Wednesday, February 22, 2012



Shorinji Kenpo
"Shaolin Karate"
1975, Adness/Ventura Distribution, DD-5.1 & 2.0/MA/16:9/LB/ST/+, $19.99, 86m 45s, DVD-1
By John Charles

Originally published in Video Watchdog #117

Originally released stateside by Cinema Shares, this is a brisk, well-produced Sonny Chiba vehicle from director Noribumi Suzuki (SHOGUN'S NINJA), based loosely on the life of Shorinji Kenpo (Shaolin Karate) master Doshin Soh. In the wake of Japan's defeat in World War II, the country is plunged into social and economic chaos. Hard-ass soldier Soh (Chiba) is unable to tolerate the disgrace his people now experience and dedicates himself to helping the unfortunate. Eventually, though, his battles with black marketeers and barbaric American soldiers force him to flee Osaka.  Relocating to a new area, Soh establishes a Shaolin martial arts school and finds a number of receptive disciples. This is fortunate, as there are still many miscreants to be dealt with. As usual, Chiba's martial arts may not be all that graceful, but he projects strength and intensity better than just about anyone else (when he hurts people, you can easily believe that they have one foot in the grave). Tetsuro Tamba and the always welcome Etsuko Shiomi (SISTER STREETFIGHTER) also appear.

A cropped and dubbed version of this feverishly violent film (which somehow got an "R" from the MPAA with no cuts) was released on domestic video in 1985 by Prism Entertainment (86m 13s) and that transfer has been widely bootlegged. Adness' commendable DVD release offers the first domestic release of the original Japanese version, with optional English subtitles. The image is mildly grainy, but this seems intrinsic to the film stock and era, and the 2.38:1 framing is a huge improvement. Color and detail levels in this anamorphic transfer are good throughout. The original monaural mix and a 5.1 revamp are included; both sound decent and the latter does not significantly alter the original. Trailers for this and the other eight Chiba titles Adness will be releasing are included, along with liner notes by Patrick Macias (TOKYOSCOPE).

(This version is no longer available. KILLING MACHINE was later re-issued by BCI, including a Blu-ray double feature with SHOGUN'S NINJA, also no longer in print.)

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