Release Date(s)1975 (January 23, 2018)
Studio(s)Ugur Film/William Mishkin Motion Pictures (American Genre Film Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: C
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: C
One of the best things about the American Genre Film Archive (along with Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films) is their ability to dig up truly obscure film artifacts, the kind that you won’t just find in the bargain bin of a big retail store. Nor will you discover them being discussed endlessly on message boards or have dozens of articles dedicated to them... that is until these companies release them on Blu-ray for the first time. Such is the case with The Sword and the Claw (aka Kiliç Aslan and Lion Man), a Turkish cult title every bit as obscure and batshit as one could hope for.
As someone who fancies himself a lover of underground cinema, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of The Sword and the Claw before, especially since it features key players from the infamous (and likely to never be officially released) Turkish Star Wars (aka Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam). How could one go wrong with a plot about a lethal strongman’s hands being burned with acid only to have metal-bladed claws grafted onto them in order to continue mauling his enemies? You can’t. It has all the hallmarks of Turkish cinema: overextended fight scenes, poor English dubbing, and a generic plot about ruthless leaders and the people who fight back against them, but executed in a gloriously zealous, over the top manner.
On the flipside is The Sword and the Claw’s double-billed partner in crime, The Brawl Busters, a fairly straightforward Kung fu movie that, unfortunately, can’t deliver on what much of its one sheet promises (typical of many grindhouse movies of the era). But, as a co-feature, it works in tandem with the main presentation to give you your evening’s fill of chaotic action cinema, and then some. Both films are presented on AGFA’s newest Blu-ray release, and in a manner befitting the look and style of how a number folks likely saw them in their original run.
In the case of The Sword and the Claw, the transfer on this release was taken from a new 4K scan of the only surviving 35mm theatrical print. Those expecting perfection will not like this presentation, nor its alternate feature. Extensive damage is leftover that hasn’t been repaired, including lots of speckling (mostly apparent during the opening titles), frame damage, and occasionally warping. However, it’s fairly stable all things considered, and saturation, while not attenuated at all, features decent hues when it comes to reds and greens. Everything is bright enough to be seen well while detail (not camera negative quality, mind you) still has a tendency to be rich. The Brawl Busters, by comparison, is much more damaged but features many of the same qualities. The audio is presented as an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with English subtitles. Both soundtracks contain obvious, boxy overdubbing. Score and sound effects tend to bleed together with no real separation or overt fidelity. Dropouts and hiss are also frequent, as to be expected. I personally found the presentation appealing for what it was, but I must score it appropriately to temper expectations. Besides the bonus film, there’s also a collection of Face-Smashing Action Trailers, which includes Superargo: The Fantastic Superman, Superargo and the Faceless Giants, Three Supermen, 3 Supermen in the West, and Supergirl of Kung-Fu.
If you’re a fan of the content that AGFA has released thus far, then there’s no way on Earth you’re going to want to miss The Sword and the Claw. There aren’t many positives about it, or its co-feature, worth uttering other than they’re entertaining, and for me, that’s enough. This is another excellent release and well-worth seeking out if you’re a fan of oddball cinema from overseas.
- Tim Salmons