I’m going to give you a one-paragraph recap of this movie and by the end of it, I guarantee you’ll want to watch it. In fact, I hope some of you stop reading there and go track down a copy of it immediately. Anyway, here goes:
Members of the Burbank Kung Fu Club decide to go on a cruise to Warriors Island, in the South China Sea, where the spirits of the disgraced martial artists buried there are said to haunt the place. After some hijinks, they arrive, interrupting a long-running business arrangement between a group of cannibal monks and a criminal gang led by Asian Hitler to trade kidnapped women for jade; to escape from the island, our heroes must fight them and the zombie ninjas and samurai that the monks reanimated.
Are you in? I seriously can’t say enough good stuff about “Raw Force”. It’s an absolutely perfect B-movie, delivering on all its promises (how many crazy-looking movies have we seen that turned out to be boring and tame?) and is fun from beginning to end. Not a dull moment! Okay, it’s wildly sexist and they seem to forget about a bunch of characters halfway through, but it’s a small price to pay for such entertainment.
This was the first of two directorial credits for one Edward Murphy, who was slightly better known as an actor, and it’s that sense of no-one told him the rules yet, that makes this so entertaining. Even the bits with no wild action are great – a decent chunk of the movie takes place on board the cruise ship, with its captain Cameron Mitchell (last seen by us in “Toolbox Murders”) and drunk, cost-cutting owner (Hope Holliday) feuding throughout. The rest of the passengers are a bunch of oddballs, such as the woman who, while getting ready to hop into bed with some guy, tells him she’s on the boat due to murdering her Mafia boyfriend and wanting to escape justice; or the male stripper who tells of all the things he’s had shoved in his thong by excited ladies. I like the exceptionally odd-looking barman who hits on all the women, myself, and for fans of deep ISCFC links, there’s a brief (entirely topless) cameo from a rather beautiful redhead who it turns out is Camille Keaton, formerly of “I Spit On Your Grave” and latterly of “Savage Vengeance”.
You might read complaints such as “it takes them nearly an hour to get to the island” and I’ve made similar criticisms of similar movies. But there’s always something happening here! There’s the least suited couple in movie history, with the wife obviously going to end up with the hero and the husband obviously going to end up dead; the husband decides he wants to go to a whorehouse while stopping off in the Philippines (where this movie was filmed) but they end up having to fight Asian Hitler’s goons, who go there to steal some women. It’s just crazy scene after crazy scene, with really weird comic relief dotted throughout. Even the beyond-cheap special effects (fog and fire) add to the charm of it all.
When they get to the island, they walk to the graveyard of the disgraced martial artist…only to have Asian Hitler fire a rocket launcher at them! Has any movie featuring a rocket launcher ever sucked? Then, after chasing them off, our hero carries it round like a normal sidearm for the next half hour!
The monks are some of the craziest over-actors it’s ever been my pleasure to see, led by B-movie mainstay Vic Diaz, and even manage to shock the goons, who think they’re just taking the women to have sex with. Oh no! Eating women gives them the power to raise the dead, or whatever.
It is almost impossible, I’d imagine, to have a bad time watching this movie. Okay, women are treated poorly (with the exception of Cookie, a cop who’s had extensive martial arts training, all the rest of them are either there to get their clothes off or be rescued) and the extremely small budget shows itself in a lot of ways (for instance, the cruise ship they’re on is never really shown moving, indicating they just filmed it while it was docked and covered their angles). Plus, they don’t quite think through every bit of the plot – an example. The people on the boat are looking at a brochure for Warriors Island, yet apart from the monks and the criminals, it’s entirely deserted. Doesn’t a brochure kind of imply some tourist infrastructure, or at the very least semi-regular visitors?
Anyway, this is small potatoes. Maybe the wildest of all the 80s Filipino exploitation movies, and one you should definitely see, and even own.
Rating: thumbs up