Samurai Princess DVD Review
Written by Steve “Alien Redrum” Pattee
DVD released by Well Go USA
Do your friends taste good? – Gedohime
Directed by Kengo Kaji
Written by Sotaro Hayashi
2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 82 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on November 17th, 2009
Aino Kishi as Gedohime
Dai Mizuno as Gekko
Asuka Kataoka as Renjyo
Mao Shina as Mikaduki
Mitsuru Karahashi as Kyoraku
Kentarou Shimazu as Shachi
Mihiro as Kocho
Oh Samurai Princess how you led me on so with your sexy teasing! On the box cover, you showed me a hot little number in a provocative outfit, poised with weapons and ready to kill. In the trailer you promised fights and gore galore, and a little premarital loving. And when it came to the actual film you barely showed me any of this. Why, Samurai Princess, why? You had so much potential.
As you can imagine, Samurai Princess is a frustrating letdown. It delivers everything it promises, but not everything it suggests. The film opens living up to expectations, with a blood-drenched fight, filled with ample amounts of flying limbs — including our heroine Gedohime (Japanese adult film star, Aino Kishi) ripping off her breasts and using them as a weapon to take down a baddie. But instead of keeping the frenetic pace of its opening, everything comes to a crawl for nearly 45 minutes as there is exposition on how Gedohime came to be a mecha — part human, part cyborg — and why she’s on her quest of revenge. In a film like this, no one cares about the who’s and the what’s. We just want to see damage.
The fight scenes that do occur are bittersweet. While the film isn’t shy about the limb hacking and gallons of red, it’s sadly obvious that the actors aren’t trained in fighting, and the film is lacking a choreographer — at least a well-trained one. The body count somewhat makes up for this, but when you are relying on your fights as much as your body parts, make sure both are equally prepared.
The story is a convoluted one, at best. A group of thieves rape and murder Gedohime and her friends, where she is found by “the mad scientist” who traverses the area looking for body parts to build the perfect mecha. Finding the site of the slaughter — and with the help of a priestess — he builds Gedohime out of the pieces of her and her friends, and the souls of the 11 BFFs are merged into one killing machine. Then, Gedohime goes looking for those who did them wrong. Along the way, she joins forces with a guy who uses his guitar as his weapon, looking for his own revenge. There’s more to it, but that’s the gist.
The film’s biggest problem, aside from the long chunks of aimless wandering and chit chat, of course, is the ample overuse of crappy CGI. When are low-budget filmmakers going to realize that their CGI sucks? Just because you have the same program used to make the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park doesn’t mean you have the talent to apply it properly. I can absolutely get behind the use of it for certain things — more blood, for instance — but when using it to peel off the skull cap of a victim to get to the brain, like in the beginning of Samurai Princess, it just doesn’t work. And it’s obvious. You can damn near see the green screen. Stop it.
Now that’s not to say all the grue in Samurai Princess is CGI — the practical effects are actually quite nice — but when the bad effects hit, they take you out of the movie. This is somewhat saved by the ample old-school blood spray when cuts are made, as these are glorious in their execution, and it helps that just about every attack hits an artery on someone. But when you go into a film expecting madness and only get a little bit of crazy, some of which is distracting in the delivery, it ends in disappointment.
However, there is some saving grace to the film. In addition to the effects that do work, hot damn is Aino Kishi easy on the eyes. Not the best actress, at least here (I haven’t had the pleasure to see any of her other films), but she looks good wielding a sword. Couple that with the mad scientist and his two sidekicks — who are absolutely hilarious and over-the-top — and the movie isn’t a complete bust. It’s just unfortunate that the budget prevents it from being more.
Samurai Princess has many flaws, but could be an enjoyable double feature with Tokyo Gore Police (which director Kengo Kaji co-scripted) on a Friday night with a six-pack and some buddies. (I would recommend watching Princess first, though, as Police is the superior film.)
Video and Audio:
Samurai Princess was shot on digital, and it’s obvious. The anamorphic presentation is hit and miss, some scenes looking fantastic, others hollow and bland. I don’t fault Well Go USA for this, as it’s a clean print and they did the best with what they had. As par for the course, the darker scenes suffer the most.
The soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired, as only Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0 are offered. While there weren’t any anomalies with the soundtrack — dialogue was crisp and there was no distortion — movies like Samurai Princess demand at least 5.1 sound.
I didn’t bother with the English dub as English subtitles are available.
- Behind the Scenes
- Photo Gallery
The 22 minute behind-the-scenes featurette consists mainly of interviews with the cast and crew explaining why Samurai Princess is so awesome. There is little gained here, but if you dig the movie you might find something you like.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, OPPO DV-970HD DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)