Dragon Princess

Year: 1976
Yu Kahira
Rating: 7.0

Seen at Subway Cinema Fest.

It was almost like being back on 42nd Street when they were filled with Grindhouses showing kung fu, karate and soft core films. Minus the drunk throwing up in the corner, the homeless people sleeping and the guy in the back getting favored by a person of indeterminate gender. So almost like the good old days when I lived on 43rd and 8th after I first moved to NYC in 1978 and these films were being shown. The Dragon Princess shown was the American release of it - dubbed, cut and a weird dance sex scene clearly inserted just for the hell of it! There was also a cheering crowd yelling out the names of Chiba and Shiomi whenever they kicked the crap out of someone. It made the film much more fun. Chiba Chiba!

The film in fact has three big Japanese stars from this period who were involved in Chiba's karate films. Chiba of course though he disappears from the story about 25 minutes in, Etsuko Shihomi (known to the West as Sue Shiomi) and Yasuaki Kurata who also appeared in a number of Hong Kong martial arts films. According to the introducer this was the only film these three stars were in together. Chiba as actor and producer was in the midst of turning out a series of terrific karate films - his Street Fighter films and Etsuko's Sister Street Fighter films and Kurata was in a couple of the Sister Street Fighter films. Etsuko was a pupil of Chiba's martial arts school and he introduced her in his 1973 film, The Bodyguard, before launching her in the Sister Streetfighter films.

The plot of this one is as basic as probably the very first martial arts film made - revenge. A theme that just works well and lends itself to a lot of satisfying action. Kazuma (Chiba) is badly hurt in a duel with another martial artist who brings along a number of professional killers to tilt the fight his way (one throws a dart into Kazuma's eye and he continues to fight). This is witnessed by his small daughter who he then brings up and trains to get revenge (this would be called child abuse today!). In a bunch of near ongoing action she along with Kurata who is looking for his revenge as well get it. The action is plentiful - even taking on four vicious dogs with a few chops and kicks - and well choreographed. Shihomi shines and as I mentioned a number of her films made their way over to the USA and she became a Grindhouse star as well. It was such great fun seeing it on the big screen in a rowdy crowd and I didn't really mind having no drunks throwing up.