The Dragon Strikes Back

1973 [ITALIAN]

Action / Drama / Western

IMDb Rating 5.8 10 960

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December 07, 2021 at 06:11 PM



Klaus Kinski as Scalper Jack
900.2 MB
English 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 38 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Leofwine_draca 8 / 10

Successfully violent combination of kung fu and spaghetti western

Probably one of the oddest sub-genres in cinema is the kung fu spaghetti western. THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE is one of the best and most popular of this genre, which saw Italian producers deciding to combine the then-popular martial arts film with the spaghetti western, which like the peplum ten years previously, was crying out for fresh ideas and imagination. The result was about half-a-dozen productions which mixed chop-socky action with grizzly cowboys and desert town locations to unique effect. THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE is actually a very well-made movie, benefiting from strong direction from Mario Caiano, a rather overlooked genre personality from the period, who could usually be relied upon to deliver a watchable movie. The plot is simple and straightforward and a basis for the never-ending scenes of action which are hard-hitting and often violent.

Although the premise is silly and could be played for laughs, this is actually a very dark film in which the hard-edged action is often punctuated by merciless violence and surprising gore effects. The main themes that the film explores are racism and oppression; our hero Shanghai Joe must suffer both of these throughout the film. First come the expected encounters with racist cowboys, whose vocabulary usually seems to contain only racist taunts, before Joe teaches them a lesson in manners. Later, he defeats a gang of slave labourers quite happy using Mexican peasants to do their dirty work, thus invoking the wrath of a criminal boss and setting the latter half of the film in motion.

Whereas the first half of the movie spends a fair amount of time developing Joe's character and the new landscape in which he finds himself, also exploring his relationships with other people, the second half loses all exposition in favour of a series of fight sequences against increasingly difficult opponents (thus reminding one of a computer game). The first baddie for Joe to fight is a guy named Cannibal! The second villain is Italian regular Gordon Mitchell in a blond wig. The third villain is all brains and no brawn, as played by Giacomo Rossi-Stuart. The final villain is a scalp-hunter played by the inimitably sleazy Klaus Kinski at his manic best.

The final battle of the film is the only one with any memorable choreography, seeing as Shanghai Joe gets to fight a fellow martial artist instead of an unskilled cowboy. Caiano throws in some good use of slow-motion leaping (not as silly as it sounds), some creepy music which comes as a surprise after the rest of the jolly Morricone-style score, and a wonderful 360 sweep around Joe as he searches for his opponent. The film's hero is played by Chen Lee, who is pretty decent in the part and succeeds because he's actually an actor as well as a martial artist, and seems charismatic in his role. Tons of action, arm-lopping gore, memorably deranged characters, and steadfast direction combine to make this one a whole lotta fun.

Reviewed by BandSAboutMovies 8 / 10

Strangely perfect

According to the Spaghetti Western Database, lead actor Chen Lee may have been a Japanese karate instructor, but according to director Mario Caiano (Eye In the Labyrinth), he worked in a laundry, not in a dojo, and was picked because he looked like a young Dustin Hoffman. Some think his real name was Mioshini Hayakawa, which is Japanese, not Chinese. That said, if that being racist - not knowing the difference between two countries nearly 1,900 miles away from one another - then this movie is not for you.

Seriously, nearly every race gets denigrated in this movie audibly and physically. Luckily, Shanghai Joe ends up killing every single offender.

Also - the Bruno Nicolai music - recycled from Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay - is so good you'll want to stick around for the whole movie.

Shanghai - or Chin Hao - has come to this country and instead of finding whatever it is he's looking for - he has tattoos much like Kwai Chang Caine - he's found that aforementioned racism and a love interest in Cristina (Carla Romanelli, Fenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankamen, The Lonely Lady).

Our hero's skills as a fighting man make their way to cattle rancher Stanley Spencer (Piero Lulli, Kill, Baby...Kill!), who is really enslaving Mexicans to do his work. That means that the bad guys decide to kill him, but none of them can get it done.

Spencer ends up hiring four different killers, much like video game bosses, to do his work for him. There's Tricky the Gambler (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), Pedro the Cannibal (Robert Hundar, Sabata), Buryin' Sam (Gordon Mitchell, who improvised and sang the song "Chin-Chin Chinaman" while carrying a shovel to try to kill Shanghai) and Scalper Jack (an astonishing Klaus Kinski, who is obsessed with hair and you genuinely fear for the life of Romanelli in their scene).

Finally, Mikuja, the only person who has the same martial arts technique and tattoo as our hero, is hired to kill him. Their battle may not be a fight on the order of a Shaw Brothers technical battle, but it's still fun.

This movie is incredibly strange, because every time I thought it was going to be normal, it would go from slapstick to our hero plucking out a bad guy's eye and blood spraying all over the place. It's closer to a horror film set in the West with martial arts than a straight-up Italian Western, but it's better for that difference.

Totally recommended.

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 5 / 10

The Fighting Fist Of Shangai Joe (Mario Caiano, 1973) **1/2

Minor, enjoyable and surprisingly violent Spaghetti Western, one of a clutch of such efforts embellished with an Oriental touch in the form of a martial-arts exponent hero (as can be gathered from the title). The film was enough of a success to boast a sequel – THE RETURN OF SHANGAI JOE (1975).

Chen Lee is the typical meek Oriental who becomes deadly when provoked; we're given plenty of opportunity to see him at work here, particularly after he falls foul of a slave trader. The latter despatches four ruthless assassins to exterminate the Chinaman – three of whom are played by well-known actors and popular Euro-Cult figures of the era: Gordon Mitchell, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Klaus Kinski, the other by Robert Hundar (ill-fated hero of CUT-THROATS NINE [1972], which actually preceded this viewing!). Kinski receives second-billing but his contribution lasts all of 7 minutes (and he only turns up 68 minutes into the film!).

Eventually, we learn that the title character is one of only two masters of a specific martial arts technique – so, naturally, the boss eventually calls on his equal to fight the hero! The most violent moments occur when Joe gouges the eye of one of the hired killers – a scene which surely must have inspired Quentin Tarantino for his KILL BILL (2003/4) saga – and the confrontation between the two Orientals, which involves dismembered limbs and busted torsos! As usual for films of this genre, the music score is a notable asset which is here provided by Bruno Nicolai.

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