WAY OF THE DRAGON is arguably Bruce Lee’s best film, in that it was the film he had the most control over; wearing hat of writer, director, and star. A circumstance which is not always a good thing, actors not always being the best gauge of their own interests or image. However Bruce Lee from the start was more than an actor, he was the message not merely the messenger, and as such was uniquely suited to define himself for others; and he does that expertly in this film.
The opening of WAY OF THE DRAGON (also sometimes referred to as RETURN OF THE DRAGON, confusing in that this came before ENTER THE DRAGON, not after) is pure Charlie Chaplin, Lee showing his penchant for physical comedy, and his pure charisma. And seeing Bruce Lee against the backdrop of the West that he always found both tantalizing and duplicitous, is a joy.
What surprises, revisiting this film after some absence, is how young he is.
You forget that these icons like Hendricks, and Ali, and Bruce Lee that shaped so much of the American consciousness and whose shadows continue to dominate so much of what we consider best of our cultural zeitgeist and worth aspiring to, at the height of their power… were basically just kids who believed the world could be changed… and changed it.
Is WAY OF THE DRAGON the greatest martial arts movie of all time? Probably not, but it is a great movie, and watching a Bruce Lee untouched by age or death, with his whole life ahead of him, in a sumptuously photographed, and largely fun film, is a little like visiting one last time… with a good friend.
There is something bitter and sweet about it.
And the final fight with Chuck Norris is justifiably classic. And like the film itself it is more in the nuances around the fight, the essential touches Lee brought to it, the philosophy of Chinese Boxing, the stretching, the inter-cutting of the kitten, all deliver something more than the spectacle of violence, but a way through violence… to find some peace on the other side of it.
A film that not just every Martial Arts fan should have in their collection, but a film any fan of cinema should proudly have on their curio shelf, as the work of 1970s art that it is.
And also the Blu-Ray is a must have for the audio commentaries, documentaries and pristine picture.
I like streaming for the chance to be exposed to a wealth of movies, but quality (when it is coming from a middle man such as a streaming or cable service) is always subject to bandwidth and signal concerns of the moment. The Bluray, failing damage, will give you the best picture in all moments… consistently.
So for movies like WAY OF THE DRAGON, that you intend to come back to again and again… Blu-Ray is the way to go.
Here’s the link:
The Bruce Lee Premiere Collection (The Big Boss / Fist of Fury / The Way of the Dragon / Game of Death) [Blu-ray]
Highly Recommended! And if a fan of this film I would direct you to the 1970s comic book series it inspired, Marvel Comic’s MASTER OF KUNG FU. Specifically issues 38 and 39 that form an excellent and not to be missed two part story, that any fan of Bruce Lee should check out.
Master of Kung Fu, Edition# 38
Master of Kung Fu (1974, 1st series) #38
Master of Kung Fu (1974, 1st series) #39
And a book covering the career of one of the influential artists of the 70s and Bruce Lee fan, Paul Gulacy:
Spies, Vixens and Masters of Kung Fu PB
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If, like me, you’ve been interested on Chuck Norris’ take on Bruce Lee well here’s a Norris quote about meeting Lee in New York in 1965, when Lee was working on the GREEN HORNET series. The quote is courtesy of the site BRUCE LEE DAILY:
“I said that I was really tired and that I should get to the hotel because I had an early flight the next day at nine o’clock. Bruce said he was staying at the same hotel so we decided to go over together. So we were taking a cab to the hotel, and now we are really getting involved in our conversation. We get to the hotel and are going up in the lift to the floor that Bruce’s room is on.
We both step out into the hallway – it was about twelve o’clock by now – the next thing I know I’ve got my jacket off and we are working out in the hallway.
I swear to you that the next time I looked at my watch it was seven o’clock the next morning. I looked at my watch again, I could not believe it, I had a flight in two hours back to Los Angeles and Bruce said that when we got back we should work out together, which we did for three years.
Then Bruce left for Hong Kong to pursue his movie career. I didn’t hear anything from him for about two years, then one day I got a call from Hong Kong; it was Bruce, he said: “I’ve just finished two movies over here, they were really successful”. He said he wanted to do a fight scene that everyone would remember and he said I want you to be my opponent and he was going to call the film Way of the Dragon.”
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