Lady Karate (HK 1976)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/27/13
Cast: Judy Lee (Chia Ling), Chang Yi

"I would rather commit hara-kiri than submit to your odious charms!"

A good looking and overly violent tale of espionage and intrigue, as a Mongolian Princess with Japanese lineage (?) named Yoshiko (Judy Lee) travels to China in order to convince a Japanese prince to run away with her and become the leader of Manchuria. Huh? Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, and the muddled plot is needlessly confusing. Unfortunately for her, a masked vigilante known as the Plum Bandit (Chang Yi) is always one step ahead of her and causing her trouble. Things get increasingly desperate for Yoshiko, and she ends up having to bargain with sexual favors in order to see her plan through. Even the prince is smitten with her charms and won't leave unless she agrees to sleep with him. What a scumbag. The abrupt and ambiguous ending keeps you guessing and leaves no clear winners in the game.

It's all rather pointless and the misogynistic angle is distasteful, but the costuming is great and the action scenes are nicely executed. Judy Lee looks lovely in Japanese garb and performs some superb swordplay. Actually, the swordplay is quite good throughout the entire picture, and is brutal and precise. There's even some bayonet fighting thrown in towards the end, which is unusual for the genre. The cinematography is lovely and the sets are colorful and elaborate. It's just a shame that I had to watch it on a dubbed, third generation, pan-and-scan video tape.