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....
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
A number of deaths, quite a bit of blood and some particularly gory but brief shots.
Who is it for?
Spaghetti Western fans might enjoy this but it is not particularly recommended.
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
English , German and Italian mono. None sound perfect, the sound is sometimes rather indistinct but all of the dialogue is understandable.
German - to fill in some gaps in the German audio.
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.
German release. DVD title - Knochenbrecher im Wilden Westen
The DVD is contained in a large hard-box case (there might also be an amaray version).
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
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.
Believed to be fully uncut. The print has newly created German credits.
An interesting idea becomes a rather generic Spaghetti Western and of interest only to genre fans.
An imperfect print and a
disappointly brief director interview - at the present the best way to
see this film and it is not really worth a better release.