Revenge of the Shogun Women opens with what, to the best of my knowledge, is cinema's only 3-D rape scene. The camera is positioned in such a way that the naked victim's breasts pop out at you in three dimensions. The filmmakers must have thought that seemed okay in 1977; today, it's in colossally bad taste. Of course, it's also just one of the ways that this movie is totally worth seeing on Kino Lorber Studio Classics' new Blu-ray. This is vintage martial arts madness, and that makes it thoroughly entertaining to behold.
A group of bandits has invaded a village in 1800s China, stealing whatever they want and violating the women (hence that rape scene). We learn, via opening titles, that rape victims are sent to a convent, where they are trained to become lethal fighters. One such woman has sustained injuries from her assault. A local doctor is brought in to treat her. The only remedy, he says, is “acupuncture of the breasts.” Since it's considered improper for a woman to be touched by a man to whom she isn't married, a plan is concocted to have the doctor marry her.
From there, the doctor gets a “romantic” rival, the bandits make their return, and the kung-fu nuns get a chance to utilize their skills. Boy, do they ever. The final section of the movie is a virtual orgy of bloodshed as the women dispatch of every bandit in take-no-prisoners style.
This is a good old-fashioned grindhouse martial arts flick, complete with choppy editing, awkward dubbing, copious nudity and violence, and a “print” that is marred by scratches and dirt. Kino Lorber cleaned it up as much as possible, but couldn't fix it completely, and that's okay. A picture like this should never look too good because that would take away the ambiance.
3-D is what makes Revenge of the Shogun Women special. The experts at 3-D Film Archive have restored the film beautifully. Two ways to watch it are available. If you have a 3-D TV, you can watch the polarized version, which is definitely the better option. If not, the anaglyphic version is here too, as is a pair of red/cyan glasses. As was common at the time, the 3-D is pushed all the way out, so when, for example, someone thrusts a staff at the camera, it looks like it's ten feet long. Fists, swords, throwing stars, poles, and more come flying off the screen and right into your face. The movie never misses a chance to take advantage of the effect, and that adds to the overall crazy sensation.
The bonus features consist of three shorts also restored by 3-D Film Archive, each in the 10-15 minute range. College Capers is a '50s-era campus comedy with innuendo that probably seemed racy at the time. Persian Slave Market is eleven minutes of burlesque dancers doing their thing in the third dimension. Two Guys from Tick Ridge finds a movie producer and his friend discussing the possibilities of the 3-D process, all of which are demonstrated for the viewer. These extras are perfectly fun pieces of nostalgia, certain to delight 3-D aficionados.
Revenge of the Shogun Women is a terrific Blu-ray release all the way around. No one will ever accuse the main feature of being great cinema, but anyone with a fondness for martial arts grindhouse fare and/or 3-D will absolutely want to add this disc to their collection.
Revenge of the Shogun Women is rated R for violence and sexual content, including nudity and rape. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.