Board-Breaking Box Sets

Bruce Lee dominates, of course

Board-Breaking Box Sets

Bruce Lee changed the cinematic world. He kicked racial stereotypes in the head, rewrote the martial arts action playbook, and did it all before his depressingly early death at 32.

This 11-disc set could be called Bruce Lee: The Golden Harvest Years, since it draws deep on his unbelievably prolific three-year run with studio boss Raymond Chow. Each film – 1971's The Big Boss, 1972's double punch of Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon, and 1973's posthumous tribute/abomination Game of Death – gets a DVD and Blu-ray each. The obvious absence is the world-shattering Enter the Dragon, his sole film for Warner Bros. But don't concentrate on that omission, or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

Each film has been re-released more times than Lee could rabbitpunch in a minute, but The Legacy Collection strikes gold twice. Firstly, they are immaculate transfers: In fact, after complaints that early copies of the set weren't hi-def enough, Shout! Factory found a better print from which to work. Considering these movies found audiences on battered-up celluloid and mangled VHS, they're almost off-puttingly clean.

But it's the extras that will blindside even the most loyal acolytes of the master of Jeet Kune Do, including three fascinating full-length documentaries. 1973's Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend and 1977's Bruce Lee, The Legend are remixes of each other, using almost identical footage to vastly different effect, while 2012's I Am Bruce Lee is a testament to his cultural immortality.

It's still a gut-kick that he's gone. When he died, Hollywood was just starting to understand his potential. Makeup and costume test photos show an actor preparing to move beyond modern action into historic wuxia. But watching almost surreal footage – like James Coburn practicing roundhouse kicks in Lee's backyard – proves why his legacy continues.

Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection

Shout! Factory, 7 DVDs & 4 Blu-rays, $119.99

Also on our lists

Board-Breaking Box Sets

• Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony, 18 DVDs or 16 Blu-rays, $299.99): Complete with 55 hours of special features, a Los Pollos Hermanos apron, and a collectible barrel, this one will have even the most straight-edge fans twitching with anticipation.

• Downton Abbey (PBS, 10 DVDs or 9 Blu-rays, $89.99 [DVD], $99.99 [Blu-ray]): The box set worthy of the lord and lady comes with a documentary on Highclere Castle, and is out in plenty of time for a marathon session leading up to the Jan. 5 premiere of season four.

• The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series (RLJ Entertainment, 25 DVDs, $169.98): All 156 episodes of Rod Serling's sci-fi mind trip in one place that isn't the Bermuda Triangle.

• Nine for IX (ESPN, 4 DVDs, $29.95): The folks behind 30 for 30 bring you nine documentaries about groundbreaking women in sports to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Game, set, match.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

gift guide, box sets, gift guide 2013, Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection, Shout! Factory, wuxia, Game of Death, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, The Big Boss, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Nine for IX, ESPN, The Twilight Zone

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