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Samurai Princess

Wellspring // Unrated // November 17, 2009
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted November 30, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

Arterial spouting, breast grenades, eyeballs and fingers flying following robot attacks, light speed spinning in place, and humans mistakenly eating on human-body-part soup -- and that's just the first 6 minutes of Samurai Princess, before the opening title credit. The rest of this schlocky Kengo Kaji-directed blood fest accomplishes little more, spurting out grotesque images rendered for the pure sake of tossing them on-screen. Underneath all the perverse satisfaction in splaying gore in front our our vision, however, you'll find slapdash, unsatisfying combat and a story that's barely fleshed out enough to keep the river of blood flowing to the nonsensically bizarre conclusion.

Samurai Princess doesn't tell you in its title, but it's actually about a "Mecha" cyborg girl (Aino Kishi) acting out her vengeance-filled orders to "right" the actions of other machines. See, mechanized droids live among normal people in the future, but their contorted (or miswired?) personalities have issues with grasping normalcy while constructing their death-riddled "art". Our samurai princess has been programmed (and reconstructed) to hunt down deviants and, apparently, kill them in grotesque ways, though we learn that she's got a deeper side to her as well when she reflects on her past -- all photographed in obvious pink-drenched color timing to emphasize the past-nature of the sequences. Drama intermingles with the story once she hooks up with her guitar-swinging compadre in the form of romance and secondary plot developments, but they're more for the exploitation aspect of the picture than anything else.

Shot on the cheap with most of the budget going towards make-up and costume, Samurai Princess concentrates heavily on psychedelic violence-drenched brutality. Human body parts soar everywhere in this picture, with plenty of both computer-generated and hand-crafted blood spraying in all directions. Its sole focus is to replicate a level of anime-style grotesqueness that's weak without the acting or narrative to really back it up, lending very little reason to actually delve into the picture unless the mood demands for a stream of laughs at outlandish effects. You'll find influence from Army of Darkness, Takashi Miike, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man scattered throughout, yet it lacks of the tangible punchy laughs or stirring macabre eeriness present in those gag-heavy pictures -- even though the production design and computer-generated effects are noteworthy on this level.

So, what we have left are a handful of blasé fights and the resemblance of a storyline draped in front of metal-heavy music accompaniment, and neither are enough to keep our interest afloat. It's understood that Kenjo Kaji's picture fits snugly into a sub-genre of boobs and brutality built from the ground up just for kicks; however, the flickers of action in the flick should have fast-paced maneuvering and thrilling theatrics behind the bombardment of bloodiness. Unlike Tetsuo: The Iron Man, where the creativity hops behind the steering wheel and swirls around a bizarrely vexing experience, Samurai Princess simply writhes, clanks, and sputters along without a sense of creepiness. It's more of a modern-era Japanese exploitation flick without much of a shred of excitement about the brawl sequences -- a bloody rampage that's heavy on blood, light on the rampage.

The DVD:

Video and Audio:

Samurai Princess was filmed with high-quality cameras more geared for non-cinema usage, which shows in this crisp yet bland 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image. Close-ups showcase fine detail and the colors in the backdrops are all very innate, though the image suffers from intense aliasing from start to finish and several black crushing. Some instances also show off some blistering edge-enhancement, but it's mostly in high-contrast scenes. From the source, it's likely that this image couldn't look much better in standard-definition.

Audio comes in both Japanese and English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo options, which are serviceable accompaniments that show little problems in distortion. They aren't, however, anything to call home about as far as action soundtracks go. Dialogue remains distortion-free and the musical accompaniment pumps along fine, while the hokey "clang" sound effects sound about as good as they can. The English dub is a very fun listen for those inclined, as the theatrical delivery of the lines can be VERY entertaining. Optional English subtitles are also available.

Special Features:

Along with a Theatrical Trailer and a Photo Gallery, a Behind-the-Scenes (22:06, 4x3) featurette mixes interviews with off-screen assembly footage. Aino Kishi talks about training for the action and having to endure a mixture of blood and lotion for her birth sequence, while director Kenjo Kaji talks about his influences.

Final Thoughts:

If oddly-contorted machine people with a taste for the macabre strikes your fancy, give Tetsuo: The Iron Man a look before diving into Samurai Princess. If Shinya Tsukamoto's piece doesn't have enough color, blood, guts, or double-faced, Ash-inspired villains for you, then Samurai Princess might be worth a rental -- at best, under the right conditions or with a group of gore-hound friends in tow. Most will find this one easy to be Skipped though, as the decent effects and make-up work push much too hard on the shock button while the action and storyline fall far to the wayside.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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