The Way of the Dragon1972.
Directed by Bruce Lee.
With Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Paul Wei, Huang Chung-hsin, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Chuck Norris, Malisa Longo, Robert Wall, Hwang In-shik and Jon T. Benn.
Bruce Lee’s classic The Way of the Dragon gets the “Films of Fury” treatment from Umbrella Entertainment on Blu-ray from all regions along with a healthy collection of bonus material. The movie doesn’t appear to have been remastered for this release, but the visual quality is acceptable, and you can accept the hisses and pops on the audio track as little bits of nostalgia for those of you who grew up watching movies. kung fu movies in the 1970s.
Australia-based Umbrella Entertainment continued its “Films of Fury” line with the series’ third all-region Blu-ray, Bruce Lee’s only full-length director’s film, The Way of the Dragon. With Chuck Norris in his first on-screen role, The Way of the Dragon was also the last of Lee’s films to be released during his lifetime.
The plot of this one is quite simple: Lee plays Tang Lung, who has been sent from Hong Kong to Rome to help a restaurant threatened by a crime syndicate. The criminals want the property the restaurant is on, so they sent some of their thugs to scare the customers and try to force the owner to give it to them. The staff begins to learn karate as a means of defending the company.
Lee takes on Tang’s role as someone who is a country hoodlum so unfamiliar with city lifestyles that he thinks he has to squat over the toilet to use the bathroom. . The restaurant staff don’t think of him as they simply observe their tactics when he arrives, but when Tang confronts a group of thugs alone, they insist that he train them.
Tang and the restaurant staff’s ability to defend themselves angers the local crime boss, who sends a fighter named Colt (Chuck Norris) to end the resistance once and for all. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a decisive final fight to the death between Tang and Colt in Rome’s famous Colosseum.
Lee’s desire with The Way of the Dragonwhich was published as The return of the dragon in the United States, was to inject some humor into the traditional action movie formula by portraying his character as a fish out of water. He is so distraught that he goes home with a woman and runs away in confusion when she undresses. This footage is a bit random and only seems to serve as an excuse to show Italian model Malisa Longo topless, but I confess that as a teenager who was lucky enough to see an uncensored copy of the film, I enjoyed the moment. As a middle-aged guy, I now find that a bit silly, much like Tang’s repeated visits to the bathroom at the start of the story.
However, you don’t watch a Bruce Lee movie for nuanced character moments. You watch it to see one of the greatest martial artists in history perform at the peak of his abilities. As Australian director Brian Trenchard-Smith says in the Trailers From Hell bonus feature on this disc, you have to wonder what else he would have achieved had he not died at a tragically young age. Not only was he at his physical peak, but he was also beginning to hone his abilities as a director and screenwriter.
If you’re not familiar with Trailers From Hell, it’s a series that features various filmmakers who present and then talk about trailers. In this instance, Trenchard-Smith not only discusses his thoughts on Lee and the film, but also the place of the two in film history. The trailer he is talking about is one of three found on this disc; one of the others is a 4K remaster of the original trailer, which looks amazing. As far as I know, the movie hasn’t been remastered for this release – it looks a bit faded, and there’s quite a bit of hiss and pops on the audio track.
Additionally, Umbrella debuted two alternate versions of the opening credits when the film was called The return of the dragonas well as a nearly two-hour documentary titled Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks and 7.5 minutes of interviews with director Sammo Hung, actor/producer/director Simon Yam, actor Paul Pui, actor/producer/director/screenwriter Wong Jing, actor Flora Cheong, director and actor Clarence Fok and stuntman Rocky Lai. All have worked with Lee or have relevant ideas about him, given their ties to the Hong Kong film industry.
Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicksdirected by Australian filmmaker Serge Ou, traces the history of kung fu films beginning with Shaw Brothers, described as “the death star of Hong Kong film studios” at its height in the 1960s and 1970. The 1967 Hong Kong workers’ riots are also featured here, as well as the strong influence these films had on Hollywood and American moviegoers in the 1970s. (As someone who grew up in the 70s, I remember how important kung fu movies were in general, and Lee’s legacy in particular.)
Hung reappears here, along with many others who were either connected to the Hong Kong film scene or enjoyed it from afar. Bruce Lee gets his due, of course, as does Jackie Chan and others who were able to walk the trail he blazed. However, Jet Li is absent and the documentary does not return to modern Hong Kong films, which is curious since its release in 2019. What is here, however, is still worth watching.
A gallery of stills completes the set. There is also a collectible postcard inside the Blu-ray case.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★