Fans will be thrilled to know that Fox Home Video has released a five-movie Bruce Lee Collection set, a package that includes three rip-roaring classics, and two films that were completed only after The Master's untimely death.
THE BIG BOSS (aka FISTS OF FURY) was Lee's first big success in his native country. It opened in 1971 and focused on the ways in which a non-violent young man can be inspired to kick a whole lotta ass when his family is harassed by drug-smuggling ice salesmen. It's Bruce vs. a whole army of lowlife thugs after they mess with his cousins, and Mr. Lee pulls off some truly amazing butt-kickery here.
FIST OF FURY (aka THE CHINESE CONNECTION) came in 1972, and here's all you really need to know: Somebody killed Bruce's beloved karate master, and he's plainly willing to bash his way through anyone even remotely responsible. Featuring some of the most elaborate action sequences of Lee's career, this one's a whole lot of fun. Semi-speed through the "chatty" stuff if you absolutely must, but be sure not to miss any of the mayhem.
WAY OF THE DRAGON (aka RETURN OF THE DRAGON) is certainly the only movie ever made in which Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris do battle in the Roman Colosseum, so if that sounds like fun to you, well, here's the movie to watch. (Plus it's a little bit funnier than Bruce's previous films.) Here Mr. Lee comes to the aid of his family's restaurant after they run afoul of some nasty gangster types. Seems kinda redundant to tell you that there's lots of action offered her and that most of it is amazingly fun to behold. It's interesting to note that this film marked Bruce Lee's directorial debut, so consider it duly noted.
GAME OF DEATH (1978) is the film that Bruce Lee was working at the time of his shocking death, and the plot is actually pretty creepy when you think about it. Lee plays an action star compelled to fake his own death in order to thwart the evil talent agents (?) who are terrorizing him. Director Robert Clouse came up with this somewhat ghoulish conceit while splicing the original footage together with newly-shot material using a stand-in for Lee. And you know what that means: The movie pretty much stinks, as expected. Aside from a few clumsy insert shots, Bruce Lee doesn't even appear until the final 20 minutes! But, c'mon, who wouldn't want to see a battle royale knockdown between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?? (It simply must be seen to be believed; it's like a butterfly battling a cornstalk!)
If GAME OF DEATH was an example of a filmmaker attempting to semi-legitimately reconstruct a movie star's final film (it wasn't), then GAME OF DEATH 2 is just cinematic grave-robbing of the ickiest sort. Compiled of all-new non-Bruce junk, with just a sprinkling of previously unseen Bruce footage (and a tacky shot of the actor's own funeral), in order to jam the late master's name onto the posters. There might be a few half-decent action scenes in this flick, but the shameless way in which the producers treat Mr. Lee's memory will absolutely leave a nasty taste in your mouth.
If you're new to the Bruce Lee canon, you should walk in well-aware that these were fairly simplistic and rather low-budget productions. Each of Lee's movies were centered around little else but the man's amazing powers of kung fu, which explains why the dialogue is frequently silly and the performances are usually pretty broad. The sound effects are over-emphasized and thwack-happy, the set designs are kinda flimsy, and the plot lines are generic and familiar. But while the flicks themselves might not be high art, each one possesses something that's pretty darn phenomenal. And that's Bruce Lee doing his kung fu thing, and I'm certainly not alone in thinking that he's the best there ever was.
The FIST OF FURY DVD comes with two trailers, a photo album and slide-show, a 9.5-minute interview with actor/stunt double Yuen Wah, and a trailer gallery for MR. VAMPIRE, ROYAL WARRIORS, WINNERS AND SINNERS, and HAND OF DEATH.
The WAY OF THE DRAGON DVD comes with the standard pair of trailers, photo album, and slide-show, plus some 7 minutes worth of interviews with stuntman Rocky Lai, actors Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Paul Pui, Flora Cheong-Leen, and directors Wong Jing & Clarence Fok. And of course there's another trailer gallery, this one highlighting titles like MY LUCKY STARS, LEGACY OF RAGE, SPOOKY ENCOUNTER, and OPERATION SCORPIO.
The GAME OF DEATH DVD offers the trailers, the photo album, and the slide-show, but instead of the expected interviews, we get a 10.5-minute collection of outtakes from GAME OF DEATH. Pretty neat stuff. Of course there's another trailer gallery for IN THE LINE OF DUTY 4, THE POSTMAN FIGHTS BACK, WARRIORS TWO, and BATTLE CREEK BRAWL. The GAME OF DEATH 2 DVD trots out the now-familiar goodies: two trailers, a photo album and slide-show, a brief 2.5-minute string of NG Shots from GAME OF DEATH, which basically means rehearsal footage and some outtakes. The final trailer gallery has promos for HONG KONG 1941, EASTERN CONDORS, DUEL TO THE DEATH, and KNOCKABOUT.