Shanghai Joe (1972)

a.k.a. Il Mio nome Shangai Joe (USA)

Klaus Kinski and Gordon Mitchell co-star in this daft Kung-fu Spaghetti Western from director Mario Caiano. German R0 X-rated Kult DVD.


The Film

After its peak in the late 1960s the Spaghetti Western began to decline in the early 1970s with the genre becoming satruated with endlessly similar titles. While many filmmakers moved production over to Euro-crime and Giallo films, some stuck with the Spaghetti Western, looking for opportunities to make new and different films. With the Bruce Lee craze at its peak in the early 1970s it did not take long for a producer to combine the two genres....

In San Francisco, a Chinese man is looking to take the stage East to Texas. Forced to sit on the roof for the journey he is dropped off at the border into Texas, at a remote watering hole. He soon gets into trouble with the locals but proves himself a solid fighter and is eventually picked up by Spencer's gang to escort cattle from Mexico into the States. When he discovers that the "cattle" are in fact slaves he sets them free - much to the annoyance of Spencer who calls in five of the most deadly assassins in the West to get rid of this seemingly invincible hero...
Disappointly Shanghai Joe is really nothing more than a simple exploitation film - taking the rather typical Spaghetti Western story of an outside who arrives, makes enemies and has to defend himself and replacing the typical hero with a Kung-Fu master (basically having kicks replace gunshots). The film does seem to be aware that it is quite daft but never seems sure whether to go for all out comedy or make a serious Western. Pacing is not particularly fast but it never drags and it climaxes with a suitably dramatic Kung-fu duel.

Director Mario Ciano had a long history of Spaghetti Westerns and his work here is solid if rather uninspired - the special effects in the Kung-fu scenes are incredibly daft and obvious. There are some surprisingly gory effects for an SW title although they are carefullly used in inset scenes, presumably to allow them to be cut out for certain markets. Bruno Nicholai's soundtrack is similarly rather generic but works fine.
Otherwise unknown Japanese actor Chen Lee takes the lead role and while not the best actor to grace a genre title he does perform some very solid stunt sequences without the use of a body double and makes the part at least believable - it is certainly a relief that the producers actually found an Oriental actor to play the role and did not just apply heavy makeup to a Western performer as was still common at the time (cf. Tomas Milian in The White, the Yellow and the Black (1975). A trio of Spaghetti Western regulars play the hired killers, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Gordon Mitchell and the legendary Klaus Kinski and they give some strong performances although in little more than extended cameos despite their top billing. Piero Lulli as Spencer should also be instantly recognisable to genre fans.

Certainly not the most original genre title, Shanghai Joe doesn't make the most of its potential and seems to be torn between being a serious and an over-the-top film, but it is enjoyable and with appearances from a selection of familiar faces it should it one to track down for genre fans.


In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Klaus Kinski - the infamous German actor best known for his work with Werner Herzog, including Aguirre (1972)
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Caiano - a lesser known but hard working Italian director who has helmed a variety of films from the pre-Spaghetti Western Le Pistole non discutono (1964) to eerie horror Nosferatu a Venezia (1988)
Any gore/violence? A number of deaths, quite a bit of blood and some particularly gory but brief shots.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Spaghetti Western fans might enjoy this but it is not particularly recommended.

The DVD

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 2.35:1. non-anamorphic. Colour
Picture quality is decent, some speckling and the colours are rather washed out but always watchable. The non-anamorphic transfer does leave some artifacting.
Audio English , German and Italian mono.
None sound perfect, the sound is sometimes rather indistinct but all of the dialogue is understandable.
Subtitles German - to fill in some gaps in the German audio.
Extras The disc includes:
  • A brief interview with director Mario Caiano. In English with German subs. 3 minutes.
  • A lengthy and spoiler filled trailer - newly created.
  • Japanese, US and original German title sequences - generally low quality.
  • A brief image gallery.
  • Two bonus trailers - Vengeance and Django Kill. Four other trailers for Kult-DVDs are presented as the disc starts up (skippable) but not accessible from the DVD menu.
AvailabilityGerman release. DVD title - Knochenbrecher im Wilden Westen
PackagingThe DVD is contained in a large hard-box case (there might also be an amaray version).
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Also available on DVD in Japan with English and Italian audio and English subs. Non-anamorphic print. French DVD available with no English options and a slightly cut but anamorphic print.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print has newly created German credits.

Summary

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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 24th March 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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