Black Samurai/Review 2

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< Black Samurai

Film Review

When Robert Sands' (Jim Kelly) girlfriend Toki (Essie Lin Chia) is kidnapped by followers of an occultist named Janicot (Bill Roy), he is called off of vacation to infiltrate the villain's lair and rescue her. It seems that Toki also happens to be the daughter of a diplomat who is trying to cease the importing and exporting of drugs that are funding Janicot's operation, and they have taken her to persuade her father to give up his pursuit. Using his extensive knowledge of martial arts, Sand must fight his way through legions of Janicot's men while trying to get his girlfriend back.

After Enter The Dragon became a smash box office success, many of the cast members decided they would use the popularity of the film as springboards for their own careers. One of these people was Jim Kelly. Kelly was a pretty decent martial artist who had won many competitions and had a featured role in the famous Bruce Lee film. Using the clout he had garnered off of that 1973 film, Kelly started churning out his own martial arts potboilers (most of them of extremely questionable quality).

Black Samurai is probably one of the most questionable of all of the films that he put out. Unintentionally hilarious at best and extremely amateurish at worst, it is hard to believe that this film was supposedly based on a novel (a novel which must have been pretty bad unto itself). The film seems more like something that a bunch of high school students out of class for the summer had thrown together after spending a week straight watching nothing but kung fu movies. The editing is sloppy, the music is incidental, the plot is nonexistent, and the fight choreography ranges from slightly ridiculous to very embarrassing.

Directed by B-movie stalwart Al Adamson (director of I Spit on Your Corpse) with all the subtlety of a freight train crashing through a house, Black Samurai is a blemish on the careers of many people. Scenes cut back and forth with little forethought (usually cutting away from someone while they are speaking and cutting back to them when the other person responds) and camera set-ups always seem to reveal that the actors performing the stunts are doing very little connecting with the people they are fighting with (oft-times seeming as if they are about two or three feet away from actually hitting their intended targets, even though the stuntmen are reacting as if they had been hit). Surprisingly, Kelly and Adamson would team up again for another turgid martial arts mess called Black Eliminator.

For anyone who says that they think dubbing looks silly when they are watching Hong Kong films, this one actually takes that whole concept a ridiculous step further. There are actually fight scenes in the film where characters taunt each other when it is very obvious that no one is actually saying anything. They are very easy to pick out and are also some of the worst snatches of dialogue I have ever heard in any film, foreign or domestic. While a good laugh was had at the expense of these lines, it really brought the film down to a whole new level of bad.

Something else that bothers me about the film is its title. Firstly, no one ever makes a move to explain what D.R.A.G.O.N. stands for throughout the film. The only reason I can see that it is even included is so people can mentally make a connection to Enter the Dragon and the producers can milk a little more money out of it. Secondly, isn't a samurai more of a Japanese tradition that has very little to do with kung fu? I may know very little about actual samurais, but I do know that they also lived by a strict code, which is never even touched upon in this film. For a perfect example of what a samurai should really be like, check out the brilliant Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.

DVD Review

Black Samurai: Agent for D.R.A.G.O.N. has been released on DVD through Brentwood Home Video. The film is presented in the full frame format in which it was shot and the transfer looks merely passable. Be warned that, though the packaging states that the film is rated R, for some reason the version here is edited. There are two instances where there definitely should have been nudity and at least one moment where a bit of profanity and all three moments have been removed or censored. Extras on the disc are limited to biographies of star Kelly and director Adamson, as well as a menu that will take you straight to Kelly's fight scenes (for the ultimate in cheese, I suggest checking out the scene labeled Fight for Freedom, which contains karate kicking midgets and the penultimate cornball fight between Sand and Bones). This film would make a perfect party film for anyone who misses "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and wants to relive the show with a bunch of blitzed friends.

Film/DVD Review Courtesy of Pockets of Sanity

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