Way of the Dragon, The (Meng Long Guojiang) (Blu-ray) (1972)

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Released 4-Jan-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Audio Commentary-Hong Kong film expert Mike Leeder
Trailer-Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-US TV Spot
More…-Alternative Title Sequence (4:54)
Featurette-Celebrity Interviews (4:34)
Featurette-Kung Fu? Jon Benn Remembers the Shooting of the Film
Gallery-Still Gallery (3:05)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 99:12 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bruce Lee
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Bruce Lee
Nora Miao
Chuck Norris
Ping-Ao Wei
Chung-Hsin Huang
Robert Wall
Ing-Sik Whang
Lau Wing
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Joseph Koo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded Mandarin Dolby Digital 1.0
Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Cantonese Dolby Digital 1.0
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 1.0
English Dolby Digital 1.0
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Country bumpkin Tang Long (Bruce Lee) travels from Hong Kong to Rome where the Chinese restaurant owned by Qing Hua (Nora Miao) and managed by Uncle Wang (Wang Chung Hsin) is being threatened by thugs controlled by the Boss (Jon T Benn) who wants to buy the restaurant for a development. Tang’s kung fu proves superior and he quickly dispatches the thugs. To challenge Tang the Boss sends for the best Japanese karate fighter (actually Korean Whang Ing-sik), the European champion (Robert Wall) and foremost US fighter Colt (Chuck Norris), a summons which culminates in a fight to the death between Tang and Colt in the Colosseum.

     Bruce Lee’s star power was so much on the ascendency in Hong Kong that for The Way of the Dragon (Meng long guo jiang), only his third film, he not only produced, wrote, directed, starred, was action choreographer but was allowed to film in Rome as well. The result is decidedly uneven, as is frequently the case when one person has total creative control. For example, the first 30 minutes of the film are little more than a travelogue of some of Rome’s famous sites interspersed with attempts at humour based on the the country bumpkin adrift in a big city concept, such as Tang scaring a child, eating soup after being unable to read the menu or mistaking the advances of a prostitute. These scenes have not dated well, which cannot be said of the fabulous martial arts action sequences, such as Lee using double nunchakus to defeat a horde of thugs in an alley or the fight against Chuck Norris in the Coliseum, one of the most iconic fight scenes ever put on film. Over 40 years on, this is still a breathtaking and brutal fight; there are no quick cuts or fudged shots here, but long continuous filming, some in slow motion, showing two champion martial artists in their prime.

     The Way of the Dragon is Bruce Lee at the height of his powers. I think an extra guiding hand may have helped the film, for the story is minimal and the travelogue and forced humour are filler between fights. But what fights!! Indeed, even scenes of Lee just practising his kicks and routines beautifully display his power, speed and charisma. And there is nothing wrong with that!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Way of the Dragon is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p, using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     While close-ups are good, most mid and long shot exteriors are quite soft. The contrast when the film moves to an interior set is very marked. For example, the fuzzy travelogue shots of Rome contrast with the stunning set of Qing Hua’s flat when we first see it at 12:54; it is sharp with vibrant colours, especially the deep red of the carpet which is later repeated in the restaurant’s red carpet and the red uniforms of the staff. This is pretty much the case throughout the film; crisp interior sets and soft exteriors. Skin tones look natural, while the blacks and shadow detail is passable.

     Light grain is evident. I noticed no marks although there was some blur with motion against vertical lines, such as bars.

     American English subtitles are available in a clear white font. I did not notice any obvious errors; the subtitles remained on during the sections of English dialogue, however.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     This Blu-ray of The Way of the Dragon continues the trend of providing numerous audio options with which to watch the film:

     I listened to the Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1. Dialogue was clear but the music and the effects, including during the fights, were very front oriented with mostly music in the rears, plus occasional directional effects, such as doors closing. Punches and kicks sounded powerful however and the subwoofer did add some depth. I did not notice any annoying hiss or pops.

     The main score by Joseph Koo is cheesy and the film also used a section of Ennio Morricone’s score from Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), and, apparently in the English / Japanese track, something by John Barry from Diamonds are Forever (1971).

    Like all Hong Kong films of this period no dialogue was recorded on set. The lip synchronisation is dodgy at best.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary

     Hong Kong film expert Mike Leeder provides a continuous commentary which plays over the English dub. He talks about the humour in the film, identifies cast and crew and gives information about their subsequent careers noting films they were in, how the film was censored in the UK, Lee as director, Chuck Norris and that famous fight. Parts of the commentary sound as if it was recorded in an echo chamber but this is another decent commentary.

Trailers (2:12)

     Theatrical trailer for The Way of the Dragon.

US TV Spot (0:27)

Alternative Title Sequence (4:54)

     Two title sequences, both naming the film Return of the Dragon, with different logos and with a different colour scheme to that used in the film.

Celebrity Interviews (4:34)

     Impressions of Lee, in English, from

Kung Fu? Jon Benn Remembers the Shooting of the Film (9:40)

     Actor Jon Benn appeared in The Way of the Dragon and afterwards remained a friend of Lee. He talks about Lee as a person, provides anecdotes about the film shoot, remembers the death of Lee, his legacy and the impact of Lee on his own career. Well worth a listen.

Still Gallery (3:05)

     About 56 black and white / colour film and on set stills plus poster art from around the world. Silent, stills advance automatically.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This release of The Way of the Dragon is the same as the US Region A Shout Factory release although as far as I can see the US version is only available as part a box set Blu-ray / DVD collection. In Australia it can be bought stand-alone or as part of a four disk box which also includes The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Game of Death which I saw in Sanity for under $35. I call that a bargain.

Summary

     Every Bruce Lee film has its fans but I must say that The Way of the Dragon is not my favourite Lee film; it is plot light and some of the film is little more than a Rome travelogue interspersed with attempts at humour which are rather silly. Yet, the film is still a martial arts classic due to the fabulous action sequences, including that iconic fight against Chuck Norris in the Coliseum, as well as Lee’s charisma, speed, presence and fighting skills.

     The film looks reasonably good on this Blu-ray, the audio options are a joy for fans of the film. Extras are worthwhile and at the price this Blu-ray is a no brainer purchase for fans of Lee or anyone interested in the martial arts genre.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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