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SAMURAI PRINCESS
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Kengo Kaji

Starring:
Aino Kishi
Dai Mizuno
Asuka Kataoka
Mao Shiina

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

A group of eleven young girls are raped and killed in a forest by a nasty gang of baddies who are led by two mecha: humans with cybernetically-enhanced bodies. The young girl is the sole survivor, left for dead buried beneath a pile of limbs of her friends. Found by a wandering scientist (who incidentally created the mecha) and a Buddhist nun, she asks to be transformed into a mecha to get her revenge. The scientist agrees and stitches together the body parts of the eleven girls to create the Samurai Princess, who sets off on your typical revenge spree, with breast grenades, chainsaw legs and more in tow.

Is it good movie?

From the dude who wrote TOKYO GORE POLICE comes...this. Sharing the same type of action sequences and cheesy, over-the-top bizarre gore as TOKYO GORE POLICE and MACHINE GIRL, SAMURAI PRINCESS is another oddball. One could say that this sub-genre of Japanese horror films is the equivalent of the 'torture porn' craze we North Americans have been sitting through for the past couple of years. Different styles, I know, but both exhibit a love/hate relationship with horror fans. Myself? I'm not sure on my opinion of this sub-genre, because I still haven't wrapped my brain around what I just saw.

So yeah, SAMURAI PRINCESS involves the above ludicrous plot, coupled with cheesy over-the-top action and gore sequences, and questionable acting. It's all in good fun, of course. Case in point: Not even six minutes into the film, you'll get the Samurai Princess dispatching a couple of thugs with breast grenades (and the so-so CG that goes along with it), roundhouse kicking one dude so hard he gets drilled into the ground, then popping off the top of this same dude's head to plug in a wire from the back of her neck into the guy's brain, all in order to 'read' his thoughts. It gets weirder, but I'll leave that to you to find out.

For direction, Kengo Kaji is as off the wall as the film's content. There's a genuine enthusiasm about the whole thing, even when you have the abundant sequences of absurdity. I'm being nice, of course, since the real attraction to this film isn't the direction. Kaji does manage to include some quiet moments involving character development, as well as a love scene that's fairly gratuitous (Aino Kishi, the actress who plays the Samurai Princess, is Japan's equivalent to a porn star). Most of the time, it's like there's a person with ADD behind the camera.

Like I said, the main star of the film is the gore. Everything else is secondary. That includes the acting and the script, which are awful (listening to the English dub made my face sore from all the cringing), the sets (which include a forest, a nondescript warehouse and a dark room with lots of dry ice smoke) and the dialogue (which is best left unsaid). By the end of the film, things have boiled down to an episode of Power Rangers on crack, complete with person in a rubber monster suit, even worse CG, more weird shite and more things coming out of left field than I care to count.

Would I recommend SAMURAI PRINCESS? It was a 'meh' for me, personally. I'd like my films to carry a bit more than just a bucket of plasma and latex body parts before they descend into even more wackiness. However, if you loved Koji's stuff in MACHINE GIRL and TOKYO GORE POLICE, then this is more of what you loved, so dig in. For those who haven't seen the previously-mentioned films (or films like them), make a trip to Blockbuster before you decide to take the bloody (and bizarre) plunge.

Video / Audio

Video: SAMURAI PRINCESS is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors, flesh tones and black levels all look accurate, and details are generally pretty good throughout. I did catch some instances of ghosting, but they're few and far between.

Audio: The audio comes in to flavours: a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles, and a English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Both come out clear and crisp, balanced with no distortion to speak of. The only problem comes in the form of the English dub, which is horrible, to say the least. The script doesn't make things better, either. Stick with the Japanese track.

The Extras

First up is a behind the scenes featurette, clocking in at just over 20 minutes. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles, it consists of behind the scenes footage interspersed with comments from the cast and crew about the film. Nothing incredibly informative, but it's interesting for a little while.

Next is an image gallery, consisting of stills with music from the film playing in the background.

Following that is the film's trailer, presented in Japanese with no English subtitles. Obviously, it's hard to follow without any English text/language, but at least it has some gore to whet your appetite.

The DVD case is housed in an embossed slipcase bearing the film's poster, which mimics the poster to CHANBARA BEAUTY (which has a game based on it for the Wii). And no, the Samurai Princess does not end up looking like she does in the film's poster.

Last Call

Weird as it is gory, SAMURAI PRINCESS is about neither. The film will appeal to fans of Koji's previous contributions. The rest of you will probably benefit from a 'try before you buy' move, or from having a few drinks and friends who are equally plastered. Hey, you need something in order to get past the putrid dialogue for the buckets of blood and rubber limbs.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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