"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (CBA, 1972)

Cannibal, pervert, gambler, scalper

This film has any number of titles, To Kill or To Die, The Dragon Strikes Back and so on. It’s pulp whatever title it goes under. It’s a standard kung fu number with Chen Lee as a Chinese person landing in San Francisco in 1882, going to Texas (for some odd reason) and kung fuing people all over the place. It’s vaguely political, in a 5th grade kind of way, as Chen fights for truth and justice and all the Americans without exception are drunks, sadists or cowards and usually all three on the same day. Mexicans are alright though. They are exploited and racially abused just as Chen is, so they are brothers.

Klaus Kinski is in it (for five minutes) as one of the four killers hired by the evil lawyer to kill Chen (there’s a cannibal, a pervert, a gambler and a scalper; Klaus is the scalper). He is skewered with his own knives in no time. I don’t know how much Klaus was paid for it but he sure did well for an afternoon’s work. Piero Lulli is the absurdly evil lawyer Spencer. There’s some love interest, a supposedly Mexican but extremely Italian-looking Carla Romanelli. Gordon Mitchell is in it. The bad Chinaman is played by a Japanese but hey, he’s oriental, ain’t he? None of the characters develops at all, nor is there any attempt at delineating them beyond their cartoonish portrayal.
Klaus and Chen wear flared early 70s jeans.

The music is sub-Morricone. Morricone is already pretty sub in my view so sub-Morricone means junk.

The credits say the movie was filmed in Rome which is an obvious lie as it is so evidently Almeria. We’ve seen that bit they use so many times. Chen moves through Texan olive groves.

Like many such films, the ‘plot’ is just an episodic series of excuses for kung fu action. It’s quite gory, with the gambler’s eyeball snatched out by Chen and his final opponent’s hand chopped off. But of course it’s that spaghetti kind of gore, not real. Actually Chen had just chopped off the hand when my DVD froze and wouldn’t restart whatever I did (I didn’t have the heart to blame it) so I never did find out what happened. However, this has not traumatized me (or put another way, I couldn’t care less) and I have just the slightest sneaking suspicion that Chen might have won and got the girl.
Apparently the director Mario Caiano is known for his horror films and there is something horror about this but if his horror films are as poor as this one I’m glad I haven’t had to sit through any of them.

To be fair, I have seen spaghettis with lower production values.

But not often.


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