Enjoy a cinematic roundhouse kick to the face from the third dimension, thanks to the 3D Film Archive
Somewhere at the intersection of Rape/Revenge and Kung-Fu epic lies Mei-Chun Chang’s sleazy 3D Chopsocky extravaganza Revenge of the Shogun Women, AKA 13 Golden Nuns. This was the second film produced and shot in a deal utilizing Super Depth, a budget-friendly 3D camera system invented by pornographic filmmaker Michael Findlay, the first being Kino Lorber’s previous 3D Kung-Fu release Dynasty. Shogun originally hit 42nd Street on January 15th, 1982 and had the director honing the tricks he learned on his previous foray into the 3rd Dimension, pairing them with a story that really sets itself apart in the testosterone-drenched genre of martial arts films.
Revenge of the Shogun Women begins with a brutal raid on a small village in 18th century rural China. The men are killed, the treasures are plundered, and the women are ravaged by masked marauders, who then ride off into the night. A prologue then explains that rape victims, because they were no longer virgins, were sent to convents. The film then picks up some years later with those women, now Buddhist monks living at a secluded temple, trained as protectors of the village they once called their own. When the bandits return, the women are then torn between the non-violent teachings of Buddha and using their Kung-Fu to get their bloody vengeance on the men who raped them and ostracized them from their home. Of course, with a title like Revenge of the Shogun Women, we know what happens.
Revenge is easily one of my all time favorite Kung-Fu films. There’s plenty going on here plot-wise coupled with enough fights, drama, and action that there’s not a moment during the film’s scant 86 minute runtime to start to ponder any shortcomings. The bandits return at the behest of a jilted lover to stop a wedding, and stick around when they discover someone has the formula for explosives, so there’s a bit more complexity to the plot than you might expect given its exploitative trapping. While some fights are most definitely stronger than others, they save the best for last with the final no-holds-barred confrontation between the leader of the bandits and the temple’s abbot that had my jaw on the ground at the resolution.
The 3D gags in Shogun are a bit similar to Dynasty, with lots of spears protruding from the screen and some interesting use of projectiles here and there. They also sometimes do that same thing from Dynasty where they run the same gag three times—you know, just in case you missed it the first two. The limitations on the camera system definitely affect the use of space in the frame at times, but there are some great uses of the technology to show the vastness of the mountains or the geography of the village, exploring its depth onscreen. My favorite 3D gags involve any weapon that will protrude through the screen (played obviously in reverse) and just hang there for a few seconds to give the audience the full effect and time to appreciate it — the bandit leader’s sentient ponytail is probably the most ludicrous of all of these gimmicks, one that I couldn’t get enough of.
The presentation in this edition is a bit rough around the edges; there’s some visible fading and some print damage and defects from the low-end 3D system, but this only enhances the film’s grindhouse bonafides. I am pretty sure this exact print screened in Philadelphia as part of Exhumed Film’s 3D film marathon. The film was recently restored (from what appears to be a theatrical print0 and released by the folks at the 3D Film Archive, who have decided to make this release their first to utilize their patented anaglyph process. What that means is if you don’t have a 3D setup, you can finally enjoy the film using the included red/blue glasses. While you only get one pair, you can purchase more from the 3D Film Archive to share the madness that is Revenge of the Shogun Women with others.
While you can’t compare watching Shogun alone in your home to watching it in a packed theater, this film still works amazingly well on a smaller screen, even without 3D. It’s great to not only be able to own this title, but in 3D no less, and in a presentation that feels ripped from a long, rough run on 42nd Street. Revenge of the Shogun Women is a cinematic roundhouse kick to the face for Kung-Fu fans, delivering the goods on every level. It’s sleazy, it’s gory, and you can tell director Mei Chun-Chang had a blast making this thing as crazy as it is. If you liked Dynasty you’ll love this, and if you’re looking for some more obscure Kung-Fu films to supplement your Shaw Brothers viewing, Shogun definitely has you covered.
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