Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blood Hands (1990)

1990 - Blood Hands (Silver Star Film Corporation/Tower Bridge Investments Co Ltd)

[Filipino production filmed in English for the international market. Most credits have been anglicized or, in the case of composer "Pat Wales", entirely invented]

Director “Ted Johnson”/Teddy Chiu Writer Rod Davis Line Producer "Kim Lane"/K.Y. Lim Cinematography John Aloha Music Pat Wales Editor Rene Tucker Sound Editor Bert Spence Sound Mixer David Fisher Sound Effects Tom Cosford Production Coordinator Glenn Campbell Production-In-Charge Tony Vernon Production Designer Victor Davis Special Effects Bill Cohen Stunt Coordinators Fred Smith, Manny Seller Makeup Laura Pratt Wardrobe Jay Newman Setman Max Park Property Master Leslie Dalton Assistant Cameraman Rey Norton Stillman Bert Sanders Field Cashier John Cook Assistant Editors Benny Tucker, Adam Blake Casting Ron Joseph Production Secretary Grace Grant Production Accountant Joe Crocker

Cast Sean Donahue (Steve Callahan), “Nead”/Ned Hourani (James Clavel), Kristin "Landson"/Erlandson (Tracy Callahan), Jim Gaines (Walter), Jim Moss (George), Jerry Beyer (Diego), Richard Olney, Sam Woods, Ron Cunning, James O'Neal, Doris Cooper, [uncredited] Nick Nicholson (Edward Callahan, Steve's Father)

Synopsis from the BFI website:

Steve Callahan has finally reached the final stage of his training as a kickboxer. Thanks to the patient guidance of his mentor, David Gale, a close friend of his foster father. Four wildly drunk men, all successful professionals and kickboxing experts in their own rights, chanced upon Steve's house to get water for their overheated car, just after their encounter with a grocery owner whom they accidentally killed. One of the four men James Clavel, had just been declared Light Middleweight Champion of Nebraska, hence the reason for their wild drinking spree. He also happens to be the former fiancé of Dianne, Steve's foster mother. An argument ensued from the meeting which led to violence as James physically harmed Dianne who fought back and got killed in the process together with her husband Edward. Steve and his girl Tracy found the kickboxing championship medal of James which dropped to the floor unnoticed during the struggle. This became their only clue to the crime. Steve refused to turn over the medallion to the police. Through the medallion, Steve was able to trace the four killers. One by one he hunted them, until one remained, James Clavel. A bloody confrontation between the two explodes, with only one winner emerging.

Simon Miller's review from his Explosive Action blog:

Teddy Page (going by Ted Johnson here) took a break from filming jungle action in the Philippines to churn out this little kickboxing "gem". Four kickboxing champs are happy and drunk over one of their kin winning a championship medallion go to a supermarket and get rowdy, After accidentally killing the store owner the four flee but their car breaks down. Within walking distance of an ex-wife, they go to get water for the engine. Another fight ensues and both the girl and her new partner are killed. In their haste the medallion is left behind, and it turns out that the dead ex-wife was the step mother to Steve Callahan (Sean Donahue). Steve's girlfriend recovers the medallion from the scene and shows Sean who makes it his mission to get revenge.

This is a by-the-numbers bad kickboxing revenge movie, but if that's your thing then there's a lot to like here. It's hard to write about as it's so completely generic but I think it's worth your time to check it out. Sean Donahue is up there with Reb Brown in the hilarity stakes, constantly yelling and pulling awesome fight-faces that are worth the price of entry alone. The acting is awful but who cares really, the plot is so wafer thin you only come here for the fights and bad dialogue.

They are pretty good by the way (the fights, not the dialogue although it's pretty funny too). The beatings from the bad guys at the beginning are all quite funny and pointless - why would four slightly drunk guys kill a shop owner when they weren't trying to steal anything? Callahan takes on a few street gang types which is amusing, but the real fun begins in the third act when he starts taking revenge good and proper. After a payback attack on his girlfriend's father that hospitalises him, Callahan decides he has to get into shape. Cue montage (see video below). After that he gets stealthy and follows the four of the guys around before picking them off one by one in more and more hilarious ways; following them into bar bathrooms, pretending to be interviewing for a Kickboxing magazine etc. One guy even gets tied to train tracks which ends how you expect it to.

The film is filled with Filipino action staples; Jim Gaines (Robowar, Blood Ring, Strike Commando, Phantom Soldiers), Ned Hourani (Bloodfist 1 and 2, Black Cobra 2 and 3, Kill Zone) and Nick Nicholson (Raiders of the Sun, Live by the Fist, Eye of the Eagle, Zombie 4: After Death) being the highlights. I'm also very surprised it was filmed in 1990. It looks far more like a 1979 kung-fu movie in denim jeans than the year portrays.

Sorry for the shorter than usual review but there's not much to say here. It's a bad kickboxing movie that's funnier than it aught to be. If you get a few beers and mates in I think you could have a great time laughing at Sean Donahue's antics and his lame girlfriend (Christine Landson, whose only other credit is SFX Retaliator with Linda Blair) and her father's cue-card line reading. If the cover didn't sell you then the screenshots will. Beyond that I can't convince you much more. Well okay, check out the video below it's pretty awesome. 

Review from the Fist Of B-List blog:

PLOT: When his loving parents are murdered by a gang of kickboxers, a young fighter must choose between avenging their deaths or listening to his girlfriend and allowing police to handle the investigation. Will he take matters into his own hands or continue to walk around with his balls in his girl’s purse, nestled somewhere amongst her Burt’s Bees chapstick, a paperback copy of The Hunger Games, and her emergency tampon?

PLOT THICKENER: As a premise, the home invasion unfurls a plethora of engaging narrative possibilities. Filmmakers might set the stage for a kid-friendly slapstick opus (Home Alone), an exercise in sadistic aggression with social commentary (Funny Games), or a rumination on the relationship between masculinity and brutality (Straw Dogs). It’s used primarily in horror and thriller films as of late, but the device is somewhat underutilized in the action genre. In Teddy Page’s 1990 film, Blood Hands, a home invasion is used as the impetus to hurl its central character into a protracted feud with a gang of kickboxing baddies. I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a special thanks to the very awesome Australian behind the Explosive Action film blog for facilitating my viewing of this film. He also has a review up containing some hilarious screen-caps as well as a fight scene clip. Be sure to read it here for another angle on the film.

Up until finding the lifeless bodies of his mother and father at home, Steve Callahan (Donahue) was having a pretty good day. His girlfriend, Tracy (Landson) professed her love, it was his birthday, and while sparring at his kickboxing school, his coach and prospective father-in-law nodded in something that resembled approval. A giant wet blanket comes in the form of his violated home and pummeled parents left for dead. What kind of animals would do this to such gentle people? Tigers or great white sharks are good guesses, but the most likely culprits are humans.

The leader of the guilty party is champion kickboxer James Clavel (Hourani). After a drunken celebration with his homeboys which accidentally left a convenience store owner dead, the crew stumbled upon the Callahan home to get fresh water for an overheated car radiator. As luck would have it, Diane Callahan just happens to be Clavel’s ex-squeeze, and even though she’s moved on to a new marriage, his old feelings come rushing back with such force that he ended up breaking her neck in a jealous rage. When doting husband Edward (Nicholson) returned home with a birthday cake for his son, the gang greeted him with a fatal beating. The lesson here? Drinking and driving can lead to death, even if you’re not in the car and especially when you fail to monitor the temperature gauge on the thermostat.

The only clue left behind at the scene of the crime, not to mention the biggest one the cops overlook, is a championship kickboxing medallion torn from the neck of Clavel’s buddy, George (Moss). Tracy brings it to Steve while alternately begging him to take it to the police instead of trying to chase clues on his own. While the medallion gives Steve a solid lead on the perpetrators, they’re also on the hunt to recover it and the respective pursuits lead to more trouble than Steve bargained for. All the while, Tracy begs for her love to quit this path of vengeance; he’s no murderer and she doesn’t want to see his hands “stained with blood.” However, seeking justice requires you to occasionally get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to get your hands stained....with BLOOD.

We’ve previously covered director Teddy Page’s film, Blood Chase, and despite its confusing structure, the plot dealt with both protagonists and antagonists pursuing the same objective while alternately pursuing each other. There’s something similar going on in Blood Hands, but it’s more streamlined and easier to follow. Is the inciting incident believable? That depends on how much stock you place in the ability of cheap beer to cause homicidal behavior. So while the story’s not perfect, or even that logical, it’s engaging to watch unfold.

As in all his films, Page keeps the action flowing almost non-stop and everyone is up for the task. Based on their martial arts training, Hourani, Donahue, and Jerry Beyer as henchman Diego are the best-equipped to execute the fight choreography but the efforts of non-fighters like Nick Nicholson, Jim Gaines, and Jim Moss are also admirable. What really stuck out for me were the awesomely cheesy sound effects. Plenty of whooshes and the repeated thwack of baseball bats hitting heads of lettuce are up for consumption, and they’re synced reasonably well with the on-screen strikes. Some people hate that shit, but in a movie of this grade I think it’s an absolute necessity. Last, I really dug that Page went with a “mini-boss” style of climax that saw Donahue fighting a mix of random dudes before tangling with Clavel. Pair all that with some grisly deaths and I’m skipping toward the closing credits a very happy camper.

This is yet another notch in the belt for a group of actors that includes Nicholson, Moss, and Gaines, among many others. One or more of these guys made appearances in pretty much every Filipino kickpuncher from 1985 to around 1995. Conspicuous by his absence is Mike Monty, but the brother had five film credits to his name in 1990 alone, including two Black Cobra sequels. In keeping with the Rat Pack, the Frat Pack, and the Brat Pack, this collective of mostly American actors adventuring in the Filipino action film industry during this era really begs for a unifying nickname. My offering: the Expat Pack. (Hopefully it sticks because I had several thousand t-shirts printed with plans for a limited edition series of Trapper Keepers and lunchboxes).

Looking at the VHS cover, you might be disappointed to observe that while there is blood on our star, it’s on his face and chest. Conspicuously absent from his hands? Blood! So what gives? The fucking movie isn’t called Chest Blood and Denim (awesome title, btw). Fear not, though -- I’m happy to report that Blood Hands is a rare b-grade action film that actually delivers on what its title promises and its box art fails to convey: actual blood on actual hands.

One of the quirks we often encounter in watching these movies is the appearance of film posters from other properties in which the film company holds stake. In Showdown, some characters walk by a Breathing Fire poster in a movie theater (the distribution and/or production of both films involved Imperial Entertainment). In the climax of the PM Entertainment joint, Rage, Gary Daniels tosses a half-dozen motherfuckers among the shelves at a mall video store and the walls are plastered in posters of PM Entertainment flicks. Something similar happens in Blood Hands. Keep in mind that this was filmed in the Philippines, which apparently allowed the filmmakers to flout any semblance of licensing or copyright protocol and slap a poster of the JCVD classic Kickboxer on the wall during a scene where Steve visits the office of a film producer. A bit egregious, but they covered themselves legally using the “absurd superimposed handlebar moustache” loophole.

VERDICT: From what I’ve seen, this is probably Donahue’s most concerted effort at doing a straight martial arts film and the results are solid. The plot is hardly original and the script is practically non-existent, but if you like your kickboxing with a heaping side of bad acting and terrible dialogue, Blood Hands fits the bill. While it doesn’t reach the heights of the previously reviewed Parole Violators, it’s still a fun romp and a good starting point to observe how Donahue’s early exploits in fight-heavy Filipino actioners paved the way for his batshit-insane stunt antics in his later films.






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