Pray for Death (1985)

REVIEWS - Movie Reviews

Sho Kosugi is the best kung fu man since Bruce Lee.

Forget Jackie Chan. Forget Jet Lee. Forget Bruce Lei, Bruce Li, Bruce Lea and Bruce Leigh.

It's no wonder that they're giving Hong Kong back to the Commies. They haven't turned out a world-class thwacker since 1974, when Bruce's head blew up.

"Pray for Death," which I discovered in France in the 1980s, is the first movie ever made about a Japaheeno ninja who joins a neighborhood improvement group.

All Sho wants to do is take his little Japaheeno wife to Houston, buy an old house, lay a little bathroom tile, replace some wood shingles and play some Frisbee with his Yokohama younguns.

Unfortunately, there's this mush-mouth mobster named Limehouse that gets his jollies out of pouring gasoline on people and saying, "Hey, how about a Viking funeral?" And he decides a Japaheeno family would be just the right people to take the blame for some missing California nose candy.

So first he kidnaps Sho's little kid, then he gets two Cro-Magnon men in a pickup to run over the other kid and Sho's wife, and then he sneaks into Sho's wife's hospital room, fiddles around with her life support equipment, and goes, "Whoops!"

Pretty soon we got one p.o.ed ninja in a business suit. Unfortunately, we also got some Communist censorship going on here. The version I saw over in France is not the one that was released in the United States.

The guys on the national censor board decided "Pray for Death" needed an X rating for violence, and so that meant they couldn't advertise in the newspaper, and so that meant they had to go back and take out some of the scene where Limehouse burns up an old man and the scene where Sho's wife gets her plug pulled.

They've been doing stuff like this ever since some mommies com- plained about "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Scum" a few years back. Good thing we got Sho in charge, though, cause he rises above the scissors and turns this into "Enter the Dragon," "Death Wish" and "Halloween" all rolled into one flick.

Back when I first had the pleasure, "Pray for Death" went immediately to Numero Uno on the JBB Best of '86 list, surpassing the previous best horror flick - "A Chorus Line."

Forty-eight dead bodies (17 before the opening credits). Two breasts. Nine gallons blood. Ninety-eight on the Vomit Meter (84 in the censored version). Chest-carving. Wrist-slashing. Six kung fu brawls. Motor vehicle chase. - Kung fu. Ninjitsu fu. Kid fu. Hypodermic fu. - Ax fu. Chainsaw fu. Lumber mill fu. Crowbar fu. - Big Wheel fu. Gasoline-and-a-Bic-lighter fu. - Shinto Temple rigamarole about fire and sword and death and prophets. Gratuitous mall shopping. Gratuitous Batman. - Two exploding cars.

Drive-in Academy Award nominations went to...

* James Booth, who wrote this sucker and also played Limehouse, a guy so mean he says, "I'm gonna burn you, kid, like a roman candle."
* Sho, the master, who keeps saying, "I'm sorry - my fault - so sorry."
* Kane Kosugi and Shane Kosugi, Sho's kids, for excellent midget fu.
* And Gordon Hessler, the director, for his best flick since "Scream and Scream Again."

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out again.



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