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Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Bruce-Lee-Legacy-CollectionThis year marks the 40th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s big Hollywood film debut, Enter The Dragon.  Of course it was his only true Hollywood film, as he died just a month before its premiere.  His personal filmography may be very light, but his legacy is one of the largest Hollywood has ever seen.  He inspired an entire generation of action films, bringing the kung fu genre to the forefront.  There have been many imitators and many trying to become take what he started to a whole new level.  Not only did he have, still to this day, an amazing physique but also an amazing mixed martial arts skill set to break wide open the fight scenes in his films.  Before getting his big Hollywood break, Bruce had moved back to Hong Kong and started making kung fu films there which later became big hits in other countries.  To celebrate 40 years of Bruce’s biggest film, Shout! Factory is releasing The Legacy Collection, gathering his first 3 films that led to Enter The Dragon and Lee’s final appearance Game Of Death.  Also, this set is chalk full of extras, including 3 feature length documentaries.

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The Big Boss 

Bruce Lee’s debut in a lead role.  The film has him as a fresh face in town who works for an ice factory.  When it’s discovered that it’s a front for heroin smuggling, he must deal with the temptation of corruption and attacks to keep him quiet.  Lee hangs in the shadows for much of his debut, holding back until he ultimately lets loose.  It’s a gritty a grimy film, producing some cool fights with old school cheap gore.  It’s a solid film with a very grindhouse feel.

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Fist Of Fury

The second feature has Lee hell-bent on revenge following the death of his master.  This is my favorite of the films included in the set.  The film showcases Lee taking on different disguises and trying to bring a unique aspect to each fight.  The sets, especially the finale are quite memorable.  This one’s US title, The Chinese Connection was used to try and jump on the hype and success of the The French Connection.  The films have absolutely nothing in common with each other.

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The Way Of The Dragon

Bruce Lee makes his directorial debut and it kind of shows.  This film feels a little bit self indulgent, focusing a lot of Lee’s physicality and attempting to showcase a funny side with jokes that fall pretty flat.  Also, there’s a lot of this film shot poorly as well.  However, it’s a very fun film and definitely his most colorful.  After the film finally gets into its main plot, it starts cooking.  This film is most known for its highlight fight with action and martial arts legend Chuck Norris.  It also seems the basis for many parodies as it has the “restaurant being bullied by local mobsters” storyline.

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Game Of Death

The final film of Bruce Lee only really has him in it for about 11 minutes.  Lee had shot footage for this, but never completed it before his death.  So, postmortem, a film was made surrounding this footage trying to put it to good use.  What results is a much more competently directed and produced film than the other three.  Every single bit of dialogue in this film feels superfluous and over expositional, but this is actually a pretty fun film.  Where they stick Bruce’s image and stuff is pretty obvious and hokey, but you can giggle and get past that.  The score is really good for this one too and it and the credits feel like the sister piece to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (which may not be coincidental as Lee was friends with George Lazenby and John Barry composed the film).  This is obviously not what Bruce Lee intended, but it’s a very memorable and fun film nonetheless.

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Video

The Big Boss 

Fist Of Fury 

Way Of The Dragon 

Game Of Death 

All the films in the Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection are brought to you in their original aspect of 2.35:1 with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode.  Most of the prints of these films haven’t had been handled with the best of care of the years.  Many of them passed around to countless theaters.  Having seen different DVD versions over the year (mostly in bargain bins), I can confidently say that these are a noticeable step up from what has been available before.  However, if you’ve never seen these films before on home video or not in a long time, you may mistake what you’re getting as poor quality or just a straight DVD transfer.  This is not the case, I assure you.

All of the films feature some noticeable specs, scratches and streaks.  Game Of Death fares the best as it was the most Hollywood of all the productions.  Way Of The Dragon is the weakest of all the presentations and most of that could be due to source deficiencies and this new HD transfer is just accentuating them more.  I say that because there’s a lot of shots that are entirely out of focus and very soft throughout the film.  The Big Boss is overall “ok” but there is some really noticeable print damage, especially during one night sequence where the wear on the film is pretty prominent.  However, Big Boss does feature some really impressive work in some close-up shots.

These films have never looked better than this.  In saying that, these aren’t a quartet of films showcasing the best of what Blu-ray has to offer.  I give Shout! Factory all the credit in the world as this was likely at grand challenge to endure (especially for the first 3 films).  It likely would take an incredibly expensive and lengthy restoration process to get these films to some pristine level.  And likely, no studio is going to undertake that.  The films themselves are passable enough as to not be a worry for anyone interested in purchasing this set.

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Audio

The Big Boss 

Fist Of Fury 

Way Of The Dragon 

Game Of Death 

Many audio options supplant each of these four films.  The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks on each disc are easily the winner.  While the dialogue is on the lighter end, the effects for the fights are at their best.  The score and effects are at a nice loud volume.  The biggest difference between the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and the others is its use of the subwoofer.  There is plenty of “oompf” that is lacking on the other tracks and provided fully for the English DTS-HD MA 5.1  The mono tracks would probably place second.  The dialogue is nice, clear and crisp.  And there’s a sense of charm with the hissing sound of a record lightly behind the tracks.  While I’m one who tends to prefer to watch a film in its native language, I must say that there is some greater enjoyment in watching these films with dubbed English.  Maybe its nostalgic, but there’s a little more charm to it.

The Big Boss – Original Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS Mono, Cantonese Mono, Rare Original English Dub (Never Heard Before)

Fist Of Fury – Original Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Original English Mono, Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Original Cantonese Mono

Way Of The Dragon – Original Mandarin Mono, Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Original English Mono, Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Original Cantonese Mono, English Mono (Japanese Theatrical)

Game Of Death – English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English Mono, English Mono (Japanese Theatrical)

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Extras 

This 11 disc set is absolutely loaded.  It has the big book style packaging that also includes a photo booklet documenting Lee’s career.  While there is some repetition in some material the details are always fresh and different (or told by someone different).  Shout! Factory has decided to include any possible documentary or interview they could with this.  And good on them for that.  I’d rather have too much material than not enough.  In addition to the Blu-rays, the set comes with a DVD copy of the films as well.  Each film is supplied with a commentary from Hong Kong film expert Mike Leeder.  Leeder provides plenty of info and context throughout.  However, the quality of his audio sounds as if it was taken from a cell phone or a poor quality internet stream.  Nonetheless, it’s very listenable and very recommended.  All supplemental material on the Blu-ray discs is displayed in 1080p MPEG-4 AVC with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.  Any Bruce Lee novice should leave this set an absolute expert.

Disc 1&2: The Big Boss

  • Trailers (17:27)
  • US TV Spot (1:15) – A US tv commercial for The Big Boss
  • Alternate Title Sequence (4:45) – Slightly different opening titles for the film, showcasing the US title of the film Fists Of Fury
  • Alternate Finale (0:43) – A slightly different take on the end to final fight in the film
  • Return To Pak Chong: The Big Boss Revisited (9:26) – Actor and martial artist Daniel Whyte does a Q&A about his visit to the locations of The Big Boss in modern day and Bruce Lee’s influence on him in life.
  • Bruce Lee: The Early Years (13:51) – An interview with legendary martial arts and stuntman supreme Gene Lebell about meeting Bruce on The Green Hornet to training and working on movies with him.
  • Interview With Tung Wai (2:37) – A brief interview with martial artist Tung Wai
  • Rare Scene Extensions (2:22) – These are some added bits of dialogue and actions not seen in the film
  • Bruce Lee Vs Peter Thomas (2:27) – A short vignette about how the composer came to be on the film.
  • Still Galleries – 66 photos including behind the scenes, publicity stills, posters and lobby cards

Disc 3&4: Fist Of Fury

  • Trailers (4:10)
  • US TV Spot (2:22) – A US TV promo for the film as The Chinese Connection
  • Alternate Title Sequence (7:31) – The alternate opening titles using the US rendition of the film with the title The Chinese Connection.
  • Alternate Ending (1:23) – The film’s ending without any onscreen text.
  • Remembering Fist Of Fury (30:45) – Actor Jason Tobin and director Isaac Florentine discuss the film and Bruce’s influence on film.  Tobin discusses him and Justin Lin working on the underrated comedy Finishing The Game.
  • Interview With Yuen Wah (9:40) – And interview with a Bruce Lee stunt double and often used extra.
  • Still Gallery – 56 photos including behind the scenes, publicity stills, posters and lobby cards

Disc 5&6: Way Of The Dragon

  • Trailers (2:12)
  • US TV Spot – A television promo announcing the film as a sequel to Enter The Dragon entitled Return Of The Dragon.
  • Alternate Title Sequence (4:54) – The US opening credit sequence for the film using the title Return Of The Dragon.
  • Celebrity Interviews (4:34) – Interviews with Sammo Hung, Simon Yan and Wong Jing discussing their work and work with Bruce Lee.
  • Kung Fu? Jon Benn Remembers The Shooting Of The Film (21:42) – One of the film’s villains recalls his work on the film and shooting a film with Bruce Lee.
  • Still Gallery – 47 photos including behind the scenes, publicity stills, posters and lobby cards

Disc 7&8: Game Of Death

  • Trailers (5:22)
  • Still Gallery – 58 photos including behind the scenes, publicity stills, posters and lobby cards
  • Outtake Montage (3:39) – Raw footage of some of the fights in the film.  Stuff that took an early cut or stopped early on in the take.
  • Bloopers (2:29) – Some goofs during fight scenes and action sequences.  Nothing all to funny though.
  • Game Of Death Revisited (39:01) – Bruce Lee’s original footage edited together here staying true to its form.  A big highlight of the entire set.
  • Alternate Title Sequence (1:56) – The opening titles from the Japanese cut of the film.
  • Alternate Endings (3:52) – 3 endings depicting Billy Lo and his girlfriend setting off to sea in the end.
  • Deleted Scenes (7:01) – Some scenes including an entire fight sequence that weren’t used in the US cut of the film.  Also, another alternate ending sneaks its way on here.
  • Game Of Death Locations (7:27) – Video of the locations from the film in the modern day with comparisons provided.
  • Game Of Death: Japanese Print In HD – The entire Japanese cut of the film that includes an added fight sequence in a greenhouse and some scenes added and cut.

Disc 9: Bruce Lee: The Legend/Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend

Both documentaries are displayed in MPEG-2 encode with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.  Bruce Lee: The Legend is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio.  Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend is displayed in 2.35:1.

Bruce Lee: The Legend – A straightforward documentary with video clips and pictures that is narrated, following Bruce Lee from childhood to death.  This is focused primarily on his film career, only erring on the side of personal during his childhood and his death.

Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend – The original version of the previous documentary with more interview clips and a bit more of a personal touch added in.

Disc 10: Bonus Features

Please note:  this disc is incorrectly labeled in the set as I Am Bruce Lee.

  • Game Of Death Revisited (28:48) – Bob Wall talks about his experiences working on Game of Death.
  • Way Of The Dragon (13:39) – Bob Wall talks about his debut in Way Of The Dragon.
  • Master Of The Game (25:14) – An interview with Dan Inosanto.
  • Legacy Of The Dragon (46:50) – A short documentary on the life of Bruce Lee
  • The Grandmaster And The Dragon (54:40) – William Cheung talks about training and his relationship with Bruce Lee.  He discusses his thoughts on his films and the touches Bruce added to them.
  • Return Of The Dragon In 60 Seconds (1:00) – A short fan film remaking Way Of The Dragon that was from a radio contest.
  • Bruce Lee Remembered (50:58) – New interviews with Anthony DeLongis, Bryon Mann, Dustin Nguyen, Director Gareth Evans and Jason McNeil.
  • Fist Of Fury Interviews (43:24) – Interviews with stars of the film Nora Miao, Riki Hashimoto and Jun Katsumura
  • Still Galleries – 11 galleries featuring everything from the films to TV shows Bruce guested on to knock off Bruce Lee films’ posters using his name to sell it.

Disc 11: I Am Bruce Lee

Please note:  this disc is incorrectly labeled in the set as “Bonus Features”.

I Am Bruce Lee – A documentary chronicling the life of Bruce Lee, using commentary and anecdotes from his family, MMA fighters and athletes/actors trained in martial arts.  Unlike the other documentaries this one focuses on Bruce’s fighting techniques more and how he’s shaped the world of fighting today.

  • Backyard Training-Bruce’s Personal Films (11:27) – Home video of Bruce training with students in his backyard.
  • Inspiration – Bruce Lee’s Global Impact (3:11) – Some excised interviews from the documentary talking about Bruce Lee’s legacy to the world.
  • Bruce Lee In Action (4:51) – Centerpiece fights from all of Bruce’s films.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:41)
  • Bruce Lee’s Hollywood Audition (9:03) – The fully restored video of Bruce Lee’s audition tape.

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Summary 

Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection is absolutely everything you could ask for in a Bruce Lee set and then some, and then some more.  The films are presented at their very best and Shout! Factory has your “Bruce Lee month” all planned out for you with the amount of bonus features they have provided.  The collection comes in very great top notch collector packaging that you’ll want to display and show off.  The only thing to add to it is Enter The Dragon, which is already readily available on Blu-ray.  There are 2 discs mislabeled, but its easy to figure it out and all promised bonus features are accounted for.  This is another must-have and total collector’s item from Shout! Factory for fans and film collectors.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    But your ratings of the films themselves leaves me wondering….it’s the extras, isn’t it.