Color, 1975, 87 mins. 38 secs.
Directed by Natuch Baitan
Starring Steve Arkin (Cüneyt Arkin), Barbara Lake, Charles Garret, Alison Soames, TIm Jackson, Natasha Mortiz
American Genre Film Archive (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The The Sword and the ClawAmerican Genre Film Archive The Sword and the Clawgoes international with this oddball action-fantasy release, whose title confused drive-in archaeologists for years when it appeared on posters combined with other martial arts pickups in the early '80s from the infamous American distributor William Mishkin. As it turns out, this is actually the insane Lionman, a Turkish stunner that caught more than a few hardy VHS hunters off guard and spawned a more widely available sequel, Lionman II: The Witchqueen.

Things start off fairly normally with a desert battle establishing the turf war that ends up taking out a mighty king (an assassination sequence that must be seen to be believed). In the ensuing melee the pregnant princess escapes and dies in childbirth, leaving behind a baby son who's spirited away and raised by a pride of lions. When he reaches adulthood, Lionman (busy Turkish action star Arkin) sets out to fulfill his birthright by taking down the evil Antoine, whose regime has turned the kingdom into a despotic nightmare, as well as the rebels who made it possible for him to survive in the first place. He can also bloodily scratch open his enemies' faces and throats, which comes in handy!

Very fast paced, utterly The Sword and the Clawridiculous, and technically lacking, The Sword and the Claw is exactly the kind of insane discovery people hoped to find back in the days of video shelf rifling and should hopefully find a new The Sword and the Clawaudience with its Blu-ray release. According to the packaging it's culled from the only existing 35mm film elements, so expect to see plenty of specks and scratches. The main titles fare the worst (including an awkward substituted title card that kills the music for few seconds), but colors look great and it's a massive upgrade over the fuzzy VHS version. The DTS-HD MA English dub track sounds okay for something that doesn't demand much out of your speakers at all.

In tried and true AGFA fashion, this is actually a double feature with the bonus film discreetly tucked among the special features. This time out, the "Chinese Black Belt Society and Extraordinary Films presents Black Jack Chan" in 1981's The Brawl Busters (83m8s), a mystery kung fu film with a host of generic credits like "starring Richard Kong and Li Ying Ying" and directed by "Tommy Kim." (IMDb lists this as a 1978 Korean film, which seems speculative.) Whatever the film's origins may actually be, it was released early as Dragon from Shaolin and hit German DVD in a widescreen transfer (with English dub intact) as Der Silberfaust der Shaolin. There's barely any kind of coherent plot here as we're dropped in the middle of a bout over who has The Sword and the Claw"the greatest kung fu" before we meet a vengeance-obsessed maiden who goes around seducing men as a pretext for stabbing them with a butterfly hairpin. "When a woman kills The Sword and the Clawone of our people, it looks very bad! You must find that woman and kill the bitch!" orders the offended clan leader (with the obligatory fake beard and mustache), but the disciple who's sent to lead the mission finds his loyalties severely tested. Many, many, many fight scenes ensue, including a wild, wuxia-style finale.

Barely bothering with such niceties as character names or linear plot flow, this is kung fu programming boiled down to its essence and exactly the kind of thing churned out to fill a double or triple bill. Also included is a reel of bonus "Face-Smashing Action Trailers" (10m22s) including Argoman the Fantastic Superman, Superargo and the Faceless Giants, The Three Supermen in the Jungle, The 3 Supermen in the West, and The Supergirl of Kungfu.

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Reviewed on February 1, 2018.