One of the original Eastern Westerns
By Joseph Kuby
, 10 Jun 2005
Going by the trailer I saw somewhere, I was expecting an American quality film if not exactly a combo mix of Chang Cheh and Sergio Leone but the film comes off like a Hong Kong movie except shot in English (though dubbed in English) and shot in the West.
The visual quality was appalling and the film print faded to green sometimes, definately not on the same quality as the one depicted in the trailer with vibrant colours and widescreen image (this version is pan & scan where everything is hideously cropped and this really spoils the martial arts action). It definately doesn't do the production values any favours.
The martial arts action is incredibly average and the sound effects used for when Lo jumps in the air are cartoony to say the least (they make the ones back home seem realistic in comparison) and it makes it come off like a Kung Fu western equivalent to The Six Million Dollar Man.
I read somewhere the distillery fight sequence is missing, which is a pity.
However, the film is still enjoyable and Lee & Lo make a great team, it's a shame there was no sequel.
This should really be watched as a western than a Kung Fu film as the fight scenes are okay and at the very best good (like the final one between Lo Lieh and this Mexican prize fighter) but the real highlight comes when Lee uses a chain gun (or minigun) to take on the hoodlums at the end (which is very similar to what Sammo Hung did in Millionaire Express).
Strangely enough, despite the low budget exploitation feel (complete with the 70s music) there's emphasis on character interaction & plot than action (at least martial arts action) which isn't too bad as the story is original, immersing and very funny (intentionally).
Some of the acting is terrible (e.g. the main villain who really hams it up as a pantomine-esque Warner Bros. cartoon style villain) though Lee's class and Lo's style give this film much needed attention.
What would have been nice would be a western that had Clint Eastwood's Joe Monco character from The Man With No Name films (Fistful Of Dollars, etc.) had teamed up wih Jimmy Wang Yu's One Armed Swordsman (or even Boxer) character.
Or even better, they could have had a tag team match movie like in those cross-over episodes of the Batman/Green Hornet TV series, where this time we see both cowboys and Chinamen fight side-by-side.
On a historical note, I don't know much about what the impact of this film was at the box office i.e. if it was indeed a film which attracted people who loved the Bruce Lee and western pictures in equal numbers or at least sizeable numbers if not in the same mega-hit league as Enter The Dragon.
As far as I know it's a pretty obscure movie but maybe it's one of those films that was famous then but not now.
This film is one of many Eastern Westerns, the others are Kung Fu, Red Sun, The Fists Of Shanghai Joe, Sun Dragon (a.k.a. A Hard Way To Die), Once Upon A Time In China & America, Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights. Then in Hong Kong, there's films set in turn-of-the-20th-century China where they absorb the atmosphere of westerns e.g. Millionaire's Express (a.k.a Shanghai Express starring Sammo Hung & Yuen Biao) and Peace Hotel (starring Chow Yun Fat).
Shanghai Noon remains, by far, the best but this one isn't too far behind.
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