Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
When trying to describe Bruce Lee, I often struggle to find a consistent way to refer to him. Is he an actor, a martial arts performer, a legend or even a teacher? All these terms are superlatives which are frequently used to fondly describe the gifted star. This was emphasised recently, when Bruce Lee was voted by viewers of Channel 4 as number 49 in their list of Top 100 Movie stars of All Time - ahead of people like Arnie and George Clooney amongst others. For the point of this review I will refer to him as an action star.  As some of you reading this will probably know, it has been thirty years since Bruce Lee died and Hong Kong Legends have decided to release a host of special edition DVDs in honour of him. This is a review of their special documentary double pack.

Bruce Lee Documentary Double Pack
There are two documentaries included with this release, and I will try and explain what to expect from them in the following paragraphs:

The Legend
Legend is probably the most famous Bruce Lee documentary and covers the full extent of his life. The documentary starts off by calling Bruce a legend and then proceeding to show some of his best stunts from his movies. It then moves on to giving us some details about Bruce. For example we are told that he was born on 27th November 1940 in San Francisco, California, USA to Eurasian parents. Bruce was also named Lee Jun Fan and was born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Useful information like this is evident throughout this documentary.  Focus then shifts onto his childhood, and we are shown some childhood photographs. The documentary then moves onto showing clips from Bruce's early movie 'My Son Ah Cheun' which he starred in alongside his father. The movie is in black and white, but even so it is extremely interesting to see a young Bruce Lee, and even funny to see some of his characteristics which were evident even from a young age.  We are also shown various other movies which Bruce starred in, all of which involved different roles for the actor. Another key area of this documentary is the interviews which are scattered throughout and feature people who were obviously close to the star, all of who remembered him well and only have good things to say about him.  

One of the most important stages in Bruce's life is heavily featured in this documentary. That event was when he performed a kung fu demonstration at the International Karate Championship. Bruce was spotted by Hollywood Hairstylist, Jay Sebring and  was asked to audition for a TV series. The screen test is shown in this documentary and I found it particularly interesting viewing, as I haven’t seen much footage of Bruce outside of his film roles. The Legend documentary is a very thorough and engrossing piece which leaves no stone unturned. Real footage is constantly shown and enhances the information which comes thick and fast. Some of the footage is in poor condition, but even so it give us an insight into the actor’s past, and is therefore a useful addition in my mind. As the documentary progresses, it sequentially steps through each of Bruce's movies and gives a deep insight into each movie and how popular it was. We also get to see footage from the premiere of each movie, and as expected there are clips taken from each of the relevant movies.  My favourite part of this documentary is that of Bruce's death, as I had never really seen in-depth footage of this period.  His death and funeral are covered extensively, there is even footage from the parading of his coffin, where surprisingly we get to see Bruce's corpse!  The footage from the period around his burial is quite surreal and makes riveting and yet highly emotional viewing.  Even the most enthusiastic fans will pick up bundles of information from this documentary, which lasts for just over eighty five minutes.

Bruce Lee Documentary Double Pack
The Man and The Legend
This documentary was produced in the days and weeks immediately following Bruce Lee's death. The tone of the documentary is very sombre and features a lot of footage from the days immediately after his death. The opening minutes feature news footage from Bruce's death and then we see identical  footage to that shown in the Legend documentary.  What becomes more apparent from this documentary is the sheer pandemonium and chaos that ensued after Bruce's death. The amount of coverage and the number of people mourning further emphasises just how popular actor was both on-screen and off it. The documentary talks about him as the leader of Chinese movies and describes the loss as being massive.  This documentary also shows footage from Bruce's home shortly after his death, something in my opinion which should have been sacred. After all the funeral clips have been shown the documentary then moves back to Bruce's earlier days and we get to see footage from some of the roles he played when he was a little child. This documentary follows the same path as the previous one, but does digress sometimes to show information such as his world famous triple kick, which is detailed thoroughly. The final chapter of this documentary once again focuses on his funeral and shows some of his fellow actors paying their respects.  This documentary runs for a very respectable eighty two minutes and compliments the previously documentary discussed above.

There you have it, two documentaries which essentially cover the same material but manage to tackle the events of his life in different styles. Each documentary has its strong points and I am struggling to think of a period of Bruce's life which is not covered on this disc. Fans will love these documentaries and for that reason alone I have no problem recommending this disc.

Due to the fact that there are two independent documentaries included on this disc,  it is hard to come to a combined review of the transfer. There is little doubt of which documentary is the best presented. Both documentaries have apparently been restored, but 'The Man And The Legend' documentary stands head and shoulders above the other one. It has been anamorphically enhanced and has an aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1, while 'The Legend' documentary is presented in 4.3 full screen. The anamorphically enhanced documentary seems so much cleaner and has less visible print damage, even though both documentaries feature the same original footage. Both documentaries show signs of their age when it comes to the colour palette, the colours are subdued and washed out for the majority, however it is hard to be too critical considering that some of the footage is aged fifty years plus. There appeared to be no signs of edge enhancements throughout and compression artifacts were also nowhere to be seen. Overall these documentaries are perfectly watchable and probably will never look any better. This release was never going to be cutting edge, so bearing that in mind Hong Kong Legends have done a reasonable job.

Bruce Lee Documentary Double Pack
There is not much to say about the audio side of this disc. Hong Kong Legends have supplied just the one soundtrack which is English Dolby Digital 2.0. The documentaries are narrator driven, and therefore the only thing that matters is whether the dialogue is clear. Well, as expected there are no problems with the dialogue levels as they are precise and audible throughout. The only other thing to mention is that there are two sets of subtitles included, they are English and Dutch.

Sadly, Hong Kong Legends have not kept up their high standards of previous releases with the extras on this disc.  Art Galleries are very much the focal point for the extras. The firsts gallery is for the 'Legend' documentary and features six images. The second gallery is, as you probably guessed, for 'The Man and The Legend' documentary and displays fives images taken from the documentary. Both galleries are very similar and don't really contain any photos of particular interest.

Next up on this disc is 'The Legend' theatrical trailer. This trailer lasts for just over two minutes and is a good example of a trailer from the 70s. It is quite nostalgic and should provide a few minutes of entertainment for fans of Bruce Lee. As is normal with Hong Kong Legend releases, there is the usual 'Coming Attractions' section.  This time the section is split into two categories, Premier Asia (4 titles) and Hong Kong Legends (4 Bruce Lee titles). Once a title is selected, the viewer has the opportunity to read information about the release or watch the trailer if desired.

Bruce Lee Documentary Double Pack
I think the lack of extras is probably down to the combined running time for the two documentaries (nearly three hours) and also the fact that a lot of material that could have been used is already featured on other Bruce Lee DVDs. For these reasons it is no great surprise to find a lack of extras here.

If you are intrigued to find out more about the life of Bruce Lee, this disc is definitely for you. Its safe to say that the disc itself doesn’t push the boundaries of DVD, but thats not what this release is about. It is meant to be a celebration/tribute of his life, and Hong Kong Legends have done a wonderful job of bringing together two documentaries that cover just about every possible snippet of information there is about Bruce Lee.  This is an essential purchase for anyone interested in the legend that is Bruce Lee.