Dragon Force Operation is that kind of 70's kung fu movie that almost makes me want to write two reviews -- one for lovers of this genre and another for the uninitiated. If you are NOT familiar with this type of movie, in general they belong to another universe where the following will almost always be true:
1. Everyone wears slippers and spends a LOT of time outdoors. 2. It is normal, even common, for fights to break out. LOTS of fights. 3. In these fights, the hands and feet will come very close to hitting the other person (but not quite). 4. Every time one of these near-misses occurs, a loud "thwap" will be heard, like two boards slamming together. 5. At the end of the fight, the loser will be found to be eating ketchup, which will spill all down the front of his shirt, tunic, robe, uniform, hairless chest, etc. 6. People can jump backwards up onto tree limbs, cliffs, rooftops. 7. Revenge. Revenge. Revenge. 8. Good guys are always good guys, bad guys are always bad guys. 9. When indicating yourself in conversation, you should make a fist with the thumb pointing back towards you, and gesture towards your chin. Usually more than once. 10. My kung fu school is better than your kung fu school. 11. Much or even most of the humor is unintentional. 12. It's a good thing no one brought a gun.
Actually this movie breaks rule # 10, as there are no kung fu schools in sight. The setting is 1962 rather than 1762, making this movie a little unusual. No long white beards here. No red-tufted spears either (although there is a fight featuring the segmented staff).
The unusual time period and the work of the lovely Nancy Yen (Yen Nan-Hsi / Ju-Ju Yan / Nan Hsi Yen) are the reasons I rate this a 6 rather than a 5 (out of 10). She is a personal favorite of mine who made an absolute flurry of these types of films in the 70's and 80's, and she adds a lot to this movie. I wish she had been featured in more of it. This movie is apparently either quite rare, or known by some other name, as at the time of this writing, I am the first reviewer.
...and speaking of the title, it has nothing to do with the film. It could have been called "Force Operation Dragon" and it would have made equal sense. The axe-wielding character on the cover photo does not appear in the movie to my knowledge.
Most of the kung fu shown is OK to mediocre, with occasional shots of pretty good. Nancy Yen adds a lot to the movie in this regard though. Her fights where she is pretending not to know kung fu are my favorite parts of the movie.
The time period represented was one of Japanese occupation, and Chinese vs. Japanese racism seems to be the plot of the movie. Apparently everyone is a "bastard," as this word is used throughout. Other than this, the plot is baffling and unimportant, other than it provides us with lots and lots of fights. My favorite dialog: "Are you Chinese or Japanese?" "I am half and half." "Then I will only half kill you!!"
Highlights include: A bizarre cowboy instrumental version of "Blowing in the Wind" as the title song. Nancy Yen pretending to sleep while kicking butt by crossing and uncrossing her legs. Also a floating log-to-log kung fu marathon at the logging facility. Lowlights include a particularly fake-brutal crushing of hands, stabbings, fake blood, etc... so probably not one for the kiddies. Kudos however to the stunt actors who did the final fight in the rocks; that looks truly painful.
The print on the Saturn DVD is of good quality, but it is full-frame and the pan-and-scan is awful, with so much of the information cut off from the sides that at times it provides unintentional humor. During a fight at the hay bales we are treated to an extended view of... a hay bale, for instance. It is a bit like watching a film through a toilet paper tube. The voice actors as usual are over-the-top and at times seem to experience complete "give up."
This is the kind of Chop Sockie Kung Fu Theater that I enjoy, and this movie is probably worth at least one look if this sort of thing appeals to you. I give it a BigShoeKungFu 6*. Otherwise try "The Buddhist Fist" or perhaps "The Magnificent Butcher" for more impressive fare.
(*A BigShoeKungFu 6 is a 6 compared to other Kung Fu movies. Compared to a real movie like Citizen Kane or something, this movie is about a 2+.)
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