Way of the Dragon: Platinum Edition (Meng Long Guojiang) (1972)

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Released 19-Apr-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Introduction-Robert Lee
Audio Commentary-Bey Logan
Introduction-Bey Logan (Disc 2)
Featurette-Double Edged Sword: Interview With Bob Wall
Featurette-Memories Of The Master: Interview With Pat Johnson
Featurette-Warrior Immortal: Interview With Master Hwang In-Sik
Featurette-A Dragon Remembered: Interview With Robert Lee
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer
TV Spots
Trailer-Fist Of Fury, Armour Of God, Once Upon A Time In China
Trailer-Police Story, Iron Monkey
Gallery-Photo-Production Photos
Production Notes
Featurette-Dragon Rising: Bruce Lee Screen Test
Biographies-Cast
Featurette-Inside 'Way Of The Dragon': Interview With Chaplin Chang
Featurette-Artist & Warrior, Inside Way Of The Dragon: Louis Sit
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 94:30 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:22)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bruce Lee
Studio
Distributor
Fortune Star
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bruce Lee
Nora Miao
Chuck Norris
Ping-Ao Wei
Chung-Hsin Huang
Robert Wall
Ing-Sik Whang
Lau Wing
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Joseph Koo
John Barry
Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there is a more iconic scene in the history of martial arts cinema than the duel between Chuck Norris & Bruce Lee in the Colosseum, which concludes this film, I'm not sure what it would be. The only other scene which would come close would probably be the mirror room scene in Enter the Dragon. Although I have seen the Colosseum scene previously, I have not had the opportunity to see the complete and uncut version of this film. This was the third film Bruce Lee made as an adult star and it was his first as director. It was, oddly enough, originally to be called Enter The Dragon but an agreement was made for that title to be used for the American produced film. It was also know as Return of the Dragon, Fury of the Dragon & Revenge of the Dragon depending upon where you saw it. Interestingly, the commentary on the disc by Bey Logan goes into quite a bit of detail about what the Cantonese title actually means.

    Way of the Dragon or Meng Long Goujiang was the third of four films completed by Bruce Lee as an adult before his untimely death, although it was not actually released in the US until after Enter The Dragon, hence the Return of... title used. When it was released in the States it was made out to be a sequel to the other film, however it is quite obvious that the characters played by Bruce Lee are quite different. It was also cut quite significantly to remove the scene involving Bruce's visit to a prostitute and a lot of the early scenes which were humoruous and designed for Asian audiences. The film was also cut in the UK on initial release the remove Nunchaku and Rice Flails. This version is uncut and includes the slightly bizarre opening scenes involving Bruce trying to order some food but struggling to be understood by the English-speaking (!!) waitress at Rome airport. Obviously being one of only four films completed by the most famous martial artist ever makes this film of significant historic importance regardless of its quality. I suppose the quality of this film can be measured by two different methods; the quality of the movie including such things as plot and entertainment value and the quality of the martial arts action scenes which it is a vehicle for.

    Let's start by discussing the movie itself. The plot involves a young man from the New Territories in Hong Kong, Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) being sent to assist relatives of his who have set up a chinese restaurant in Rome. They are having trouble with the local organised crime boss (John Ben), as he wants to take over their restaurant and he sends his offsider, Mr Ho (Wei Ping Ao) to tell them he wants them out. The family Tang comes to assist include an attractive young lady, Ching-Hua Chen (Bruce Lee's regular leading lady, Nora Miao) and Uncle Wang (Wang Chung Hsin). The restaurant is staffed by a group of young chinese men who are learning Karate. These are played by various friends of Bruce including Lau Wing or Tony Lau who appears in all four of Bruce's adult films. The gangsters continue to raise the stakes by trying to force them to sell and reasonably Tang Lung fights back. When it becomes obvious that they will not defeat Tang Lung by normal methods, the boss (who is never named) calls in three foreign martial arts experts to fight Tang Lung. They are Fred (Robert Wall), a Japanese fighter (Whang Ing Sik who is actually Korean) and Colt (Chuck Norris). There is nothing overly complex about the plot but it moves forward at a reasonable pace and is punctuated by some great action scenes. Some people may find the start a little slow, however, this is a device used by Bruce to slowly build the audience's anticipation of when he will let loose. There is a minor twist at the end of the film, however, it doesn't change the outcome in any way. As a movie this film is not as strong as Enter the Dragon, but it was Bruce's first film as writer, director and producer. It should be noted that this was one of the first asian martial arts films partially shot in Europe, although the action scenes were shot in Hong Kong.

    So, what about the action scenes? To my mind this film includes some of the greatest martial arts action scenes committed to celluloid, certainly in terms of this style of martial arts film. It could be argued that films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero have scenes which are more spectacular or grand, however, if you are looking for straight fight scenes this is definitely one of the best I have seen. Personally, I prefer the scene involving Bruce, Robert Wall and Whang Ing Sik to the final fight scene in the colosseum from a straight action perspective but many will not agree. Both scenes are excellent as is the nunchaku scene in the alley behind the restaurant. This film is a must for all serious fans of martial arts cinema in terms of the action scenes.

    This release is the Hong Kong Legends - Platinum Edition as previously released in Region 2. The film itself is introduced by Robert Lee, Bruce's younger brother.

    A must own film for fans of martial arts cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is not spectacular, however most of the issues can be blamed on the source material. Having said that there is a version available in Region 3 which, at least according to reports I have read, is significantly better in terms of video quality.

    The feature is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Auto Pan & Scan information is also included if you really need to get rid of the black bars.

    The picture was variable in terms of its clarity and sharpness and there was one incident of low level noise at 57:23. The shadow detail is pretty good, especially for a low budget film of this age. A section of the film starting at approximately the three minute mark was quite soft indeed. This runs for approximately 3 or 4 minutes. It would seem to be a source material problem, possibly related to the focus of the original camera work. There is also some degree of grain. Comparisons of  the general sharpness that I have seen show others versions to be significantly better, although still not spectacular. For details, refer to the Region comparison section below.

    The colour was reasonable but somewhat dull and the apperance of overexposure at times. Again, colour comparisons to other releases reveal that better versions are available.

    There were very few film artefacts in terms of specks or lines, however there were some jumps (such as that seen at 10:01), and some areas where the exposure seemed to change suddenly such as at 65:50 and 77:42. From a film-to-video artefact perspective there was some telecine wobble on show at 43:50 and other places. There is some edge enhancement and quite a bit of aliasing, such as during the opening credits, the roof at 2:20, beads at 11:40, couch at 12:22, shutters at 24:35, lights at 39:26, car grille at 71:33 and other examples. I did not notice any significant MPEG artefacts which reflects the high bitrate of the transfer.

    There are subtitles in English & English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitles are clear and easy to read.

    The layer change occurs at 55:22 and caused a slight pause.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is quite good, however this disc contains only a Cantonese dub and an English dub, neither of which is in the original mono. It should be noted that when this film was shot no on set voices or sounds where recorded, with all languages being dubbed subsequently. Accordingly, I personally find it hard to get excited about this disc not including a Mandarin version. Other comparisons I have read of the various regional releases indicate that this is a major flaw.

    This DVD contains two audio options, a Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, both encoded at 448 Kb/s. The Cantonese soundtrack is only in Cantonese for the Chinese actors, with other voices being in English (some of them supposedly dubbed by Bruce Lee himself). I would guess this is not the version shown in Hong Kong cinemas, but I'm only guessing. The English dubbed version is different and the dubbing of the Cantonese actors differs significantly from  the subtitles in the Cantonese version. It is my understanding that this release is the only one to include an English dub for the entire uncut version of the film. The dub is not too bad, compared to some, but its still a dub and I personally preferred the Cantonese version even though a fair amount is in English anyway.

    Dialogue was quite clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film is credited to Joseph Koo and I have read that this was the first Hong Kong action movie to have a purpose written score. Having said that, I have also read that bits of the score used in this film are taken directly from scores by John Barry and Ennio Morricone. However, this may apply just to the English dubbed version released in the US. In any regard, I enjoyed the music especially the opening credits.

    The surround speakers really only added some atmosphere and spread some of the music around. There were no obvious directional effects.

     The subwoofer did not really seem to get much use.

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

Extras

    This is the strength of this version of Way of the Dragon. None of the other region releases have much in the way of extras unless you buy the R3 box set of all Bruce's films which has an extra disc of extras. There is quite a bit of interesting stuff here, although it is a bit too interview focussed. Different types of extras would have helped mix it up, but regardless the extras presented here are generally of very good quality. All of the interviews include some footage from the films, however they are mostly just a subject talking directly to camera. Nearly all of the extras are 16x9 enhanced.

Menu

    The menu included an intro, motion, music, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles. Generally, a classy menu, without anything that particularly stands out. One point of annoyance is the excessive number and length of the studio promos which you must sit through as the disc loads and before you are allowed to watch the film. There are three that run for approxomately 30 seconds.

Disc 1

Commentary - Bey Logan, Hong Kong Film Geek

    A truly excellent commentary. Bey Logan talks non-stop and covers a wide variety of incredibly detailed and interesting trivia and information about the film. About 40 minutes in he is joined by John Ben, the actor who played the boss in the film. Bey discusses the meaning of the title in Cantonese, the development of the project and how it relates to Enter the Dragon, how this film influenced Hong Kong cinema generally, casting, technical information and the fight scenes. There are also interesting anecdotes about Bruce and his relationship with Raymond Chow and much more. John Ben is also interesting and he discusses his relationship with Bruce and his role. Why can't there be more commentaries like this and less boring studio controlled ones??!!

Disc 2

Introduction to the Disc (3:54)

    Bey Logan introduces the film sitting in the Queen's cinema in Hong Kong. This is the cinema where the film originally premiered. He discusses the film's importance and Bruce's plans to remake it for Western audiences.

Interview Gallery

    This section includes four interviews as follows:

Promotional Archive

    This section includes various items of promotional material as follows:

Information Library

    This section includes various text based essays and one featurette as follows:

The Hong Kong Connection

    This section includes three interviews as follows:

 

 

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    As usual with Hong Kong films, there are many different choices available for this film in different regions. The Region 1 release can be discounted immediately as it is the cut version of the film.There are a number of other version around although the mostly have no extras. The only other one which is worth considering is the Region 3 IVL/Fortune Star edition, which is included in a seven disc box set, and does not seem to be available separately. This should not be confused with the Region 3 Korean Box Set by Spectrum. The Fortune Star version misses out on the following

    This version of this disc misses out on;

    So it comes down to whether you want the best video quality or the extras included here. A consideration is also that the IVL disc does not seem to be available separately from the box set. Considering this I will give the nod to this Region 4 version with the acceptance that the video quality is not optimal. Obviously, the choice of what to buy is up to you.

Summary

    The video quality is decent but is not the best available.

    The audio quality is good.

    The set has a large collection of extras, mostly of excellent quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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