For more information, or to directly order this box set, please visit the Shout! Factory website.
Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection
Note: This review is based on the original pressing sent out in July 2013, which contained upscales, rather than true HD materials. Also, two of the discs (I Am Bruce Lee and the bonus features disc) were labeled incorrectly. Shout! Factory subsequently pulled the box set from their website and stores like Amazon. As of October 2013, the set has been reissued, and you can read our revised review here.
Over the past year or so, Shout! Factory has become one of the go-to labels for American martial arts fans looking for solid home video treatments of classic films. Now, they are bringing out what many would consider their biggest release in the genre to date, Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection. This eleven-disc box set's main attraction are the first North American Blu-ray releases for The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Game of Death. DVD versions of the films are also included, as well as DVDs for three feature-length documentaries, and a DVD with further bonus features.
The packaging itself is very impressive, coming off as something that is solidly made that won't tear or otherwise fall apart easily. It is like a big coffee table book, with each film getting its' own two page spread. The discs are put in sleeves into the right page. They are a little hard to get out at first, but loosen once you pull them out a time or two. Rare pictures, mostly of behind the scenes looks at the films and various promotional materials, are shown throughout this section and are a treat to look at. Once you get through the pages for the films, there is a biography written by noted Bruce Lee historian George Tan. While it probably won't offer any new information to most people, the biography is well-written and again punctuated by some great pictures, including some from Tan's personal collection that are supposedly the last items Lee signed before his death.
Since some recent Shout! Factory Blu-ray releases (such as their Jackie Chan Double Feature series) have been upscales rather than true high-definition remasters, there has been some concern among fans. Unfortunately, your intrepid webmaster does not have a Blu-ray drive in the computer in the home office to verify this, but according to screenshots posted at Blu-ray.com's forum, these also appear to be upscales. Below are the screen shots. The top one is from the Kam and Ronson disc, while the bottom one is from Shout! Factory's.
You can click here to view the pictures in full 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Responding to this, in the Blu-ray.com thread, a Shout! Factory representative said: "The masters we received from Fortune Star are HD. We color corrected the first three films at Fotokem. I asked my telecine 'do these look like HD masters' and he said 'yes'. He's been a colorist for over 25 years and has worked for Fox and Universal."
In Shout!'s defense, in my humble opinion, the picture overall still looks good, especially with the color correction. And no one is disputing that Shout! did do an excellent job with the audio tracks, which have the original mono soundtracks that have been remastered, unlike previous releases such as the one from Kam and Ronson, which has a track that was remixed to 5.1. But it is disappointing that we are not presented with the best looking materials possible, especially since this is supposed to be a definitive collection of these films.
With all that being said, let's take a look at each disc. Some general notes that apply to all the discs are that they are region locked to North America, and that the Blu-rays and DVDs have the same bonus features. The movies are presented in the original uncut versions, with any descrepancies in running time being due to new logos placed at the beginning.
THE BIG BOSS
(screenshots are from DVD version, taken with VLC Media Player)
Running time: 1:40:14
Picture: 1080p in 2.35:1 ratio. A few scenes show some signs of wear and there will be brightness on the right side sometimes.
Languages/Sound mix: Mandarin mono (original soundtrack), Mandarin DTS 5.1, English DTS mono, English DTS 5.1, English mono alternate dub, Cantonese mono. The English dub is the one I'm sure most people have heard, from the National General Pictures edit featuring Peter Thomas' jazzy score. The alternate dub has never been officially released and is fine in its' own right, but most people will prefer the original.
- Commentary with Mike Leeder: Mike has worked in the Hong Kong movie industry in various capacities for many years, and is a fountain of knowledge about the people that worked on the film. Unfortunately, the sound quality on the commentary is poor, coming off like a Skype call, making it somewhat hard to listen to.
- Trailers (17:27)
- US TV spots (1:15)
- Alternate title sequence (4:45): This has been seen by many people before, since it is from the National General Pictures print.
- Alternate finale (0:43): This is a less violent version of the finale. Specifically, the "finger jab" is bloodless.
- Return to Pak Chong: The Big Boss Revisited (9:26): An interview with actor and martial artist Daniel Whyte, who traveled to Thailand to take recent footage of some of the locations used for filming.
- Bruce Lee: The Early Years (13:51): An interview with Gene Lebell, stuntman who worked with Lee on The Green Hornet.
- Tung Wai interview (2:37): This is a short interview with noted action director Stephen Tung Wai, who worked as a stuntman on the film. In Cantonese with English subtitles.
- Scene extensions (2:22): Some very slight (in some cases, a few seconds or a line of dialogue) snippets of footage edited from the original release. This footage has not been remastered.
- Bruce Lee Vs. Peter Thomas (2:27): A look at the man who composed the soundtrack that is heard on the National General Pictures version of the film.
- Still gallery
FIST OF FURY
Running time: 1:46:42
Picture: 1080p in 2.35:1 ratio. The picture shows some scratches, especially in earlier scenes, but is solid for the most part.
Languages/sound mix: Mandarin mono (original soundtrack), Mandarin DTS 5.1, Cantonese mono, Cantonese DTS 5.1, English mono, English DTS 5.1
- Commentary with Mike Leeder
- Trailers (4:10)
- US TV spot (2:22)
- Alternate title sequence (7:31): From the Chinese Connection version of the film.
- Alternate ending (1:23): This is from the Japanese version that is edited slightly differently with different music and sound cues, and no credits.
- Remembering Fist of Fury (30:45): Interviews with Jason Tobin and Issac Florentine.
- Yuen Wah interview (9:40): Yuen recalls working with Bruce on the famous "no dogs or Chinese allowed" scene. In Cantonese with English subtitles.
- Still gallery
WAY OF THE DRAGON
Running time: 1:39:12
Picture: 1080p in 2:35.1 ratio. The picture does look a bit soft, but this is due to how it was originally filmed.
Languages/sound mix: Mandarin/English mono, Mandarin/English DTS 5.1, Cantonese/English mono (original soundtrack), Cantonese/English DTS 5.1, English mono (US dub), English mono (Japanese theatrical - this is the only English dub of a Bruce Lee film to have his own yells in it), English DTS 5.1 (US dub)
- Commentary with Mike Leeder
- Trailers (2:12)
- US TV spot (0:27)
- Alternate title sequence (4:54): From the Return of the Dragon version of the film.
- Interviews (4:34): Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, and Wong Jing give their thoughts on Bruce Lee. These are in English. A fourth interview with Flora Chan is in Cantonese with English subtitles.
- Kung Fu? (21:42): An interesting interview with Jon Benn, who played the mob boss in the movie.
- Still gallery
GAME OF DEATH
Running time: 1:40:50
Picture: 1080p in a 2.35:1 ratio. This is probably the best looking movie in the set.
Languages/Sound mix: English DTS 5.1, English DTS 2.0, English mono (original soundtrack), English mono (Japanese theatrical soundtrack)
- Commentary with Mike Leeder
- Trailers (5:22)
- Outtake montage (3:39)
- Bloopers (2:29)
- Revisited (39:01): This contains all of the footage shot by Lee before his death.
- Alternate opening (1:56): From the Japanese edit.
- Alternate endings (3:52)
- Deleted scenes (7:01)
- Locations Then and Now (7:27)
- Japanese print (1:39:51): A re-edit of the movie that includes a fight in a greenhouse that is not in the other version. There are non-removable Japanese subtitles on the right side of the screen.
- Still gallery
BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE LEGEND / BRUCE LEE: THE LEGEND
These are documentaries produced by the Golden Harvest studio, who funded Bruce's Hong Kong films. The Man, The Legend was released shortly after Bruce's death in 1973, with a good portion of its' running time showing events that were current at the time, such as his funeral. Most of this footage was removed at the request of the Lee family for the 1977 re-release The Legend. Of note in both versions is that they have scenes from some of the movies Bruce shot in Hong Kong when he was a child.
The Man, The Legend runs at 1:22:40 and is presented in anamorphic widescreen in a 2.35:1 ratio with an English Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, while The Legend has a runtime of 1:25:59, with the film shown in 4:3 full frame accompanied by an English Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. These are probably the poorest looking features on the set, especially with The Legend's full framing. It's not terrible in the grand scope of Hong Kong film watching, but it is definitely a step down from the other discs, especially as there are no extras and only a lone menu screen to change between the films.
(screenshot taken with VLC Media Player)
I AM BRUCE LEE
This is a documentary that was produced by and shown on the Spike cable network. It goes on a different path than most Bruce Lee biographies by highlighting his influence on modern mixed martial arts, which is probably no coincidence, since Spike shows a lot of MMA related programming.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English 5.1 DTS or English 2.0 DTS soundtracks available. The picture quality varies due to the different sources of archival footage, but the movie looks good for the most part.
- Backyard Training (11:27): Home video footage of Bruce training by himself and with his students, such as James Coburn. The video quality is rough, but this is a rare look at Bruce's training methods.
- Inspiration (3:11): Bruce's widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, recalls the philosophy behind Bruce's teachings.
- Bruce Lee in Action (4:51): A montage of clips from Bruce's movies.
- Trailer (1:41)
- Hollywood Audition (9:03): Bruce's audition for producer William Dozier, who would go on to cast him in The Green Hornet.
BONUS MATERIALS DISC
Note: this disc is mislabeled as I Am Bruce Lee and vice versa.
- Game of Death Revisited (28:48): Bob Wall talks about working with Bruce on Game of Death.
- Way of the Dragon (13:39): Another Bob Wall interview.
- Master of the Game (25:14): An interview with Dan Inosanto, one of Bruce's students, who fought him onscreen in Game of Death.
- Legacy of the Dragon (46:50): A straight-forward biography of Bruce that doesn't really offer up anything new. Presented in 4:3 letterbox.
- The Grandmaster and the Dragon (54:10): A profile of Wing Chun grandmaster William Cheung, who was one of Bruce Lee's kung fu teachers in Hong Kong.
- Return of the Dragon in 60 Seconds (1:00): A trailer that is based on an unfinished script of Lee's produced by Stanley Tsang and Osiric Chau for a film festival.
- Bruce Lee Remembered (50:58): Interviews with Anthony Delongis, Byron Mann, Dustin Nguyen, Gareth Evans, and Jason McNeil.
- Fist of Fury interviews (43:24): Nora Miao, Riki Hashimoto, and Jun Katsumura recall their time working on the set. In Cantonese/Japanese with English subititles.
- Still galleries