Written by: Carroll Jenkins on April 18th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA / Hong Kong, 1975
Director: Charles Bail
Writer: William Tennant
Cast: Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Ni Tien, Norman Fell, Albert Popwell, Caro Kenyatta, Shen Chan, Christopher Hunt, Chen Chi Lin, Locke Hua Liu, Eddy Donno, Bobby Canavarro, Mui Kwok Sing, John Cheung, Tony Lee, Rich King, Gigo Tevzadze, Lok Sing
DVD released: August 2nd, 2004
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Warner Home Video
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
Made towards the end of the blaxploitation cycle, this was co-produced by Run Run Shaw and is a cross-pollination of blaxploitation, martial arts, and secret agent thriller. Tamara Dobson had a lot of charisma but was best in strong supporting roles as in Chained Heat. Unlike the original Cleopatra Jones flick, Tamara does not have to carry this one by herself. She gets in some choice quips and about 40 different outfits, but has lots of help in her battle with the lesbian Dragon Lady played by Stella Stevens (The Silencers).
Receiving an ‘introducing’ role despite having appeared in some 30 movies Tanny (aka Tien Ni – Black Magic) appears about 20 seconds after Tamara does. And it is Tanny who repeatedly saves Tamara from near death situations. In fact, it is Tamara’s big headed ‘fish out of water’ exploits that necessitate frequent rescues by the nominal sidekick that are mirrored in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China a decade later (with a switch in gender). Tanny gets a great solo scene when she is assaulted in her apartment, has her arms restrained, and still takes out a whole crew of thugs without losing her towel. A bit of wire work here, but very impressive nonetheless.
The location filming in Hong Kong and the production facilities and crew of Shaw Brothers make this film more grandiose in scale and style than your typical guerrilla blaxploitation flick made in the States. Stella Stevens’ stunt double takes out prolific Shaw Brothers regular Chan Shen who appeared in the Shaw / Hammer hybrid Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.
This PAL release presents the film in a very nice 2:40 anamorphic presentation that is very sharp and colorful. Original soundtrack with English subtitles are provided. There are significant errors in both syntax and context. No extras are provided. At this point it appears that no region 1 release will be forthcoming and that the PAL version is OOP. There are still quantities around and available at a reasonable price of the UK version, though the Australian release seems to go for quite a bit more.
Wrongly regarded as ‘just a sequel’ to an average blaxploitationer, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of gold brings international talent to tell a tale with international implications. It’s a great ‘B’ action film that deserves far more attention than it gets.