Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
On June 29th of this year of 2013, the great but enigmatic Jim Kelly passed away after a reported long battle with cancer.  Of the list of people I don't know but cherish greatly, Jim Kelly is near the top of that list.  Right behind actress Kelly Hu.  I think Jim would understand.  In honor of the late Mr. Kelly, it's nigh time I finish off his filmography, most of which I've seen, starting with this movie I've been avoiding for years… 'Black Samurai'.  Why would I, a confessed Jim Kelly slappy be avoiding Black Samurai?  A choice made all the more curious since I've read all of the late author Marc Olden's Black Samurai paperbacks as a kid?  Three words… Al Freaking Adamson.  We know if Uncle Al was behind the camera, said movie has little choice except to be gawdawful.  If Al wasn't murdered by his handyman back in '95, he'd be 80 years old still making horrible movies.  Guess what?  We've seen 'Black Samurai' and to the surprise of no one… it was gawdawful.  But with respect to the late Mr. Kelly, we gleefully stumbled through it.

The evil Chavez (Roberto Contreras) has kidnapped the fair Toki (Essie Lin Chia) on behalf of the super evil Janicot (Bill Roy).  Why?  That's a damn good question.  If I gleaned correctly from the information given, Toki is the daughter of some important Asian dude, and thus this is going to make it easier for Janicot and Chavez to move drugs and prostitutes.  I guess.  The concept doesn't make much sense but there it is.

It so happens that Toki is the consort of D.R.A.G.O.N. super-agent Robert Sand (Kelly), code named The Black Samurai.  The MAN pays Sand a visit while he's on vacation and goes through this long song and dance about how evil Janicot is and how he's into evil voodoo and all other stuff and how they need The Black Samurai to get on the job.
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FINALLY, they mention the bad dudes have kidnapped his girlfriend and Sand accepts the job.  Could've saved us ten minutes of horrible dialog and bad acting by just leading off with that.

Now The Black Samurai's mission begins.  More or less.  Truth be told, he's really not much of a super spy.  Or a samurai for that matter since he rarely touches a sword.  This missions basically consists of Sand riding around in his dope ride, to be honest with you.  He gets chased by racists who drive a car that spontaneously combusts, he crashes a party and beats up some midgets, he puts on a jet pack and flies around the woods, he fights some leopard skin Zulu warriors… I mean he does do all kinds of stuff, but as far as his mission, which I think is to stealthily find his girlfriend, he kind of sucks at that.  The stealth thing is a bit marred by the bright purple super sports car, his tendency to dress in bright orange jump suits, and having the largest, roundest afro on the planet Earth, so everybody already knows who he is, long before he shows up.

Still, Toki needs saving.  From what… we don't know.  And Janicot… The Warlock… needs to be stopped.  From doing what… we don't know.  What we do know is that poorly rendered action and the worlds worst voice dubbing shall ensue.  And Al Adamson got me again.

To think that Al Adamson made me long for Robert Clouse.  Clouse made a big name for himself directing 'Enter the Dragon', but as time revealed, that movie was great largely to the presence of Bruce Lee.  Clouse went on to make other, less awesome kung fu flicks such as Kelly's own Black Belt Jones, China O'Brien and… oh dear… Gymakata.  But at least Clouse halfway knew what he was doing, even on his worst day.  'Black Samurai' is darn near incomprehensible, made palatable only by Jim Kelly doing what he does and the bountiful, grossly underused Marilyn Joi as the character of Synne.  This movie does almost nothing right.  Yes, Jim Kelly has never been a great actor, even by his own admission, but making sure every other actor in the movie was worse probably wasn't the best approach to propping up my man's skills.  Sure, Jim Kelly is a great fighter and a heckuva athlete, but Al skipped the class 'Kung Fu Fighting 101' when he went to that film school that he went to.  The scenes are poorly framed, overlit, badly edited… the movie is a total mess.

But yes, there is still enjoyment to be had, despite all of this.  Did Sand really have to call a guy he just kicked in the face a 'white faggot'?  That was totally uncalled for.  Most superspies have a mini knife to cut themselves out of tight situations.  Sand has a mini flame thrower.  Now you would think the bad guys that had Sand tied up would've noticed the smoke coming from the flaming ropes behind his back, but these aren't the observant type bad guys I guess. Another thing about this flame thrower which was awesome, was that Sand was locked in a prison and he used the flame thrower on the lock which amazingly opened the door.  I didn't know that was even possible.  And this was the first time I saw a midget with a bullwhip control Zulu Warriors.  Then fall to his death from a four foot tree.  Then there was the final battle between Sand and Bone (Charles Grant) while some dude did the ADR, who I am going to guess was a white guy trying to sound black, voiced Jim Kelly and it was so incredibly insipid that it almost made for the price of admission. 

Rest in Peace Sir Kelly.  We wish we could've seen you more after the less gawdawful 'One Down, Two to Go' back in '82, but we still have enough to carry us through the tough times knowing that you are no longer here.
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