As a genre movie buff, I am always game to watch a film that doesn't stay within the confines of a single style. Who wouldn't be, it's not like being a trash cinema purist is going to get you anywhere in life besides negative Twitter feedback, if that. So when I first heard of the film Shanghai Joe, a mixed bag kung-fu/spaghetti western, there were no if-ands-or buts that it was something I had to get my hands on. To tell you the truth, if you throw martial arts into any type of film I will probably want to watch it. Unfortunately the copy I procured of Shanghai Joe had a one or two minute delay in the sound, and there is no way in Hell I can watch something like that. So I threw it in the garbage, annoyed and defeated.
Not too long ago I came across yet another cross-genre film of the same variety. Since I am easy to please I figured I might as well give it a shot. Besides the lead actor looks like an Asian Charles Bronson, so I figured it had to be awesome, Right?
Manchurian Avenger(1985) kicks off with Joe, a Chinese "immigrant" heading back to the land of his upbringing. Not that we actually know where Joe is headed back from. Is it China? Is it Frisco? Nobody really knows, probably not even Joe himself. All we know is that he looks like Bronson and doesn't really use his mouth to talk much. He says it all with fists and feet. After a couple of skirmishes with racist whites and Mexican bandits, the latter which results in Joe making a friend, Joe comes back home to find out that the uncle who raised him has been killed, and his "cousin" is bedridden after an improper stomping by a gang of racist white thugs. Despite the crackerness of these dirty thugs, it just so happens they happened to be employed by a local Chinese "Warlord" who happens to go by the name Cheng. Not only does Cheng have most of the townsfolk living in fear, but he is also responsible for the death of Joe's uncle in a quest for hidden gold. By the time Cheng is introduced, Joe has already fought his way, mustache and all, through dozens of crackers and bandidos. How hard can an old Chinese guy be to destroy. You see, Cheng has a secret weapon, and it's magic. Not only is he a wizard but he also employs "The Four Winds", who I can only guess are supposed to be ancient Chinese spirits who live in a western cave. Chinese Spirits who also happen to be multicultural. Apparently the Heavenly Dynasty is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Yay affirmative action!!
I didn't hate Manchurian Avenger but I didn't exactly love it. Let's just say I'm not going to pressure anybody into watching it in the near future, if at all. It is what it is, which is a low-budget, American-made martial arts flick. I'm pretty sure the only reason that it wasn't a full on kung-fu/wuxia movie is probably due to a lack of Asian actors in that part of Colorado during the early 80's. Through in a bunch of whites and latinos while filming in the Western US, and you got yourself a cross-genre spectacular, even if it wasn't. The effort was made, but I don't think there really was any pay-off to Avenger, at least from what I can see on the IMDB page. From the looks of it, the director and writer never made another attempt at filmmaking, which is kind of sad, because this movie wasn't horrible. Sure it takes a special kind of person to find enjoyment in this shit, but it could have been worse. The action was a bit lagging and could have been a lot more prevalent to make up for the lack of acting ability present. The martial arts scenes were actually pretty solid, unfortunately only a couple of the actors possessed actual skills, which probably accounts for the lack of enough fight sequences.
But again, what do you expect out of a kung-fu flick directed and produced by a couple of whiteboys from Colorado? It may not have been perfect for a martial arts connoisseur such as my self, but I can honestly say a good attempt was made. It's just too damn bad the filmmakers gave up after there first try.