As we all know, the legendary Bruce Lee is/was the most influential figure in the history of martial arts, bar none. His legacy still continues to leave its mark on icons from Jackie Chan to Jet Li to Donnie Yen to Chow Yun Fat, and so on. He wasn't just a very physically perfect specimen; he also had the magnetism and charisma to complete the whole package. Although many of the films he made didn't have the best and most coherent plots, it didn't matter because he was in them. He was so amazing in his unfortunately brief time on-screen (as well as off), that he instantly before a pop culture icon, and we were all the better for it.
The five most popular films included in the new box set from Criterion represent the man, the myth, the genius better than anything else out there. They consist of:
The Big Boss (1971): Lee's breakthrough film that launched him to immediate stardom. He stars as a Chinese immigrant working at a Thai ice factory sworn to nonviolence. When he finds out that the factory's sadistic higher commands are a running a secret heroin ring and murdering their own workers, obviously his commitment to peace doesn't last long.
Fists of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) (1972): An even better success than the first film that stars Lee as a martial-arts student whose beloved teacher is murdered by Japanese rivals, which causes him to seek revenge where he defends the honor of his school and of the Chinese people in general.
The Way of the Dragon (1972): Lee wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this outing as a seriously trained marital artist traveling from Hong Kong to Rome to help his cousin, whose restaurant is repeatedly threatened by a gang of thugs. It all culminates in a celebrated death match with Chuck Norris in the Roman Colosseum.
Enter the Dragon (1973): Perhaps Lee's most famous film and the one that would define his entire iconic career. He stars as a Shaolin fighter who goes undercover to invade a savage island ruled over by a rebel monk turned ruthless criminal mastermind. Released just days after his untimely death and features the famed hall-of-mirrors ending.
Game of Death (1978): Released five years after Lee's death and containing footage from an uncompleted project which he directed and starred in. With stand-ins, doubles, and archival materials to make up for his absence, this one follows him as a martial arts movie star who is threatened by a diabolical crime syndicate hellbent on controlling his career. As typical, it ends with another iconic climax: Lee in a yellow jumpsuit, fighting his ways through a multiple pagoda until he meets his biggest opponent: the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
If that isn't enough, the box set includes incredible supplements including six audio commentaries; a new hi-def presentation of Game of Death II, the 1981 sequel to Game of Death; Game of Death Redux, a new presentation of Lee's original footage from Game of Death, produced by Alan Canvan; new interviews on all five films with Lee biographer Matthew Polly; new interview with author Grady Hendrix about the "Bruceploitation" subgenre that followed Lee's death, and a selection of trailers; Blood and Steel, a 2004 documentary about the making of Enter the Dragon; multiple programs and featurettes on Lee's life and philosophies, including Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend (1973) and Bruce Lee: In His Own Words (1998); interviews with Linda Lee Cadwell, Lee's widow, and many of his collaborators and admirers, including actors Jon T. Benn, Riki Hashimoto, Nora Miao, Robert Wall, Yuen Wah, and Simon Yam and directors Clarence Fok, Sammo Hung, and Wong Jing; and promotional materials. There is also a new essay by critic Jeff Chang.
Whew! As with this and many other box sets, Criterion always delivers the cinematic thirst, and if you really love Bruce Lee, his films, martial arts, and film overall, then this is truly another must-have in your collection, depending on your budget.
Other notable releases:
The Lady Eve (Criterion): Preston Sturges' 1941 clever, sultry comic masterpiece starring the great Barbara Stanwyck as a conniving card shark and the equally great Henry Fonda as the awkward heir to a brewery she plays, until she falls in love him.
Midsommar: Director's Cut: the new 171-minute edition of Ari Aster's 2019 disturbing thriller starring Florence Pugh as a young woman, whom after an unspeakable family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and others on a summer trip to a Swedish commune where things quickly so very awry.
The Missing (Shout Factory): Director Ron Howard's underrated 2003 western starring Tommy Lee Jones as a father in 1880s New Mexico, returning to home to his daughter (Cate Blanchett) to try and make amends for abandoning her to go live with the Apaches, only to find scorn and unforgiveness from her. When her daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped by Army deserters, they both have to put their differences aside to find and rescue her.
Clueless (25th Anniversary): A new edition of Amy Heckerling's 1995 teen classic starring Alicia Silverstone in her iconic role as Cher, a loaded and popular high school student who spends her days match-making her friends, helping them their fashion choices, looking a boyfriend, and learning a few of her own lessons along the way.