Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 16, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” is a cult classic that will forever be appreciated by those who grew up with the film and grew up in the mid-’80s. Yes, it’s campy but it sure is entertaining, fun and action-packed. Recommended!
TITLE: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon
FILM RELEASE: 1985
DURATION: 108 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese, Spanish Mono, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, french, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
COMPANY: TRI STAR/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Directed by Michael Schultz
Written by Louis Venosta
Producer: Rupert Hitzig
Executive Producer: Berry Gordy
Associate Producer: Joseph M. Caracciolo
Music by Misha Segal
Cinematography by James A. Contner
Edited by Christopher Holmes
Casting by Howard Feuer, Jeremy Ritzer
Production Design by Peter S. Larkin
Art Direction by William Barclay
Set Decoration by Thomas C. Tonery
Costume Design by Robert De Mora
Taimak as Leroy Green
Vanity as Laura Charles
Christopher Murney as Eddie Arkadian
Julius Carry as Sho’nuff/The Shogun of Harlem
Faith Prince as Angela Viracco
Leo O’Brien as Richie Green
Mike Starr as Rock
Jim Moody as Daddy Green
Glen Eaton as Johnny Yu
Ernie Reyes Jr. as Tai
Esther Marrow as Mama Green
Keshia Knight Pulliam as Sophia
Celebrate thirty years of BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON, now fully remastered in high definition on Blu-ray™. Martial arts student Leroy Green (Taimak) is on a quest to obtain the elusive all-powerful force known as “The Glow.” Along the way, he must battle the evil, self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem” – a kung fu warrior also known as Sho’nuff (Julius J. Carry III) – and rescue a beautiful singer (Prince protégée Vanity) from an obsessed record promoter. Combining pulsating music, cutting-edge dancing and the best in non-stop action, BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON is kickin’ good fun featuring an amazing Motown soundtrack, including music by Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Vanity and DeBarge performing their smash hit “Rhythm of the Night .”
In 1985, from executive producer Berry Gordy (famous American record producer and songwriter and the founder of the Motown record label) and Director Michael Schultz (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band”, “Car Wash”) would release the martial arts film “The Last Dragon”.
The film would star Taimak, pop star Vanity, Christopher Murney (“One Life to Live”, “The Secret of My Success”), Julius Carry (“Doctor Doctor”, “The New Guy”), Faith Prince (“Picture Perfect”, “Dave”, “Drop Dead Diva”, “Melissa & Joey”), Glen Eaton, Ernie Reyes Jr. (“Rush Hour 2”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skill”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze”), Keshia Knight Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”, “Beauty Shop”, “Madea Goes to Jail”) and would feature an early role for actor William H. Macy (“Fargo”, “Jurassic Park III”, “Shameless”).
While the film was not well-loved by critics, the film would become a cult favorite. Because of Berry Gordy’s involvement, music played a big part of the film with DeBarge’s hit song “Rhythm of the Night”.
Many years after the film’s release, the song continues to be a cult favorite and is often referenced in media, especially music videos.
With the 30th Anniversary of “The Last Dragon”, the film will now be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Video.
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” begins with Leroy Green (a.k.a. Bruce Leroy, played by Taimak) reaching the final level of his martial arts training.
With his dreams of becoming a great martial artist like Bruce Lee, he has always been inspired by “The Last Dragon” in which Bruce Lee would have “the glow”. His master (portrayed by Thomas Ikeda) tells him that only a true martial arts master would be able to bring out “the glow” over his entire body and in order to do that, he must embark on a journey to find Master Sum Dum Goy, in hopes to unlock the power of “the glow”.
Meanwhile, a martial artist known as Sho’nuff (portrayed by Julius J. Carry III) and his gang return to terrorize the town to find the best martial artist who is not afraid to challenge him.
After defeating people in the local theater and wanting a challenge, a young boy tells Sho’nuff that he can never beat Bruce Leroy.
And now, Sho’nuff will do whatever he can to provoke and get Leroy to fight him. But because of his patience and training, Leroy refuses.
Leroy’s younger brother Richie (portrayed by Leo O’Brien) is a big fan of music TV host Laura Charles, who he often watches live and on television. And behind-the-scenes, a cold and evil businessman named Eddie Arkadian (portrayed by Chris Murney) will do anything to have his girlfriend Angela (portrayed by Faith Prince) featured on her TV show.
But when Arkadian sends his crew to kidnap Laura Charles for refusing to feature Angela, the kidnap is stopped by the intervention of Leroy.
But now Leroy must deal with two adversaries, Sho’nuff and his gang and Eddie Arkadian and his crew. Can he do it?
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio. While many early to mid-80’s film on Blu-ray have had issues with overuse of DNR, this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” looks very good as detail is strong and there is also a good amount of grain. While I did notice certain moments of white specks and a bit of saturation, but having owned and watch this film in various formats, this is the best I have seen of “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” yet!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, in French, Portuguese and Spanish monaural. Dialogue and music are crystal clear and action scenes, while action scenes and environments can be heard through the surround channels quite well. It’s not an immersive soundtrack but overall lossless audio quality is good.
Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, Chinese traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary by Director Michael Schultz – Featuring audio commentary by director Michael Schultz.
- Return of the Dragon – (24:08) Featuring 2015 interviews with executive producer Berry Gordon, director Michael Schultz, screenwriter Louis Venosta and the cast of “Berry Gordy’s Last Dragon”.
- Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”.
“Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” features an UltraViolet code.
While critics gave low reviews of “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” and called it campy, for me and my friends growing up in the mid-80’s and watching this film over and over again when it was often repeated on cable, it was a big part of our lives.
I don’t know how many times we have said lines from the film and yes, we even went as far as memorizing the lines for the film, talked about how gorgeous Vanity looked and wanting to be Bruce Leroy. Suffice to say, “The Last Dragon” was a big part of our lives growing up.
Watching it decades later, I can easily say how this film was a product of the times. Back in 1985, anything related to music artist Prince was gold, the Motown record label and the artists were a big part of our lives and DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” were songs we would play over and over on our VHS that we recorded from cable or on cassette via the radio.
New York was a different New York from today and the dialogue featured in the film would probably never fly today due to everyone wanting to be politically correct. In fact, this film would never be made in today’s world as people would cry foul of an African American man dressed up in Chinese clothing. Despite in 2002, the Journal of Asian American Studies “applauded the strong character development of the black hero, who reverses the stereotype of the typical Asian in an action film”.
As an Asian America, I never watched this film and thought, this is an urban film about an African American man, I saw this film as a man who was inspired by Bruce Lee, wanting to better himself through martial arts and Berry Gordy and director Michael Schultz crafting a martial arts film but also incorporating pop culture of its time.
Many times I have watched ’80s films that I have grown up with and feeling less passionate about them afterward, but “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” is one of those rare exceptions of films I loved as a kid, that I still enjoy as an adult. While I don’t know if my own child would feel the same way that I did, this film is sentimental for me, and yes I agree with the campiness but I find the film so entertaining and fun.
As for the Blu-ray release, the 30th Anniversary edition looks great on Blu-ray and it’s the best I have seen of this film ever. The lossless soundtrack is also crystal clear and you also get special features including a look back at the making and legacy of “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” and also audio commentary by Director Michael Schultz.
Overall, “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon” is a cult classic that will forever be appreciated by those who grew up with the film and grew up in the mid-’80s. Yes, it’s campy but it sure is entertaining, fun and action-packed. Recommended!
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