Comparison between the German DVD from WMM and the US Blu-ray from Gold Ninja Video.
The Iron Dragon Strikes Back, also known as Gold Connection, is clearly one of the best films with Ho Chung-tao, also known as Bruce Li and arguably Lee impersonator #1. It mainly works because in contrast to many other Li flicks, it's not actually exploiting the name and legend of kung-fu icon Bruce Lee after all. Instead, director Kuei Chih-Hung, known for gore classics like The Boxer's Omen, presents a dark and nihilistic thriller with particularly raw fight scenes. Apparently it was shot clandestinely without the knowledge of his actual employers at the Shaw Brothers studios.
The American fan mini-label Gold Ninja Video focuses on public domain titles and produces a lot of its own bonus material. Regarding Asian movies, they've already taken care of a few trash titles. Things got really interesting when they upgraded to HD scans via crowdfunding in late 2021. The Iron Dragon Strikes Back began shipping in late July 2022 when ordered through the label's website, and is one of the first releases where they specifically scanned a 35mm print in HD. This was provided by University of North Carolina School of the Arts Moving Image Archives, similar to the situation with Martial Club recently. A lucky find, which we have now compared in more detail to the previously released German DVD.
The result is once again not a classic report on our website, because depending on the definition you can either classify both versions as cut or uncut. On the German DVD, the beginning of a shot that zooms back from a close-up is missing. On the Blu-ray, again, all reel changes are 1-3 sec shorter each. Both of these things are basically tolerable. In the finale, the German DVD then has a small bit of violence additionally, but this was probably already added here by another source (making it a kind of "extended version").
Qualitatively, the new HD release is in any case a small revelation, although with quite a few signs of wear in the picture of course an absolute grindhouse feeling arises when watching. Bonus features include an audio commentary, specially produced featurettes about the Bruceploitation genre as well as the bonus films The Lama Avenger and (as an Easter Egg) Powerforce - in VHS quality, but uncut and anamorphically encoded.
The Extended/Deleted Scenes included as a bonus featurette also deserve a special mention. The reason for this is that the Mandarin version is virtually a different film in its own right. Several violent bits and whole blocks of scenes are censored here. But there are also various additional scenes and, for example, an alternatively shot fight scene without weapons. Only this exclusive material has been put down here separately. We also have the complete Mandarin version as a Hong Kong VCD, so we'll give you a complete cut report in due time. It's nice that Gold Ninja had access to a theatrical print for this featurette, which was available in widescreen, while our VCD has zoomed fullscreen. You can see a small picture comparison in the appendix of this report. Also, neither the VCD nor the theatrical print had subtitles, so Gold Ninja actually had an English translation done here for the first time.
The additional opening credits designed especially for Germany are, of course, missing from the US Blu-ray. However, it is available on the Blu-ray in the bonus material with additional, alternative title sequences.
+ 49.5 sec
Afterwards, the HD scan has the English opening credits displayed over the first scene. The title appears individually on a red background and two other shots from the film (including another 0.7 sec) are lost for this moment.
In addition, here are a few comparison images from the film. The Blu-ray's 35mm scan has a lot of wear and tear and is basically a bit too bright. Still, it easily beats the DVD, where the colors are often quite faded or too dark. However, it has to be said that the German DVD was already much better than the British DVD in terms of quality, which was basically the only other digital release of the film.
18:35-18:37 / 18:30
During the first reel change, the HD master loses the end/beginning of two shots.
+ 2.3 sec
39:49-39:51 / 40:34-40:37
The next reel change is a bit more interesting: While the German DVD shows Bruce a bit longer, in the HD master Choi can be seen a bit earlier.
Blu-ray 0.8 sec longer
60:18-60:19 / 61:55
The next reel change causes a small jumpcut in the middle of the shot.
+ 1.1 sec
60:40 / 62:16-62:19
In the HD master, the elevator scene starts a bit earlier: close-up of the button, the camera zooms out.
78:22-78:24 / 80:47
Last reel change: Bruce takes another step forward on the DVD.
+ 1.9 sec
86:30-86:33 / 89:12
After Bruce has finished the killer with leg scissors, there is another shot of the killer on the German DVD. Here Bruce stands up in the back and walks out of the picture.
By the way, the picture quality is a bit different on the German DVD, so presumably this moment has already been added by another source.
+ 2.6 sec
Here's another quick look at the Deleted/Extended Scenes in the bonus material. First, an impression of how the material is generally presented: Fade-ins on B&W background just before the respective exclusive material begins and newly translated subtitles.
Also, comparison pictures to the Hong Kong VCD with the full Mandarin version, which is unfortunately brutally zoomed to full screen.
Reverse cover of the German DVD by WMM:
US Blu-ray by Gold Ninja Video: