Revenge of the Shogun Women in 3-D (aka 13 Golden Nuns) is a 1977 Taiwanese martial arts film about a ground of 13 women who are brutally raped by a roving band of thugs. Because they’re no longer virgins, they’re forced into becoming Buddhist nuns. Despite their peaceful teachings, though, they also train themselves to fight should bandits ever threaten local women again. And so it happens: The same band that ravaged their community returns, and it’s up to the women to stop them.
As far as 1970s martial arts films go, Women has a few things in its favor. The first is its utter brutality. By today’s standards, it feels downright morally reckless. This isn’t a story about a group of women overcoming the men who hurt them. In fact, despite the title, revenge is barely the motivation for most of the film. It goes against their Buddhist teachings. The opening act depicts graphic rape sequences; later on, in battle with the bandits, most of the women die in horrible ways (while also killing their opponents in equally graphic ways). There’s no sense of cosmic catharsis here. The violence is beautifully choreographed spiritual degradation. The final line is one of the most hopeless buttons to one of these spectacle films I’ve ever heard.
The second, of course, relates to that little 3-D in the title. The new release from Kino Lorber includes both BD3D Polarized 3D and Anaglyphic (Red/Cyan) 3D. A pair of glasses is included for the latter. It’s a very strange 21st-century retro experience to watch a film like this with Red/Cyan glasses on a 50” 4K TV but a pretty pleasing one. Most of the action is fairly standard martial-arts fare with extra blood and cruelty thrown in. However, characters frequently thrust their weapons toward the camera to make use of the 3D shtick. It’s not the best use of 3D, but it’s an added layer of visual fun in a film without a lot of joy to be had otherwise.
The end of 2021 sees a boatload of great 1970s martial arts-related releases hit the U.S. Blu-ray market. Women isn’t one of the better overall films — I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the actual characters and plot specifics just a few days after watching it — but it’s memorable for the reasons listed above. It’s a neat addition to a budding kung-fu collection if only because there aren’t many 3D entries in the genre. It will make you feel a little bad but also a little thrilled.