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Bruce Lee: the Lost Interviews (2004)

Bruce Lee - Interviews With The Master

Starring:

Alex Ben Bloc

Bruce Lee

Pierre Berton

Ted Thomas

William Cheung

Directed by:

n/a

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 25 minutes

UK Certificate: E

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

In the days of video recording and playback, the only material surplus to the film itself that would be found in the average cassette, be it rented or bought, VHS or Betamax, was a few trailers for other films at the beginning and end of the feature. Now, however, in the digital age, the additional materials on a DVD can be considerably longer than the film which they accompany. All those commentaries, interviews, behind-the-scenes sequences, deleted scenes, cast reunions, biographies, photo galleries and vaguely related featurettes, known collectively as 'DVD extras', are designed to appeal to the archivist that supposedly lurks within us all – although it might be suspected that in fact they are seldom watched in full by anyone besides DVD reviewers (who are, after all, under a professional obligation to view them) and that ultimate of niche markets, the fanatical completist.

Just how far the DVD can go when it comes to bonus materials is brought into sharp focus by Firefly Entertainment's 'Bruce Lee: the Lost Interviews'. First brought to the attention of Western audiences as Kato in the American TV series 'The Green Hornet', Lee attracted Hollywood luminaries like James Garner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Lee Marvin and Roman Polanski to his California-based Jeet Kune Do classes, and then became an international star in his groundbreaking martial arts films of the early 1970s 'The Big Boss', 'Fist of Fury' and the self-produced 'Way of the Dragon'. The suddenness of his death in 1973, at the peak of his career, and the subsequent success of his just finished 'Enter the Dragon' and the posthumously completed 'Game of Death', forever ensured Lee's legendary status. All of Lee's films have already been exhaustively released and re-released in every imaginable format, and so not a single one is included in 'Bruce Lee: the Lost Interviews' – instead, the disc's centre-piece is a 25-minute black-and-white interview with Lee conducted on Canada's 'the Pierre Berton Show' shortly after 'The Big Boss' had become a box-office phenomenon in 1971.

In other words, this is a DVD whose main feature is the sort of item that would normally appear as a DVD extra – and as such it is barely distinguishable from the disc's many other 'extras'. These include two further audio interviews with Lee, both accompanied by nicely presented photo gallery images and exhibition footage from Lee's training classes. The first is a 14-minute interview by Ted Thomas also from 1971, while the second is 22 minutes of Lee in 1973 on the phone from the set of 'Enter the Dragon' to a halting Alex Ben Block (who was preparing an article on Lee for 'Esquire', and sounds both bemused and overwhelmed by his more energetic subject). Lee is an articulate, charming and thoughtful interviewee, always at pains to relate his martial arts to his broader philosophy on life, but it is possible to trace a certain weariness that develops over the course of these three interviews as he finds himself having to answer the same unimaginative questions time and time again. “I am like a monkey in a zoo”, he says in the final interview of his own superstardom – and this obsessive DVD for obsessive fans just adds to the impression of Lee as a man imprisoned in the prying gaze of his public.

It's Got: Lots of Bruce Lee marginalia and repetitive interviews.

It Needs: Er, a main feature for all these extras to accompany.

DVD Extras Further extras (barely distinguishable from the main feature - see review above) include an excellent hour-long interview with Lees longtime friend and mentor, Grandmaster William Cheung (filmed specially for this disc) who covers the history and development of Wing Chun Kung Fu as a system, Lees early years in Hong Kong (where he was raised as a girl by superstitious parents hoping to avert a family curse, and picked on for not being a pure Chinese - as he would later be sidelined in the US for not being a pure American), Lees difficult personality once fame, drugs, paranoia and ill health set in, and the mysterious circumstances of his death. Finally there is Lees original 8-minute black-and-white Hollywood screen test from 1964, in which his good-humoured persona suddenly transforms into pure motion when he displays his kung fu moves, entirely unhindered by the Western suit which he wears - and an easter egg conceals a 12-page selection of Lees correspondence (some typed, some handwritten) to William Cheung. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Dragon, Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury, Game of Death, The Big Boss, Way of the Dragon

Summary

While not without interest, this archive of Bruce Lee extras is strictly for obsessive collectors and kung fu completists.

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