Friday, March 13, 2009

Raw Force (1982)

1982 – Raw Force (Ansor International Pictures)

[also released as “Kung Fu Cannibals” and “Shogun Island”]

Director/Screenplay Edward D. Murphy [Captain in Mad Doctor of Blood Island] Producer Frank E. Johnson Executive Producers Rebecca Bella, Lawrence Woolner Music Walter Murphy Director of Photography Frank E. Johnson Editor Eric Lindemann Fight Co-Ordinator Mike Stone

Cast Cameron Mitchell (Captain Harry Dodds), Geoffrey Binney (Mike O'Malley), Hope Holiday (Hazel Buck), Jillian “Kessner”/Kesner (Cookie Winchell), John Dresden (John Taylor), Jennifer Holmes (Ann Davis), Rey King [Rey Malonzo?] (Go Chin), Carla Reynolds (Eilleen Fox), Carl Anthony (Lloyd Davis), John Locke (Gary Schwartz), Mark Tanous (Cooper), Ralph Lombardi (Thomas Speer), Chanda Romero (Mayloo), Camille Keaton (Girl In Toilet), Maggie Lee (Gun Moll), Garry McClintic (Steve), John Rosselli (Male Stripper), Joe Pagliuso (Milt ), “Robert Dennis”/Dennis Edwards (Man In Toilet), Janelle Pransky (Girl With Balloons), Tony Oliver (Bill), Robert MacKenzie (Clyde), Steve Elmer (Religious Freak), Jewel Shepard (Drunk Sexpot), Michael P. Stone (Bartender), Judi Brooks (Girl With Tattoo), Edward Talbot 'Chip' Matthews (Passenger), Kurek Ashley (Drunk With Cake), Brad Barnes (Passenger), Gerry Bailey (Hood), Don Gordon (Hood), Chip Westley (Hood), Bob Campbell (Hood), Willy Schober (Hood), Maurizio Murano (Hood), Roger Capilitan (Hood), Phil Guerrero (Hood), Vic Diaz (Monk), Mike Cohen (Monk), Binney Villanueva (Monk), Bayani Balingit (Monk), Louie Florentino (Monk), Frank Aguila (Monk) Corpses Geoff Wood, Tony Beso, Frank Belgica, Jimmy Navarro, Ely Refuerzo, Nilo Fortez, Jess Bonzo, Rolly Tan Hookers Anna Torino, Evelyn Beso, Violeta Beso, Evelyn Yap, Vicky Abad, Baby Serrano, Zenaida Luciano, Nannette Caragay, May Bacosa, Sonia Cervantes Crewmen Fred Strong, George Gyenes, Jay Bumpus, Peter Schultz, Roger Searcy Girls In Cabin Mary Miller, Britt Helfer

Review by Andrew Leavold:

When your writer AND director is the old boy who played the Captain in Mad Doctor of Blood Island, you may take this as an SOS call.

But fear not – Raw Force is out of its mind. In a good way, of course, but is also foaming at the mouth and howling at the moon. Imagine a film shot by Americans in the Philippines exploiting every possible angle: cannibals, zombies, samurais, white kung fu (this WAS 1982, and Chuck Norris reigned supreme!), gumby comedy, and more flesh on display than a Friday night karaoke crawl in Manila.

Executive Producer Larry Woolner used to be a mover and shaker at Dimension Pictures, who handled a few Filipino features for the Seventies drive-in circuit; Raw Force was his last hurrah, and has that weird tension between old-fashioned entertainment and what he believes the kids want to see. As such, there’s old has-beens hobbling next to young never-wills. It’s Porky’s with Sidney Greenstreet and David Carradine, and none of it meshes. But with a mess this entertaining, thank god for senile dementia.

Aging name actor Cameron Mitchell stars as the skipper of a rusty tub bound for the South China Sea and Hope Holliday is Hazel Buck, the boat’s New York jewish owner. On board are the Burbank Karate Club (actually a few no-name TV actors), plus blonde black belt champion Jillian Kessner, who had already played the lead in Cirio H. Santiago’s Firecracker (1981). It’s a motley crew on a crusty Love Boat stocked with degenerates, schmiels, and the brown end of California’s swingers circles.

Onto the ship comes Speer, a nasty German with a Hitler mustache looking for white women to steal, and his karate-kicking cronies. The ship goes up in flames, and the remaining cast and crew are adrift in a life boat before washing up on Warrior’s Island. There they discover Speer has been trading jade for his plane load of tasty-looking nubiles - Warriors Island happens to be the home of a renegade group of grinning, clapping cannibal monks who can reanimate the corpses of disgraced martial artists to do their bidding. The girls… well, they happen to be the monks’ main course.

And that’s the set up for one of the strangest kung fu horror sex comedies you will ever witness. Keen-eyed Schlock viewers will recognize the chubby features of the ubiquitous Vic Diaz as one of the head monks, alongside Mike Cohen who Weng Weng fans will recognize as Dr Kohler in For Your Height Only. All I can say right now is slip the brain into neutral and enjoy, and if you ever needed proof that the Philippines exists in a parallel universe in which our laws of taste, logic and sanity are turned on their heads, it’s this: the 1982 Raw Force.

Fred Adelman’s review from the Critical Condition Online website:

A group of passengers on a cruise end up stranded on Warrior's Island, a treacherous place inhabited by exiled martial artists and a group of cannibal monks with the power to raise the dead (what a combination!). The passengers, including an L.A. S.W.A.T. team member (Jillian Kessner) and four male martial artists, not only run afoul of the island's inhabitants, they also interfere with a white slaver's business of selling young girls to the monks in exchange for baskets of raw jade. The monks eat the young female flesh and gain the power to raise dead martial artists from their graves (the cruise ship director calls the island, "The Potter's Field of Kung Fu."). While the passengers try to find a way off the island, they must endure gun battles, kung fu fights (with both the living and the dead), cannibalism and the nasty laughing monks (led by Filipino horror staple Vic Diaz). It all ends on a happy note, as most of them escape in the white slaver's plane (he is eaten alive by a school of piranhas) while an end scrawl reads, "To Be Continued...".

This is terrific B-movie stuff. It has loads of nudity and plenty of bloody action, including impalements, explosions, an axe to the back and a decapitation. Star Cameron Mitchell (NIGHTMARE IN WAX - 1969 and countless others) seems to be having a good time here and doesn't walk through his role as he has done many times before. Co-star Geoff Binney also appeared in the kung fu comedy HOT POTATO (1976), while Jillian Kessner was the star of Cirio Santiago's FIRECRACKER (1981) and recently appeared in Gary Graver's awful ROOTS OF EVIL (1991). She is a pretty thing! Jennifer Holmes also co-starred with Mitchell in the abominable film THE DEMON (1979). Director Edward Murphy later made the forgettable actioner HEATED VENGEANCE (1984). RAW FORCE (also known as SHOGUN ISLAND) is that rare example of a mixture of genres that works well on nearly every level. I was expecting a lot less and was pleasurably surprised with the result. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

Review from the Chainsaw Fodder website:

I saw this the first time with my parents when I was 12 years old. I remembered being very uncomfortable watching it with them as it had a lot of nudity. A couple of months ago, I decided to go on a quest for it because I remembered something about piranhas and zombies as well. I found it on Beta at a local video store for $7 without a cover and after much haggling with the capitalist clerk, I managed to talk her down to $5. Still a scam, but I had to see this movie. Well, friends, I am thoroughly impressed with myself for spending my hard earned cash on this classic. In addition to the heaps of nudity, this flick has almost everything else: the aforementioned zombies and piranhas, white slavery, kung fu, Cameron Mitchell, a Bruce Lee wannabe, a karate babe named Cookie, a Hitler look-alike, graveyard shootouts, a whorehouse, etc. With Jewel Shepard and Camille Keaton ("I Spit On Your Grave") in small roles.

Review from the Bad Movie Planet website:

I like a good steak like the next guy, though I also admit that there are times I like to sink my teeth into a gooey piece of cheese. When it comes to movies, I admit I watch more than my share of cinematic cheese, though I also enjoy good movies with good production values. Sometimes, however, I like a movie that combines both competence and cheesiness. Raw Force is one of those movies, a wonderful mix of the ludicrous and decent. The decent comes with a few of the production values being especially slick; in the opening, we see several shots of an airplane in the air from various angles, all of them well photographed. (The cinematography of this movie is especially decent.) Adding the triumphant Walter Murphy score, one starts to think that hey, here's a low budget movie that looks like it will shape up to be able to stand beside the big boys. The airplane lands, and out comes the cargo - several young women, who mildly protest when they get their clothes ripped off as they are hustled along. The half naked (one completely naked) women are put into a bamboo cave, where they are weighed by several cannibalistic monks, who intend to barbecue (not boil or bake, it is stressed later on) the women for dinner. Yep, the plot is strictly cheese, but hey, these bits of steak go well with the cheese found in this movie.

It's not just the premise of this movie that's cheese, it's, well, just about everything else. Yeah, I guess this movie could officially be called cheese, but quite often there's something slickly done. Sometimes it's the other way around; take, for example, when the three men of the Burbank Karate Club pull into the harbor where their cruise ship awaits to take them on a several week long cruise for singles. When we first see the cruise ship, it looks gigantic, and we see QUEEN MARY written on the side. Impressive. When the ship pulls out to sea, we see that the ship has suddenly shrunk both in length and the number of decks it has, and sports a spotty paint job. Could it be that captain Cameron Mitchell has an ancient sea curse on him, bringing gloom wherever he stumbles? Later on in the movie, pirates spill gasoline all over the ship and set it on fire. In some background shots, we see the top parts of some giant flames. This looks good, until the camera shifts a little, and then suddenly those flames that were peeking over the top of the ship are suddenly launched into space, with a distinct flat bottom edge that was right on the edge of the objects the flames were previously peeking from behind. Slick cheese, that's what we have here.

Another thing funny about the fire on the ship is when the characters are near the camera, some odd looking flames shoot out from the bottom of the screen, almost as if they were coming from gas jets. Enough about the flames for now, let's get on with the story. It concerns the adventures of those three men from the Burbank Karate Club, who are indistinguishable from each other except for their names (Taylor, Schwartz, and O'Malley) and the fact one of them has a mustache. Don't ask me which one. The cruise they are on takes them into the waters of Southeast Asia, and one of their stops is Warriors Island, where that opening scene took place. Warriors Island is a place where disgraced warriors were buried, and superstition says that the monks on the island have the power to raise them from the dead, should the situation warrant it. It's actually no rumor - early in the movie, we see one of these fresh looking (except for sickly green makeup) undead warriors slice one of those women. But that subplot comes later in the movie. It comes to the attention of a Dr. Speer, a German accented guy with a Hitler mustache who was the one trading the fresh meat for fresh jade rock at the beginning of the movie, that the cruise is not going to pass by the island, but actually stop at it. Fearing that his illegal trading may be jeopardized, he sends out his goons several times throughout the movie to stop the cruise, not realizing that Cameron Mitchell acts so drunk in this movie, he'd probably bypass the island by accident. But Speer doesn't realize that he's against the power of the Burbank Karate Club!

Of course, the various attacks on the crew and passengers on the ship (not just by Speer's goons) cues in the expected fight sequences. Surprisingly, the fights by themselves are among the movie's few disappointing scenes. Oh, the scenes where the token Chinese crew member fights the various attackers are pretty good, mainly because it's clear that he's talented at martial arts, leaping around and making lightning-fast moves. The fight scenes with the other actors are another thing. Sometimes they are shown in molasses-slow motion, robbing any last bit of excitement they might have had. One martial arts move rips off the windshield scene from Good Guys Wear Black, though the editing easily makes it apparent that the stuntman was never in any danger at all. The fight scene in the bar, and the fight scenes on the deck of the ship are so dark, it is sometimes hard to tell who is who, and just what is going on. Maybe it's no surprise that in that bar fight, there are constant edits to the topless dancer of the bar, who keeps jiggling away nonchalantly as bones are broken around her.

This movie has a lot of breasts shown throughout, both in extreme close-up and in medium shots. Of course it's sleazy, and it's lots of fun. Credit the makers of this movie for giving a lot of variety in the nudity, as with the scene where a naked girl on a bed repeatedly slams a gas can on the head on an especially thick-skulled creep. I think the same guy was the one who, when he pulled down his pants, revealed a pair of boxers covered with red hearts. Yes, this movie has a number of attempts at intentional humor to offer us. There's one bad guy gets killed by a swirlie in a bathroom, the monks keep rolling their eyes and jump around and giggle a lot, and the dialogue has such howlers as, "Holy smokes! Who the heck is he?", "Go ahead Cookie - you don't have to tell him you're a member of the L.A. SWAT team", and "I feel so sick, I feel lousy."

The ship's bar might have to serve drinks in paper cups, but almost every minute of Raw Force serves us something savory, whether it be slick or cheese. True, those fight scenes are overall disappointing, and I was surprised the craziness and energy didn't increase when they actually reached the island, but it's still a very fun movie. In fact, I am kind of surprised that it isn't better known after 18 years. I'm also surprised that after 18 years, they still haven't acted on the promise they made at the end: "TO BE CONTINUED". C'mon, guys, take another cruise to Warriors Island!

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