt shows such a massive moiré effect that you'd have to be blind to miss it. This is certainly not the only moiré or aliasing effect shown by people's clothes during the film, but it is definitely the most noticeable. This artefact is especially troubling because it should not have shown up on a DVD in this manner, regardless of the circumstances. This is another effect that I believe would have been erased if the film had been 16x9 Enhanced. Film artefacts consisted of a film spot or two every now and then, but I've certainly seen younger films display this artefact with more frequency.

    Normally I would not comment about the subtitles, but I have to commend whomever Universal employed to subtitle this film, because they have carried on a fine tradition of actually making the subtitles match the dialogue. However, the lack of vertical resolution in this film makes the ending credits very strenuous to read. How strenuous? Let's put it this way: when I start complaining that something is hard to read or hard on the eyes, it means that people with the best kind of eyesight will make similar complaints.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change coming in at 63:21, while Linda is sitting in a hospital waiting room. It is a noticeable layer change, but it is not in the slightest bit disruptive to the film. Although the extent to which you will notice the change is dependent on your player, suffice to say that the Toshiba DVD player I viewed this film on makes the layer change hard to notice. This would be one of the best layer changes I have seen on a Universal DVD, especially compared to films like The Thing and Darkman, where the layer change was placed in the middle of an action or in the middle of a conversation.


    While the video transfer may be somewhat disappointing because of one or two holdbacks, the audio transfer certainly isn't. The audio transfer is presented in a large variety of languages and sound formats, and unlike other Universal titles such as Casino, the packaging accurately lists them all. In the Dolby Digital 5.1 format, we have the original English dialogue. In Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, we have a choice between German, French, Italian, and Spanish. In Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, we have Czechoslovakian, a language that I find unusual to be included on a Region 4 DVD. Finally, in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, we have Polish. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, while I sampled the Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded mix for curiosity purposes. The dialogue is perfectly clear most of the time, although the heavy accents in the speech of some characters caused some minor listening difficulties. A small proportion of the dialogue is rendered in Chinese, which sounds as cluttered and incoherent as ever, but it is thankfully accompanied by subtitles. Audio sync during the English dialogue was completely spot-on, but the Chinese dialogue occasionally seemed to be badly dubbed. In any case, the dialogue is not going to be any cause for concern.

    The score music by Randy Edelman was very supportive of the on-screen action, especially the more emotional moments such as the voice-over summation of the story at the end of the film. Although the score music is not very distinctive, I feel it is one of the most complementary film scores in how it relates to the film that I have heard in recent years. The director's commentary has a couple of very complimentary things to say about the score music, and I certainly cannot argue with them. The music lifts the dramatic element of many scenes in this film, such as Bruce's dictation of his martial arts theories to Linda, and the aforementioned ending. The love theme that appears as Bruce wheels his way into Linda's room is easily one of the best of its kind. This score is amazing, especially given the fact that the film does not lend a lot of support to musical development. A lot of use is made of traditional oriental instruments at some points, but the score functions more as a whole than as the sum of the parts.

    The surround presence of this film is very immersive, with many ambient and directional sounds sent to the surround channels. The haunted screaming sounds in the demon sequences are particularly well mixed in this soundfield, and the sounds coming from off-camera sources benefit quite well, too. Offhand, I would say that this surround mix is enough to make up for the shortcomings of the video transfer. The sound of patrons chanting various niceties during his fight before the Karate association is well placed enough to make it feel like actually being there. The subwoofer was well used to support the fight sequences and some moments involving bass-heavy sequences such as parts of Bruce's year in traction.


    Unlike the other film I have reviewed with the Deluxe Collector's Edition moniker on it, the extras on this disc justify the tag.


    The menu is themed around the film, with music from the film presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and without 16x9 Enhancement. Like all Universal menus, it is somewhat counter-intuitive to navigate, although this one isn't nearly as bad as others I have seen.

Introduction by Linda Lee Cadwell

    This is encoded as part of the main feature as the first chapter. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This really should have been left out of the main feature and presented in the extras menu, as it scares the viewer into believing that they are going to be watching an artefact-riddled mess. It is also not mentioned on the packaging, except in the chapter listing on the inside of the cover.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies of Jason Scott Lee, Lauren Holly, Nancy Kwan, Robert Wagner, and director Rob Cohen are provided for your reading pleasure. They are worthy of a few reads, but nothing particularly interesting.

Featurette - The Making Of Dragon

    Nothing more than an extended featurette, although it is much more entertaining than some other extended featurettes I could mention.

Theatrical Trailers

    Selecting this option under the extra features menu plays back the two theatrical trailers for the film, neither of which do anything to dispel the popular myth that this is a martial arts flick. They are both presented at 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The first of these trailers lasts for one minute and twenty-two seconds, the other for two minutes and four seconds.

Production Notes

    Very informative production notes are included that detail such things as what led Rob Cohen to make the film, and what led to the choice of Jason Scott Lee to play Bruce Lee. Similarly, the production notes inform us that the former is not in any way related to the latter. These are definitely worth the effort of reading, and some of the best notes of this variety I have seen simply because they do not bore the viewer with uninteresting crap.

Commentary - Rob Cohen (Director)

    Rob Cohen talks about such topics as the methods he used to get the best out of his actors and the script, and which parts of the film are actually factual. His explanation for ending the fight before the martial arts council with Bruce Lee's being put in traction is a very interesting one that you wouldn't normally think of if you hadn't heard the commentary before. Cohen rarely pauses, so much so that you really notice when he does, and if you enjoy this film as much as I have grown to, then you'll be very interested in what he has to say. Nonetheless, this is not a commentary track you can listen to every day due to the fact that the sole speaker is very easy to memorize.

Picture Gallery - Dragon Promotional Materials; Production Photographs; Bruce Lee Photographs; Storyboard Sequences (5)

    I've combined these extras into one heading for the simple reason that they are identical except in content. These are all presented as unannotated collections of stills, and are of dubious value because of this lack of annotation. I don't believe these particular features are of any real value at all.

Featurette - Jason Scott Lee Screen Test (3:39)

    This is a demonstration of the new-found martial arts abilities that Jason Scott Lee specifically acquired for use in this film. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It has commentary by Rob Cohen that cannot be turned off, but I suspect that the sound, like the footage without this commentary, would be of little interest.

Featurette - Outtakes (5:17)

    This is a presentation of some outtakes from the sequence in which Bruce fights before the Karate association. It has no annotation of any kind, but it is worth looking at for a laugh or two.

Featurette - Interview With Bruce Lee (7:11)

    This is a black-and-white presentation of an interview with Bruce Lee that appeared a long, long time ago on what would appear to be Hong Kong television. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio that appears to simply be a mono source separated into two channels.


    Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is another example of distributor laziness allowing Australia to suffer some other country's ridiculous censorship laws. Approximately twenty-eight seconds of footage were removed from the UK home video version of the film, and they were not restored when Universal decided to create a Region 4 disc for distribution in this country.

R4 vs R1

    For the most part, the two versions of this disc appear to be identical. Both of them feature video without 16x9 Enhancement, and both of them have the same amount of extras, right down to the unmentioned introduction by Linda Lee Cadwell. Given that the disc retails for around thirty-five dollars in American funds, you will have to find a place to buy it from that offers a good discount if you really are that anxious to see what this film would look like in NTSC and without 16x9 Enhancement to boot. Ugh.


    Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is presented on a very good disc which is let down only by the absence of a very essential feature. Forty dollars for a DVD that is not enhanced to take advantage of the shape that all television sets will be in the next decade is not on.

    The video quality is good, but the lack of 16x9 Enhancement introduces flaws that deny it reference status.

    Aside from an extremely minor quibble with a very small portion of the dialogue, this is a reference-quality audio transfer.

    The collection of extras is excellent in quantity, and the quality is mostly a match.

    A note to Universal: this disc is denied Hall Of Fame status only by the fact that you seem to regard 16x9 Enhancement as being unnecessary for a format that was designed to widen the screen rather than throw lines out of the image. Smarten your act up or get the hell out of the market.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
March 17, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer