• The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe (Wild East Productions) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Wild East Productions
    Released on: October, 2020.
    Director: Mario Caiano
    Cast: Chen Lee, Klaus Kinski, Roberto Undari, Katsutoshi Mikuriya, Gordon Mitchell, Carla Romanelli
    Year: 1972
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    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe – Movie Review:

    In Mario Caino’s 1972 east-meets-western film The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe, Chen Lee (who was actually a Japanese actor named Myoshin Hayakawa) plays Joe, a Chinese immigrant who has recently arrived in the USA and is on his way from San Francisco to Texas where he hopes to find a job as a cowboy. Along the way he has to deal with racists, bigots, and just some generally all around stupid people, but not before he helps some kids crack open a coconut. It seems that every time Joe tries to get a job at a ranch, someone starts a fight with him or doesn’t like him because of his skin color and Asian heritage. Well, luckily for Joe when the going gets tough, he’s got his mad Kung Fu skills to fall back on.

    Eventually Joe is given a shot at some work but he’s duped and it turns out that he ends up involved with an illegal slave smuggling ring that is bringing in migrant workers from Mexico. When the local authorities bust up the trade, the smugglers make a run for it and try to kill off all the Mexicans so that none of them will talk. Joe helps one of them escape but not before the ringleaders decide that he’s got to be taken down.

    The bad guys send all manner of bounty hunters after him – Pedro The Cannibal (Robert Hundar), Burying Sam (Gordon Mitchell) and Scalp Jack (Klaus Kinski of Nosferatu fame) and eventually they even kidnap his Mexican lady friend, Cristina (the lovely Carla Romanelli). Will Joe be able to kick the bad guys’ collective asses and save his senorita or will he end up on the wrong side of a six shooter? And what’s with that guy who looks like a samurai named Mikuja (Katsutoshi Mikuriya)i?

    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe is not on par with the epic Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone or the more nihilistic works of Sergio Corbucci. The camera work isn’t as consistent or well thought out and the performances are very cliché and almost slapstick in spots. But you know what? None of that really matters. The reason anyone in their right mind would want to check this movie out is to see a Kung Fu guy beat the snot out of some cowboys and save the day, and on that level, this film totally delivers.

    Chen Lee flies over tables, flips through the air, jumps off of bunks and rips out evildoers’ eyeballs as he punches, kicks and whirls his own bad self through the wild west of frontier era Texas, all the while whooping and shrieking like a bat out of Hell. Kinski, though given top billing in the films credits is only on screen for about five minutes in total, but when he does appear, he and Lee engage in a great slow motion battle that would have made Sam Peckinpah proud. Gordon Mitchell pops up in this picture as well.

    If you’re in the mood for something a little less serious and a little less grim than your average Spaghetti Western or Kung Fu film but don’t want to sacrifice any of the action or violence that those genres are so well known for, you can do a lot worse than The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe. Mario Caiano paces the picture nicely with an emphasis on the action set pieces, and it’s got a pretty great score from Bruno Nicolai as well. Lots of fun to be had here.

    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe – Blu-ray Review:

    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe arrives on region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 19.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc from elements that use Italian language opening credits. Colors look ok at times, but contrast is pretty hot in spots. This is quite a nice upgrade over previous DVD editions of the movie that have been released over the years, but it does look like some DNR has been applied here, as there isn’t a lot of noticeable grain and skin tones can and do look a little bit on the waxy side. Thankfully, it doesn’t smooth over all of the detail and there’s still some nice texture and depth to the image. There’s virtually no print damage here at all, and we get nice black levels. Compression artifacts aren’t a problem and there’s no noticeable noise reduction.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. There are no alternate languages, subtitles or closed captioning options provided. Levels are a bit high on the feature (and on the extras as well) but the quality of the mix, for a lossy track, is decent enough. It’s balanced and clean and free of any hiss or distortion.

    The main extra on the disc is a seventeen-minute interview with director Mario Caino called Caino Goes East. This vintage piece was shot 4x3 in 2002 in English. Here, Caino talks about how the movie came about during the popularity of the Spaghetti Western and Kung Fu movie genres, the influence of Japanese samurai movies, how and why ‘Chen Lee’ came to star in the film and what he was like to work with, casting and working with Kinski (describing him as peculiar and noting that this was the only time out of the three times he worked with him where the actor wasn’t a problem)!. He also covers the shooting schedule and locations, the wirework needed for some scenes, how after making this movie he moved to different genres and then the television industry, his friendships with Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone and quite a bit more. It’s an interesting interview, Caino comes across as very likeable and a genuinely nice guy.

    The disc also includes a still gallery, a five-minute segment that features an alternate title sequence that used ‘The Dragon Strikes Back’ as its title and then the alternate ‘The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe’ title (4x3, video sourced), a trailer for the feature (that looks to have been created recently, this isn’t a vintage theatrical trailer), menus and chapter selection.

    Additionally, the reverse side of the cover sleeve features the chapter listing for the feature as well as an advertisement for other Wild East titles that are available.

    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe – The Final Word:

    The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe is a real kick (ha!), a seriously entertaining, if more than a little goofy, mix of western tropes and martial arts action. Wild East’s Blu-ray is a definite upgrade over past editions, while still leaving room for improvement, and the interview with the film’s director is a nice addition to the disc.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe Blu-ray screen caps!