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Shanghai Joe (1973)
"Il mio nome è Shangai Joe" (original title)

 -  Action | Drama | Western  -  January 1976 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 445 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 6 critic

A Chinese immigrant, recently arrived in America, fights to free Mexican slaves from their cruel master.



, (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Shanghai Joe (1973)

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Credited cast:
Chen Lee ...
Shanghai Joe / Chin Hao
Scalper Jack
Burying Sam
Claudio Undari ...
Pedro, The Cannibal (as Robert Hundar)
Katsutoshi Mikuriya ...
Carla Romanelli ...
Carla Mancini ...
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart ...
Tricky the Gambler
George Wang ...
Federico Boido ...
Slim (as Rick Boyd)
Piero Lulli ...
Stanley Spencer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Andrea Aureli ...
Sheriff Corrotto
Giorgio Bixio
Lars Bloch ...
Aldo Cecconi ...


A Chinese immigrant named Chin How lands in a small Texas town inhabited by hard-nosed cowboys who don't take kindly to outsiders. The town folk soon realize that Chin is no ordinary drifter and he quickly gains a reputation for his unbeatable fighting skills. When word of Chin's skills spread to Stanley Spencer, the owner of the states largest cattle ranch, Chin lands a job working for Spencer as a fellow cowboy. Friend soon becomes foe when Chin realizes he is working for a cattle smuggler bent on brutalising Mexican farmers and anyone else who stands in his way. Written by Alan Smithee

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One Man Stands Alone In His Fight For Justice


Action | Drama | Western


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

January 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shanghai Joe  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The scene in which Gordon Mitchell's character sings "Chin-Chin Chinaman" while carrying a shovel was improvised on the spot by Mitchell. He also created the song. See more »


In the scene where Shangai Joe is in the bullfighting arena, at one point a red cape for attracting the bull's attention is visible. See more »


Followed by Return of Shanghai Joe (1975) See more »

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User Reviews

weird mash-up of 2 exploitation genres
11 December 2010 | by (New Jersey) – See all my reviews

Ahhhh, the Kung Fu Spaghetti Western, a weird hybrid that existed for a brief flash in the world of exploitation cinema. This film, known by various titles including DRAGON STRIKES AGAIN and most commonly THE FIGHTING FIST OF SHANGHAI JOE, came out in 1974, probably the zenith year for such attempts. (FYI, 1992 was the peak year for the Cyborg/Kickboxer mash-up--but that's another story.) Directed by undistinguished Italian genre hack Mario Caiano, the pic presents the tale of a Chinese loner ambling his way through the American Old West. The lead is played by the little-seen Chen Lee. Lee has only three movie credits to his name, each in an Italian film, which begs the question of whether he is an actor per se or merely a expert martial artist that happened to be living in Italy at the time. But whatever the explanation, Lee manages to acquit himself rather well in this performance. He has an easygoing, laconic presence that is pleasantly free of the stiffness sometimes on display among non-acting fighters. (Of course his dialog is dubbed, but so is everyone else's here, so it's hard to judge him in that respect.) After a few vignettes depicting Lee's troubles in finding transportation, food, and ranch work due to the locals' bigotry and bullying, we settle in to the main thrust of the story, wherein Lee aims to help liberate Mexican peons who are being enslaved by evil rancher Spencer, played by the familiar Piero Lulli. Along to help him is the pretty Mexican Cristina (Carla Romanelli), and she turns into a sort of love interest for him.

There are a few weird quirks about the pic that are worth noting. First, our hero goes unnamed for about the first 3/4 of the film--no one asks his name an he is never addressed by anyone. Then out of the blue, he offhandedly refers to himself as "Shanghai Joe" in a chat with Cristina. OK, after 80 minutes we learn his name... the in the very next scene, Spencer calls for "Joe" to be killed and shouts, "Go get Chin Hao!", a name by which "Joe" is referred for the final few minutes. What the heck? How did Spencer learn this guy's Chinese name? Is this a sloppy scripting gaffe, a botched dubbing mistake, poor exposition? Whatever the reason, it's weird.

Another oddity is the plot twist where, late in the story, Spencer and his men meet to decide how to deal with Joe. They opine that four notorious hit men would each be perfect for doing away with the Chinaman. What follows is a quick series of pretty ridiculous vignettes as colorful baddies with names like "The Cannibal" are dispatched by Joe. Among these hit men are top-billed stars Gordon Mitchell as "Buryin' Sam" and Klaus Kinski as "Scalper Jack". Their scenes are so brief, basically cameo appearances, that neither of the two have a real chance to flex their wild, woolly acting chops. A wasted opportunity.

The hit men sequences display another unusual aspect of this picture: a great number of grotesque, gory and explicit wounds and deaths. Kinski's character, obviously, relishes cutting his victim's scalps off; Mitchell builds a spiked grave-trap for his victim to fall into. Also seen elsewhere in the film are an eyeball gouged out, homemade acupuncture on a bullet wound, and a man's hand shot off. Gruesome stuff and oddly disconcerting, these shots don't give a visceral thrill or gasp, rather, they make you do a double-take in disbelief, like, "what was *that*?" Also unusual to the modern viewer are the camera tricks and staging used to suggest Joe's jumping and fighting prowess. Quite a few times we see the ol' "reverse footage" trick to depict someone jumping from a standstill up onto a tall perch. In '74 that might have wowed 'em, but by now we can see right through that trick.

In the end, the various exploitation elements can't make this a cohesive, engaging feature. Caiano's pacing is suspect, as little momentum carries over from one scene to the next, giving the 93-minute picture quite a plodding pace. And with no protagonist other than the stone-faced Joe, there is no charismatic heart to the story. As capable as Lee is, an effervescent sidekick or partner might have livened things up. What we do have to stir the soul, however, is the absolutely BRILLIANT theme music by Bruno Nicolai, which plays several times throughout. As great as the Morricone-trained Nicolai is, I will without hesitation call this the greatest theme (that I've heard) of his career. It is a rousing, epic delight that will stay with you long after the flick is done.

In all, I think the idea of this film is better than the actual finished product. Kung Fu, cowboys, cartoonish violence and gore, eastern philosophy, gunfights ... it ought to add up to a better picture that what it is. Not on anybody's must-see list, but a watchable curiosity. Call it a C+, or 6/10 stars.

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