Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Havoc: GYPSY VAMPIRE'S REVENGE (2008)

Sometimes I wake up screaming in a cold sweat during the middle of the night.  It isn’t due to some horrible nightmare in my brain; it is from something far worse.  Sitting among my video collection is a DVD spindle that will chill any cinefile to the bone.  It is a collection of films starring Conrad Brooks that my friend Dave “kindly” sent me.  The discs sit there and stare at me.  They are Audrey to my Seymour as they cry out and say, “Watch me, Wilson! Watch me!”  It is a task that I valiantly try to complete, but it also requires resolve so I space them out to one or two a year.  In fact, I reviewed one just last year…uh oh, it is that time again.

Cult film fans know Brooks as the last living link to the wacky world of celebrated z-grade auteur Ed Wood.  The young Maryland local had small roles in several of Wood’s most famous films and has since parlayed this fact into a career of starring in dozens of shot-on-video schlock-fests.  Not only did Brooks get back in front of the camera, but he also started directing his own low budget efforts back in his native Maryland.  This resulted in two series – the JAN-GEL and the GYPSY VAMPIRE films.  We already hit one JAN-GEL flick with HILLBILLY MONSTER (2003), so now it seems time to sink out teeth into (ah, boo yourself) a GYPSY VAMPIRE flick.  Alright, someone pass the aspirin.

GYPSY VAMPIRE’S REVENGE is actually the second film in the series, but I’m brave (or stupid) enough to figure I can get the basics of the back story.  We open with what is quite possibly the worst establishing shot in cinematic history.

Is this supposed to be a real “castle” because the damn thing looks like some footage from a Sega CD game?  Anyway, gypsy vampire acolyte Lucy takes her minions to the cemetery to resurrect the bones of Count Lugo (whose skeleton amazingly has a ring in the top of its skull to hang it).  Okay, I think I have it – Count Lugo was killed at the end of GYPSY VAMPIRE (2005).  Back at the castle, they place dem bones into a coffin and it resurrects into the flesh-and-blood Count Lugo (Bruce “Porkchop” Lindsay of the Redskins’ Hogettes fame).  Alright, the gypsy vampire is back in business.  Cut to a heavy metal song as the opening credits unroll over footage of a cemetery taken from a car.  I don’t know why, but the mental image of Conrad rocking out to this song makes me laugh.  Here is a visual representation of how that looks in my brain.

The vamp is back alive and living in his castle with his minions, but things are about to get really complicated for him. Two local entrepreneurs, Marvin and Joe, have bought the castle and plan to turn it into a vampire museum to pay tribute to the local legend that happened three years ago.  Not only that, but they have hired renowned New York stage actor Terrance Logan Bridwell to come and perform in a play about Lugo.  For some reason all of this action happens in a local restaurant.  Thankfully, this allows for the film’s best line as Bridwell pompously declares his accomplishments (“I was in Hamlet!”) and the hostess says, “This is just a diner, but we are serving ham tonight.”  Yes, that is the film’s best line.  Also hired for this play to provide accuracy is Dr. Cabasa, the same dude who was responsible for bringing Lugo down by having him suck on a babe with garlic-laced blood.

Meanwhile, hopeless drunk Cap (Brooks) has been trying to get into a local poker game, but drowns his sorrows when denied.  With the game over, the winner Queenie gets escorted back to her cabin by a guy named Johnny Walker (haha, get it?).  When they get to her place, they have a torrid sex scene…where director Brooks opts to just have a black screen and you hear slaps, moans, and groans. Following this unseen sex scene, Queenie is kidnapped by one of Lugo’s minions in a gas mask because Lucy has sent him out to get new blood for the sickly count.  This disappearance leads to an investigation by Sheriff Will (I can support this name choice) and his interrogation of Dr. Cabasa ends with him driving the good doc to the castle.  The troupe – which has been joined by a director who sports a beret – is preparing for their first rehearsal.  Wise to the game, Count Lugo kills off the actor hired to play him and replaces him; everyone in the cast sees no difference as they attribute it to a great make up job by the thespian.  Naturally, this is all a plan for Lugo to exact his revenge on Dr. Cabasa and – I think – resurrect his long dead love or something.

(Uncovering my eyes) Did I make it?  Did I survive? (Looks around to see stacks of videos) Whew!  Yes, GYPSY VAMPIRE’S REVENGE is as soul-crushingly terrible as you would expect, but for some reason I didn’t feel like I was suffering in hell like I usually do.  Maybe it is because I knew what I was getting into…or because I watched it in ten minute increments during football while cleaning and reading. Or maybe that was a result of it having a running time shorter than an episode of 60 MINUTES.  Clocking it at just 49 minutes, this Conrad Brooks joint isn’t really around long enough to truly damage my psyche. Not that it wasn’t bruised or battered with the anti-thespians and the grim shot-on-video veneer.  I will freely admit that my favorite part was a shot where the microphone is clearly in the shot.  This goof wasn’t as shocking, however, as realizing they used actual microphones on this.  Also, Count Lugo’s eye patch keeps switching which eye it is placed on.  I can’t tell if that is ineptness or intentional goofiness with a one-eyed wink.  I’ll just assume the former, while I’m sure the filmmakers claim the latter.

Of course the film is cheap, but this might set a new level for low budget.  Believe it or not, this actually makes the aforementioned HILLBILLY MONSTER seem like a big budget masterpiece as that one had tons of locations and a cast of dozens.  This one seems to have three locations (a restaurant, a cheapo haunted house, and someone’s living room) and a cast of six.  Brooks can’t be bothered to work in anything exploitive that would appeal to audiences.  Well, unless you count a guy in a Tor Johnson mask.  The most amazing thing is this is a vampire flick with no blood and no fangs.  Think about that for a second – a vampire film missing the key ingredients of the genre. That is like an action film with no action (“That’s called BACK IN BUSINESS with Brian Bosworth,” says Tom) or a porn film without sex!  Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is the lack of screen time for Brooks himself.  He only has one scene and it is about four minutes.  This actually made me sad because I actually enjoy his lively demeanor.  He is kind of like that crazy uncle you’ve always had.  You know something is wrong when I’m asking for more Conrad Brooks in a picture. Brooks, a man who loves to be in anything-and-everything, opted to take himself out of his own flick.  Now think about that for a damn second.  Thankfully, I’ve crossed my annual Conrad Brooks flick off my list and can now go back to my semi-sanity.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Halloween Havoc: A RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT (1987)

You can accuse veteran genre filmmaker Larry Cohen of a lot of things, but following the herd ain't one of them. Cohen was unique even in the liberated '70s when you could sell your parent's Buick, get together some co-workers and make a movie that would actually get a theatrical run. Cohen's first film BONE (1972) pretty much set the tone for his career by subtly satirizing the hostage-drama archetype that would later become an entire genre of yuppie terror / home invasion films. Even though his next two films, BLACK CAESAR (1973) and HELL UP IN HARLEM (1973), catapulted the career of Superbowl I winning defensive back Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and stylized the black action genre following SUPERFLY (1972), they would probably the closest things he made that could be called mainstream.

Flash forward 15 years into Cohen's career after making deeply emotional films about killer mutant babies, an Aztec serpent god and err, J. Edgar Hoover, it would seem like an odd choice for Warner Brothers to hand him a late-in-the-game direct-to-video sequel of a highly successful 1979 CBS mini-series based on the Stephen King novel. Directed by the terminally under-appreciated Tobe Hooper with (at the time) big names such as David Soul, James Mason, Elisha Cook Jr., Geoffrey Lewis and Fred Willard. Yes, I'm sure there was Willard demographic that overlapped into the Stephen King demographic. CBS has a Venn diagram for that somewhere, I know it.

After signing on with Warner, Cohen made his second sequel to IT'S ALIVE (1974) and RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT, two of the films that even Cohen's fans generally feel a little less excited about. Back in the day when this hit video, as an example of said fan, I didn't think much of it. Eight years after what is quite possibly the best miniseries in the history of American television, we now have a low-budget sequel that actually rehashes the original poster art, simply replacing a silhouette of a country mansion with a small town landscape. Was the Warner Brother's art department on strike that day?

A two fisted, lady-killer anthropologist, Joe (Michael Moriarty... let that one sink in), gets a call from his ex-wife (Ronee Blakley) who wants to dump their delinquent kid in his lap. Now saddled with foul-mouthed pre-teen Jeremy (Ricky Addison Reed), Joe decides to go live in a house that he inherited from his aunt in Salem's Lot. Quickly Joe discovers that the town is nothing but a nest of wealthy vampires who have human "drones" that do all of the labor and look after the town in the daylight hours. The drones manage the farms that provide animal blood and the appearance of normality so that the vampires can live the life of the idle rich.

The problem is that the town's vampire patriarch, Judge Axel (Andrew Duggan), has taken Jeremy mentally hostage through the allure of a cute vampire girl his age (pre-surgical Tara Reid) and uses this as leverage against Joe, who he needs to write the history of vampires. Sounds good, except for the fact that Axel doesn't plan on releasing the book in maybe 200 years from now. There better be a hell of an advance on that, because Joe isn't going to see a penny of those royalties. If you can get past the shameless cash-in mentality, you have something that is not in any way a sequel to, or based on, the Stephen King story, but a political vampires-as-one-percenters allegory with a lot of cool, little touches.

The most interesting thing that eluded me back in '87 was that political subtext, which seems so obvious now. The vampires are wealthy elitists who prey on the lower classes. Of the two scenes in which we see the vampires kill outsiders, the victims are a group of "punk" kids and two homeless men; the natural enemies of arch conservatives in the wild. In a later scene they attempt to seduce an old man, Van Meer (Sam Fuller), with empty promises, telling him what they think he wants to hear to get him to join their ranks. I'm pretty sure if you looking the dictionary, that is the definition of "Fox News," Van Meer as it turns out is a nazi hunter and believes that Judge Axel is a nazi in hiding, not realizing that he is something just as bad, if not worse.

The scene with the homeless men is actually more creepy and sleazy than funny, which I'm pretty sure it was intended to be. The homeless man are sitting around taking swigs off the ol' hooch bottle when some pre-pubescent kids show up enticing the men into thinking they could take advantage of them, thereby justifying their deaths. I'm guessing that Cohen must have felt the need to follow mainstream fashion and make the victims complicit in, or at least deserving of, their gruesome fates. This somewhat undermines his theme, but makes for an interesting film as there really isn't a single likable character to be found.

Like most anthropologists, Joe is an irresponsible, cocky womanizer. His ex-wife is a complete bitch in furs who just wants to unload the baggage from their bad marriage, their son, who is so badly damaged by the neglect and hostility of his parents that he acts like an angry brat through most of the film until the grandfatherly figure, Van Meer, literally beats some sense into him. Someone was working out their inner demons here. Interestingly the villains have better family bonding than our protagonists, but they also prey on anyone who is not part of the family, enslaving them to tend their farms. Their farms serve as not so much a breeding ground for livestock, but a source of blood for their evil thirst. They may be soulless bloodsuckers who are abusing their power, but they aren't uncivilized.

I now realize that if  the film were made today, Judge Axel would probably be named "Judge Fox News", throwing out blatant, ham-handed political grandstanding, bludgeoning the audience with its message. This may be a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, if you wipe away the blood, but it keeps its beliefs in the back ground for the most part. In the final scene (spoilers ahead) this theme is cemented when Judge Axel is staked through the heart with an American flag on a wooden pole. As he dies, he is shown briefly stroking the bloody flag. The scene seems to be making a statement about America's heritage being soaked in blood and the jingoist right wing irony of being killed by something that faux patriots pretend to believe in, but merely use as a status symbol and a way to excuse bad behavior.

For all of its faults (such as Moriarty's mesmerizing hairpiece), RETURN is surprisingly good in retrospect, and if you are still inclined to criticize the movie, go watch the Rob Lowe remake. I dare ya. Double dog dare ya.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Hard to believe it has been four years since our coverage of Indiana Jones rip-offs.  We set out to cover everything under the sun, from animated movies to Italian carbon copies to adult features.  While it was exhaustive (and exhausting), we still left quite a few relics unearthed knowing we would get to them one day.  One group of treasures was the XXX series of ‘80s INDIANA JOAN flicks, scarce thanks mostly to the ancient technology format known as VHS. Given that we are video archaeologists as dogged as Dr. Jones himself, we finally found a copy of the first feature, INDIANA JOAN IN THE BLACK HOLE OF MAMMOO (1984).  And having watched it, we kind of wish we had a Belloq-type rival who would snatch it from our hands before we could watch it and taunt, “There is nothing you can possess which I can not take away.”  Please take it away! Please!

The film opens with a long held shot of the wake of boat as the credits unroll over some stock tribal music.  We then get a “somewhere in an African coastal village…” segue that brings us to a cheap cave set where a witch doctor (Melvin Ward) and one of the female villagers (Satin Summer) speak in some made up language.  He points to his crotch and we quickly jump into our first sex scene four minutes in.  Following this coupling, we cut to three people in a life boat, leaving it to the audience to infer that the opening boat footage somehow involved them.  It appears these are survivors from a boat wreck (again, we never see it) and they include Joan (Barbie Dahl), her father imaginatively credited as Daddy (George Payne), and Captain Jim (Michele LeBouef, no relation to Shia but probably a better actor).  Somehow this wreck is all her fault as her dad admonishes her adventurous ways by saying, “We should have stay in Indiana, Joan.”  Wah-wah-wahhhh!  Driven near mad from the lack of water, Joan begins to hallucinate. We know this because onscreen text says this:

Director Vince Benedetti isn’t leaving anything to chance.  His big mistake is he assumes his target audience can read.  Anyway, her hallucination is having sex with Captain Jim.  Jeez, you’d think her imagination would pick a better looking guy.

After this laborious scene (that ends with Joan masturbating with an oar; alas it is faked, my dear oar sex lovers) the survivors spot land and begin rowing toward it.  Naturally, the natives are restless and they are greeting by two spear-wielding female natives (they are billed as Amazons, despite this taking place in Africa).  In the film’s lone unintentional highlight, watch as one girl winces when she throws her spear, afraid it might hit the video camera.  We assume one of these weapons hits Daddy since he is on the ground in the next shot in pain.  Yes, Benedetti couldn’t be bothered to show something as simple as a spear hitting someone.  Joan and Jim split while Daddy gets a spear in the gut – via the age-old “stick it by my side” technique – for his trouble.  Our leads make it to another cheap cave set and Jim soon discovers (by walking two feet) that this is a diamond mine.  Oh snap, sudden wealth means only one thing – we need to fornicate as the characters dive into the film’s third sex scene.  “I’ve been dreaming about this for days,” says Joan in the flattest tone ever.  Now I really must credit the performers here as this entire scene takes place on a bed of hay and I can’t imagine that being comfortable at all.  Once Joan and Jim get their fill, the two African ladies with spears show up.  One of them is enamored by the sight of a white woman and we quickly move into our fourth sex scene as Joan and Amazon #1 (Hazel Scott) make out and Amazon #2 orally services Jim.

Nice Nikes:

Meanwhile (this film seems to have a lot of those), back at the first cheap cave set, the witchdoctor starts fondling the body of Joan’s surviving mother (Sarah Bernard). Again, creativity reigns supreme as she is named Mother.  With his dildo-topped staff, he sprinkles some powder on her and keeps saying “unka dunka.”  This invites Mammoo (Creole Mann), the tribe chief, for a three-way.  We just assume he is the tribe chief since his name is in the title.  After this ménage à trios, the two female villagers arrive with their prisoners.  Mother has adapted quickly as she is feeding Mammoo a banana (booooooo!) as he sits on his throne, looking a bit like Baron Samedi from LIVE AND LET DIE (1973).  Mammoo examines the white beauty and Mother quickly breaks it down for her daughter by saying, “You better get used to this, honey. In this place you either give head or lose it.”  Oddly enough, I hear that is also the mantra around Bryan Singer’s office.

“Nope, no cavities here.”

Joan gives in and starts giving the chief a blowjob, which results in a full blown (haha) orgy involving all of our players. The film slogs to a climax as everyone does a mambo line out of the cave set and Joan stops to flash her rear. The end.

Unka dunka indeed.  Our first foray into the Dr. Jones XXX parody was CAROLINA JONES AND THE BROKEN COVENANT (2008).  Little did we know that it would look like a masterpiece compared to this first Indiana Joan offering.  I’ve often bemoaned the state of current XXX parodies being nothing more than glorified adult cosplay, with the actors having sex while dressed up in costumes.  Sadly, this seems to be an age old problem in the adult industry. THE BLACK HOLE OF MAMMOO earns respect for being the first to cash in on the adventures of Dr. Jones, but that is about it.  If anything, it is just another case of missed opportunity.  How lazy is this film?  They actually never have Indiana Joan handle a whip like on the cover.  And the film isn’t whip-less as one of the native females carries one in one scene.  Perhaps Benedetti didn’t trust Dahl to handle anything other than a penis?  Then again, maybe I’m just an idiot for expecting creativity from the guy who made FOOT FUCKIN’ FREAKS 2 (2001)?  His ROMANCING THE BONE from the same year must be better, right?

Coupling its laziness is the dreaded cousin cheapness.  Look, I know you aren’t working with the millions Spielberg and Lucas had on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1982), but is it possible to find more than two cheap cave sets to set your action?  Amazingly, the movie’s biggest attempt at production value is an end credit that claims it was partially filmed in Madagascar.  Uh, no.  I bet they couldn’t even locate Madagascar on a map.  Oh wait, I can’t locate it on a map either.  All would be forgiven if Benedetti offered up some hot action between the stilted dialogue scenes on cheap sets.  But even that is a missed opportunity.  I know what you are thinking – 1984 and shot-on-video?  This has to have some vintage babes in it, right? Sadly, this is not the case.  Dahl is alright in the lead, but the director has filled the cast with some rather unsightly folks.  Even worse, the sex scenes are so poorly filmed, mostly a combination of clinical close ups of body parts thrusting that drift in and out of focus (see pic above).  For example, the threesome scene never actually features a wide shot with all three performers in the shot at the same time.  Yeah, I’m demanding, I know.  It is about as erotic as watching a film on the motion of pistons.  The only thing I can imagine that is more dreary than watching this is probably reading my review of it.

Not surprisingly, Benedetti revived the Indiana Joan name five years later when INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) came out.  Dahl was long gone so the whip was passed to one Porsche Lynn in THE RETURN OF INDIANA JOAN and INDIANA JOAN AND THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE. We currently have top men out looking for them.  Top…men.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Carpocalypse Now: WATER WARS (2011)

The late, great Cirio H. Santiago sadly passed away while making another post-apocalyptic actioner. Honestly, if you have to go, I think that is a great way to do it. Some fantasize about going out in bed with a hooker, but to each his own.

Unfortunately for the film that meant that Santiago had only five days of shooting completed (which come to think of it is probably about a third of his shooting schedule). Long time financier Roger Corman turned to the man who, for better or for worse, is now known for making softcore DTV quickies in a matter of days, Jim Wynorski. Regardless of your views on the merits or lack there of, of DINOCROCK VS. SUPERGATOR (2010) or THE BREASTFORD WIVES (2007), Wynorski's early work boarders on genius. Films like the amazing THE LOST EMPIRE (1985) and CHOPPING MALL (1986) will always have a place of honor in our video shelves. On the other hand, his directing style couldn't be more in contrast with Santiago's. With little money and resources Jim Wynorski shot extra scenes and used stock footage from Santiago’s previous wasteland outings including STRYKER (1983), RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1992) and WHEELS OF FIRE (1985).

A post-nuke bikini babe Skye (Playboy Playmate Athena Lundberg), who dresses like she is from a dinosaur island, falls into the clutches of an evil overlord Bane (Michael Madsen, sounding like he’s been gargling thumbtacks and vinegar) who flaunts his evility by wearing a black leather coat in the middle of the desert wastes. He also forces his henchmen to dress like ninjas which must lead to a lot of sick days being used due to heat stroke. Bane's goal in life is not to stop The Batman as you would expect, but to hoard the world’s rapidly diminishing water supply so that he will be the most powerful man in the wastes. He will have crops and the unwashed masses will be subjugated to his will. I say "unwashed masses", but they are actually quite clean. There must be an old Purell manufacturing facility near by.

Another member of the tribe, Kenna (Playboy Playmates Monica Leigh) sets out to find someone stup- err, I mean tough enough to help her rescue Skye and get them back to their village safely. Bane even goes so far as to tie up Skye and torture her by making her watch him use a circular shop saw on some random dude. Is he betting that since she is girly, she will be so grossed out that she'll spill the beans? We may never know. After getting in a bar brawl in which her top conveniently falls open, she meets Slade (Kevin Stapleton), a neo-cowboy who just likes to drink and watch other people get killed. Clearly written for John Terlesky, Stapleton plays the reluctant savior with a deadpan delivery that makes him seem more somnambulistic than sarcastic.

Once Slade has been talked into it, he rounds up his team, a dirty half-dozen, and sets out to extract Skye. Once accomplished they head back to the village where Kenna, who apparently has had access to a lot of plastic surgery in the wastes, rewards the pasty dough-boy Slade, who should never ever have been allowed to get naked, with some jungle love by a waterfall. Of course this all leads to a showdown with Bane who is set to invade the village to secure the water for himself.

In 1983’s STRYKER it was actually kind of impressively forward thinking to figure that water would be a major commodity in a post-apocalyptic society. That idea, while now rather obvious, has been carried through-out Santiago’s wasteland epics, so it is good to see it in his final film. As of now it has still gone unofficially unreleased on video anywhere in the world. The reasons for this are as obscure as the movie itself, even Wynorski has been tight lipped on the subject, but knowing Roger Corman it couldn't be for anything other than legal reasons.

Wynorski clearly didn't have two pesos to rub together, but he does put what little he has on the screen. The climactic battle between the villagers and Bane's forces is almost all new footage and sports a full-blown firefight with plenty of automatic weapons and things that go boom. The real problem, aside from the decision to do the shakey-cam and hyper zoom thing, is that some of the footage from Santiago’s past classics seem randomly thrown in with characters and dialogue that have no connection to the story. I’m not sure whether Wynorski was trying to make us believe that these characters, who look completely different, are the same as the ones in the new footage, or whether he was aiming for a random action cut-away. Some of the clips go on way too long and should have been trimmed down or eliminated. The different filmstock and print quality is a jarring contrast to the digital video of the new footage and as much as I hate to say it, I think the movie would have been more enjoyable without it. Out of the running time of just over 81 minutes at least 20 minutes is old footage. Seems like if Corman could have thrown just a few more bucks into it, we'd have solid VOD fodder.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Newsploitation: BLOODFIST makes the list

September 1989 was apparently a prime month to unleash flicks about people being kicked in the face.  A few weeks back we celebrated the 25th anniversary for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s KICKBOXER (1989) and this week we bestow another silver anniversary (world title?) on BLOODFIST (1989), the Roger Corman produced film that looked to stake its claim in the box office bloodsport.  Not only did this film launch the last major star (of the direct-to-video era) for Corman, it also served as the impetus for what would become the most sequelized American martial arts series.

Roger Corman will always be known as much for his films as his ability to spot good actors and give them their big break in show business.  As the legend has it, Corman first spotted Don “The Dragon” Wilson, a kickboxing champion, in a profile in a martial arts magazine.  After a very successful kickboxing career that begin in the mid-70s, Florida native Wilson moved to California in the mid-80s to pursue acting, but only had a La Choy commercial and GENERAL HOSPTIAL gig (as Thug #1) to his name by the time Corman came calling.  With the aforementioned BLOODSPORT and KICKBOXER giving a resuscitating punch to the martial arts genre, Corman, never to miss out on trend he could bank on, quickly signed Wilson to a several picture deal.  The first of these pictures would be the perfectly titled BLOODFIST.

Corman’s innate ability to spot talent also extended behind the camera and he gave Concorde’s very first in-house martial arts film to the steady hand of Terence H. Winkless.  The director had previously turned in the horror film THE NEST (1988), easily cinema’s best killer cockroach movie (high praise!) and a personal fave here at Video Junkie. According to an interview Winkless did with our buddy Marty McKee, Corman approached him with the project and gave him ten days of prep time before flying off to the Philippines for production under the watchful eye of Cirio Santiago in December 1988.  Yes, ten days, less time than it takes for Tom Cruise to decide on which lifts to wear. When given the opportunity, Winkless didn’t blink (ah, boo yourself!) and he headed overseas for three months.

BLOODFIST tells the story of Jake Raye (Wilson), a retired kickboxer who is drawn to Manila after his half-brother turns up dead.  Adhering to the martial arts movie formula, the cops (including Vic Diaz) are ineffectual and Jake soon begins investigating on his own.  He soon finds out his brother was participating in a tournament of deadly combat called Ta Chang.  Naturally, he must enter the contest under the tutelage of Kwong (Joe Mari Avellana), his sibling’s old trainer, to find the killer. While checking off every martial arts cliché in the book (this is, after all, a Corman cash in), BLOODFIST actually plays with several conventions and features a few twists not commonly seen in this type of movie.  Director Winkless actually gets a lot of bang for his buck, portraying the exotic locales for all of their “stranger in a strange land” worth and even getting some nice crane and helicopter shots.  His biggest coup is undoubtedly surrounding Wilson with a legit army of fighters.  The film features several real fighters including Dutch kickboxer Rob Kaman and future star and workout guru Billy Blanks.  With each fighter introduced in the opening credits with their fighting style and international championships, it gives the film an air of legitimacy where it counts the most.  As it stands, Wilson is still the best kickboxer to ever grace the screen as a leading man.  And for a beginner, The Dragon acquits himself well.  While his high kicks will always outshine his acting ability, he is affable and believable in the role.

Corman got the film into theaters on September 22, 1989 at just 54 theaters.  To give some perspective, the weekend’s top release BLACK RAIN (1989) opened on 1,600+ screens. While the initial haul was only $89,132, the film proved to have drawing power as it went across the country over the next three months, suckering…uh, I mean, drawing in spin kick-desiring martial arts fans.  Its highest release point was on a mere 77 screens in mid-November (no doubt to celebrate my birthday) and by the end of December it had hauled in $1,770,082.  Not a blockbuster number by any figure, but it proved to be Concorde’s biggest release that year.  Yes, it did better than LORDS OF THE DEEP (1989).  It was also Concorde’s highest grossing theatrical release before being dethroned by BODY CHEMISTRY (1990) in March 1990.

Not surprisingly, Corman announced the sequel BLOODFIST II in mid-December, while the first film was still punching up dollars around the country.  It went into production in February 1990, just as BLOODFIST was hitting video via MGM/UA.  The sequel would hit theaters just over a year after the first film on October 12, 1990 and would pull in a slightly smaller haul of $1,292,323.  It is the only film in the series that continues the Jake Raye storyline as starting with BLOOFIST III: FORCED TO FIGHT (1992) the series featured Wilson as a new character in each entry.  The third film was also the last to see a theatrical release. Beginning with BLOODFIST IV: DIE TRYING (1992) Wilson would be starring exclusively in the direct-to-video market.  All together, Corman and Wilson would make 13 films from 1989-1999.  Eight of those were BLOODFIST films, with the non-Wilson sequel/remake BLOODFIST 2050 (2005) starring Matt Mullins being the ninth and final entry.  We thought about reviewing all of them here to celebrate this anniversary, but only an insane man would do that.  That said – check out Marty McKee’s rundown of all the films at his site here.

The greatest BLOODFIST poster ever:

A selection of BLOODFIST worldwide VHS covers: