Cinema Epoch // 1990 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 23rd, 2009
900 pounds of ferocious terror!
From legendary overseas action icon Sonny Chiba, comes the touching story of a young couple and their sexy quest to stab a giant bear to death.
Yellow Fangs is apparently based on a true story, set in 1915, when a bear was attacking villages, ripping apart men and children and carting off the women to his cave to dine upon later.
But then one day, the bear picks on the wrong villager. After her entire family is shredded by Red Spot, Yuki, the remaining daughter, swears vengeance and tries to get herself included in the bear-hunting posse that's assembling. The men, of course, aren't having any of it, forcing Yuki to pull the Swiss Family Robinson routine and dress up as a boy so she can go grab herself a piece of bear jerky.
What ensues is a narrative told in different time-frames, giving us a complete look at Yuki's vengeance quest and how her life intersects with boy toy Eiji, an up-and-coming bad-ass bear hunter in his own right. Eventually, our hero and heroine will square off with their prey in a no-holds-barred, house-destroying, furry brouhaha, where only one mammal will be left standing.
I had some high hopes for this. After the introductory scene where Red Spot makes his debut and unleashes a blood-drenched attack on a family. "This is going to be a bloody, Japanese creature feature," I thought, getting myself hyped for some bodacious bear violence. And Sonny Chiba's directorial debut? Bonus.
Unfortunately my visions of non-stop wildlife slaughter were not to be realized; there is very little bear action, with much of the film focusing on Eiji and Yuki's biographies, their evolving relationship and their history with Red Spot. Taken as a romance, it works, but there's not getting around the fact that the promise of a beast extravaganza wasn't happening. This, coupled with the overlong sequences of male bonding in the bear posse slow down Yellow Fangs considerably.
When we finally do get the Astounding Bear Attacks, it's a mixed bag. The action is well-staged and Chiba knows his way around a on-screen havoc, but that bear -- yikes. Quite obviously a man in a suit -- and I mean obviously -- the bear benefits from quick editing and cutaways, but whenever the scene features him prominently, the effects are laughable. The main set-piece is the climactic throwdown at the end, when Eiji and Yuki (dressed in a provocative one-piece to lure the bear with her womanly scents) battle it out with Red Spot in a crumbling house. It's a nice undertaking, full of paws, debris, and screaming. I just was there was more of it.
Cinema Epoch's treatment is decent: the rehabbed 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a looker and the 2.0 stereo mix (Japanese with English subtitles) is efficient. Extras: the trailer, a still gallery, and a great essay about the film by Verdict comrade Bill Gibron!
I will have to seek my Japanese bear horror fix elsewhere.
The accused is sentenced to time served as a rug.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Still Gallery