Monday, August 9, 2010

Revenge of 3-D: REVENGE OF THE SHOGUN WOMEN (1977)

Phew! Chang Mei-Chun, what the hell happened? After the solidly entertaining and totally action packed DYNASTY (1977) this is what you give us? Damn, you sure know how to hurt a guy. Of course since info on these movies is scarce at best, I would have to guess at what happened, but I don’t think I’d be far from the mark to think that Chang pulled a Corman and had the 3D cameras, Pai Ying, Chin Kang and a few other cast members for a couple extra days, and banged out this quick, sloppy, no-budget potboiler.

The movie starts off promisingly enough with flaming arrows flying out of the screen as a group of masked bandits descend upon a small town. After killing all of the men, they hunt down the women, who are hiding, in order to fulfill their bestial lust by tearing off their clothes and spasmodically jerking like they are being tasered. In one rather Freudian instance, a bandit suspects that one of the nubile maidens is hiding in a rice bale and thrusts his spear in to the bale and the camera angle is the view within the bale so that the spear thrusts right into the audience. Cue opening credits where the raped women, robbed of their virginity, are sent to a monastery to live out the rest of their lives in service to Buddha. Sheesh, talk about adding insult to injury! It’s worth noting that some unscrupulous sellers are offering the TV print of US 21st Century Releasing version of the film, which is missing the entire six-minute opening sequence and starts with the final shot of the bandit raid, then cuts to the opening credits and the girls getting their heads shaved in the monastery.

Meanwhile back in the village, a love sick subplot unfolds about the Liu Chen who is being courted by the not-so-heroic Dr. Cheung much to the jealousy of the local artist, Chu. While Chu is waxing poetic about his unrequited love, Liu Chen falls unconscious with an ailment that Dr. Cheung proclaims can only be cured by performing acupuncture on her breasts. Daaaaamn, I gotta remember that one! I wonder if the hotties will buy that from a white guy? Oh, and this scene has absolutely nothing to do with anything else in the film and is never referred to again. More non-sequitur scenes follow with the lamest carnival ever (witness the astounding Pipe-Smoking Man, in the miracle of 3D!), monks training with staves; villagers training with spears, and monks training staves, in 3D. Yeah, I know, I said that twice. That’s because Chang, desperately trying to pad out his running time lets scenes run waaaay too long with long silent gaps during dialog scenes and lots of cut-aways to the chicks with sticks (which of course are thrust in your face every second). Even worse, many of the shots are repeated. I know, Corman did that too, but Corman made sure that there was something interesting in the film to hang his hat on, even if it just was the leading actress's nipples.

The bandits decide Dr. Cheung’s wedding to Liu Chen is the perfect time to return and raid the village again! Of course this is a plot by Chu to throw in with the bandits in order for him to get Liu Chen for himself. Like she’s going to fall for him now! The hell with betraying the village, he trashed her wedding! During the matrimonial milieu the village elder has all of the women, and Dr. Cheung, gather together and head out to the monastery leaving their husbands to fight the bandits. When two of the women start bitching about Dr. Cheung getting a pass, the elder quiets their concerns “Dr. Cheung can’t fight! He’d be quite useless here!” Ouch! Yeah, you can forget all that Wong Fei Hung shit right now, cause this doctor has no problem high-tailing it out of town with his braid between his legs!

Meanwhile the head nun (what the hell is a “Mother Superior” in Buddhism?) decides that no action will be taken against the bandits and the women (and doctor) cannot even take refuge in the monastery! Very noble of you Sister. What is the reasoning behind this? Because it is not the way of the Buddha! What?! Damn man, this is totally contrary to every kung fu flick I’ve ever seen. The Shaw Brother's lied to me, I want a refund! Because of this informal edict, two of the nuns get all gussied up in flashy blue ninja-slash-harem girl outfits and raid the bandits while the bandits are raiding the town. In the middle of an attack, the bandit leader rips off one of their masks to find out that she was one of his rape victims in a previous attack, causing her to be sent to the convent to be trained to fight bandits! Oh the poetic irony… or just a lame contrivance. Your choice. They then stop fighting and verbally taunt each other for what seems like an eternity, before the girls trampoline back to the convent.

The bandits arrive in the village square to find it completely deserted, the bandit leader (Pai Ying), shrugs and muses “they must have all hidden.” Before being ambushed by the villagers, leading to numerous weapons being thrust repeatedly into the audience. After the village elder throws a grenade at the bandit leader, the bandits are hell bent on getting the formula and that means that Liu Chen, the elder’s daughter, is a marked woman. The bandits arrive at the monastery and the nuns are forced to throw-down against the bandits in what is easily the only worthwhile moment of the film. Too bad all on your enthusiasm will be bludgeoned into submission by the time the bandit leader starts attacking nuns with his hair braid. If you are a Pai Ying fan (and why would you not be?), there are some great moments to be found here as he decimates nuns and villagers with his lethal moves and killer braid. Plus his violent scalping demise is highly entertaining, though again, completely missing from the 21st Century TV print.

Chang Mei-Chun, not content with simply having spears, staves, axes, limbs, horses, arrows, feet and rocks thrown into the camera, busts out the old tree-in-the-foreground trick so that a twig sticks right in the audience’s face during a scene where people are just standing around. And there are lots of those! Where DYNASTY has become one of my favorite non-Shaw Brother’s old-school martial arts films with the 3D experience actually enhancing the entertainment value that is already present, REVENGE is a perfect example of how not to make a 3D film. The painfully low-budget would not be a problem if the action scenes weren’t so small, poorly choreographed and feature looped screams that sound like they were taken off of a Haloween “Sounds of Horror” LP. There are way too many uninteresting dialogue scenes all of which are padded to the point of madness and the 3D gimmicks, while just as plentiful as in DYNASTY, here are unimaginative and repetitive. There is actually a point early on where you will get really tired of seeing someone stick a sword into the camera. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, this movie sports the worst $10 casiotone soundtrack ever. It’s clearly a stock soundtrack and while most low-rent Hong Kong films of the ‘70s and ‘80s used library tracks, this one seems more suited for an Andy Milligan film than a rousing action picture. If you are the completeist type, you may want to hunt this down, but like DYNASTY, beware of cut versions and if you've never seen a 3D movie, the poster lies like a dog.

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