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The Last Dragon – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

The-Last-DragonBerry Gordy’s The Last Dragon celebrates its 30th Anniversary by debuting for the first time on Blu-ray August 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The cult classic has been fully remastered in high definition for Blu-ray and features exciting all-new dynamic packaging art by acclaimed Mondo Gallery artist Gary Pullin, as well as the featurette “Return of the Dragon,” a newly-created retrospective look at the making of the film, featuring new interviews with the cast and crew, including Taimak, Berry Gordy and more! Directed by Michael Schultz (Car Wash) from a screenplay by Louis Venosta (Bird on a Wire), Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon was produced by Rupert Hitzig (Jaws 3D) and executive produced by Berry Gordy (Lady Sings the Blues,Mahogany, The Wiz).   Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon stars Taimak (Book of Swords) as “Bruce Leroy,” former “Vanity 6″ frontwoman Vanity (Action Jackson) as the singer, Christopher Murney (Barton Fink) and Julius Carry (The New Guy).

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Film 

The martial arts musical extravaganza follows Leroy Green (A.K.A. “Bruce Leroy”), who dreams of becoming a great martial artist like his idol Bruce Lee, as he searches for the “master” to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as “the glow.” Along the way, he must fight an evil martial arts expert and rescue a beautiful singer from an obsessed music promoter.

The Last Dragon is a terrific little comedy/action tribute to the kung fu era of the 1970s and Bruce Lee’s early works.  The film doesn’t take itself very serious, plays loosely and crafts a bunch of fun, memorable characters to actually give a rip about by the end of the film.  Some things do get a little monotonous (Kidnapping Vanity once, would be just fine), but it overcomes that with its sheer zaniness.

Berry Gordy’s cult legend also gave us a legendary dance tune.  Yes, that would be the DeBarge classic “Rhythm of the Night”.  You know the tune.  This song was done for the film as its HEAVILY featured in the film.  They play the music video on this dance television show that Vanity’s character hosts, and pretty much show the whole music video.  But, they show it via the camera pointed at the TV instead of a just fluidly showing the music video.  Oh, and I mentioned Vanity.  Since she’s in this movie, of course she performs in the film as well.

Funny enough, this movie features some early roles for some bigger names too.  Early on, we see William H Macy as Vanity’s manager/assistant/somebody who tries to force her to do business with the mobster’s wife who wants a video on TV that sets Plot B into motion.  Chazz Palminteri pops up as a gangster during a fight sequence, bearing a healthy mustache.  Surf Ninja himself, Ernie Reyes Jr also has a role as a martial artist.  He’s a very young kid in this movie.

All in all, this movie is a healthy bit of crazy, but a lot of fun.  We get a cooky lead character in Bruce Leroy to follow around who proves interesting and fun.  There are some fun fight sequences and a pretty awesome big bad if I might say so myself.  Its also a rare film for its time that had a black action lead and a primarily black cast.  A movie like this wasn’t really being done in terms of general audience affair.  They also didn’t make a big deal about it being about that at all and just ran business as usual (no stererotyping in the film and pairings and grouping put in unconventional teamings).  The fact that it spoke volumes then and has kept speaking over 30 years should say something.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  The Last Dragon looks terrific on Blu-ray.  This transfer is very well kept and has plenty of detail.  The image is naturally a little bit on the soft side.  Scuffs, fabric texture, surface blemishes and more can all be seen here.  The effects in the film still hold up quite well although some green screen work is a little more apparent at times.

Depth:  Movements are very smooth, free and cinematic.  Plenty of spacing available in the environments between character, objects and backgrounds.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and deep.  Dark scenes promote more grain.  Not a lot of detail is hidden as dark hair follicles are still very individualized and texture is visible on darker clothing and surfaces.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are well represented here.  There is a nice palette on display and nothing bleeds out or becomes too distracting.  Yellows, reds and such feel nice and bold and natural.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones and natural and consistent throughout.  Close ups reveal plenty of detail like sweat beads, stubble, wrinkles, make up lines and more.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain, the film offers a really clean print.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French Mono, Portuguese Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish Thai / Commentary Subs: English, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

Dynamics:  This is a really nicely mixed and preserved 5.1 track.  Its an uncompressed and free sounding environment.  There is some fun with how well the “karate sounds” are mixed into the film.  Some of its vintage analog sourcing is evident, but you have to give it that.  The action does take stage front and center for a kick ass time.

Low Frequency Extension:  Kicks, punches, car doors slamming, sets crashing and “Rhythm of the Night” all get a boost from your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some flying action sounds can be heard from the rear speakers, but this one is primarily done from the front.  Those three channels carry the kicks and punches back and forth and also have a good sense of volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.  It carries a little bit of an analog sound at times.

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Extras 

The Last Dragon comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary 

  • With Director Michael Schultz

Return Of The Dragon (HD, 24:08) –  A newly-created retrospective look at the making of the film, featuring new interviews with the cast and crew, including Taimak, Berry Gordy, Michael Schultz and the screenwriter Louis Venosta and more.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:26) 

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Summary 

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon has finally lept on over to Blu-ray and Sony has treated it well.  This one looks and sounds as good as anyone could hope.  For a cult film of 30 years, its been taken care of handsomely in the video and audio department.  The bonus features offer an outstanding retrospective documentary on the film as well as a commentary.  I won’t complain, because those are great extras, but couldn’t they have fronted just a tad more for the “Rhythm of the Night” music video?  This is an incredible fun movie and a damn good Blu-ray debut of it from Sony.  It should have a space on every collector’s shelf!

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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