Category Archives: Martial Arts

Disco Godfather (1979)

disco godfather

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t try angel dust.

Tucker (Rudy Ray Moore) is the DJ at a local discotic known as Blueberry Hill who becomes concerned when his nephew takes a new drug called angel dust that causes him to have weird hallucinations and forces him into the hospital. Since Tucker is also a former cop he decides to use his connections with the police force to take down the drug dealers and clean up the streets before they can corrupt any more of the youth, but the dealers have other ideas including kidnapping Tucker and forcing him to ingest the drug via a gas mask.

This was the fifth feature for Moore and the last one where he was credited as the star. The former comedian created a character for his stage act called Dolemite that proved so popular that in 1975 it was turned into a movie and Moore became a star at the age of 48. Yet by this time the act was starting to get old. He still had the energy, but seeing a man who was clearly in his 50’s somehow able to beat up guys who were much younger and bigger than him didn’t make a lot of sense.

The story itself is run-of-the-mill and splicing in disco dance numbers where the camera conspicuously focuses in on the scantily-clad gyrating bodies of the females doesn’t help and if anything makes it even more boring. The fight sequences looked quite staged and it’s obvious that the actors are pulling their punches and kicks.

The only thing that makes this otherwise uninspired low budget mess slightly diverting are the drug sequences in which the characters start tripping out on all sorts of weird hallucinations as well as a segment dealing with a religious group trying to ‘cure’ one of the victims through an exorcism. The final segment in which Moore sees his mother turning into a devil is goofy enough to give this thing 2 points and had this movie cut out the derivative drama and emphasized more of a surreal quality it would’ve done better.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 3, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Robert Wagoner

Studio: Transvue Pictures Corporation

Available: DVD

Raw Force (1982)

raw force 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Ghosts of martial artists.

A group of martial arts students board a boat owned by Hazel (Hope Holiday) and piloted by Harry (Cameron Mitchell). During their ride the boat catches fire and they are forced to abandon it and get into a raft. After several days at sea they come upon an island that is the home to some ghosts of famous martial artists as well as a female slavery ring run by a group of monks. When the three groups meet it becomes a wild ride of sex and violence.

The film, which was shot entirely on-location in the Philippines, is clearly an exploitation cheapie and on the sex side it does pretty well as there is an abundance of nudity particularly during the first 45 minute or so that should satisfy any voyeur since the models for the most part are pretty good looking. However, the script is corny and dumb. Way too much time is spent on the set-up featuring a lot of stale conversations between wooden characters and comic sidelights that are silly and uninspired. The action itself is poorly captured and not very exciting while lacking in blood or realistic looking special effects.

Veteran character actress Holiday is actually the best thing playing a ditzy middle-aged woman sharing a love/hate relationship with Mitchell. Carl Anthony who plays Lloyd a man who considers himself much more of chick magnet than he really is amusing and Camille Keaton best known for her role as Jennifer Hills in the original I Spit on Your Grave and slated to star in its recently announced sequel has a bit part as a ‘girl in toilet’.

This film may be good for a few laughs on a bad 80’s movie night with friends, but the limited budget doesn’t allow it to distinguish itself from the myriad of other B-grade features that came out at the same time. The film’s one and only good moment comes during a scene at a bar where a fight breaks out and the naked lady stripper continues to dance on the bar top while remaining completely oblivious to the action around her.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Alternate Title: Kung Fu Cannibals

Released: July 9, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 26Minutes

Rated R

Director: Edward D. Murphy

Studio: American Panorama

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Billy Jack (1971)

billy jack 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: That’s one mean kick.

Barbara (Julie Webb) is the daughter of Mike (Kenneth Tobey) who is the deputy sheriff of the nearby town.  She comes home one day after having run away and advises him that she is now pregnant, but has no idea who the father is as she had taken part in a sex orgy at some hippie commune, which outrages her father so much he beats her severely. To escape she hides out at the nearby alternative Indian school run by Jean (Delores Taylor), but Mike tries to use his authority as an officer to force them to turn her over and it is up to half-breed Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) to protect her and the rest of the school from the town’s vindictive force and prejudice.

Although this movie has justifiably been lambasted for years as being more political propaganda than an actual story it still has some surprisingly effective moments. One of the best is the fight scene that takes place in the middle of town where Billy fights off the bad guys by using a Hapkido fighting technique where he raises his leg and kicks his assailant in the face with his foot. Some of the skits done in the school by the students as well as other young performance artists are fun particularly the one where the parents and teens are forced to reverse roles and the majestic aerial photography of the rustic New Mexican landscape is breathtaking.

Writer/director Laughlin casts himself in the title role, which in some ways seems a little bit like a vanity project. The character is poorly defined and subsists too much on a mystique. Having him somehow survive being shot in the stomach is too extreme and Laughlin gives a very one-note performance and is able to show only one emotion, which is that of a brooding, constant anger.

Taylor, who was Laughlin’s real-life wife, comes off better. Her face is weathered and she is no beauty by the conventional standard, but she seems to genuinely exude the values of her character and the scenes showing her after she is raped as well as the one where she begs Billy Jack to surrender during a shootout are emotionally charged and well down.

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The rest of the supporting cast is so-so with the adults coming off better. It’s a great chance to see young stars in the making including Howard Hesseman and Richard Stahl a comic actor whose deadpan delivery is second-to-none. Some of the young school girls are cute including Debbie Schock who at the time was Laughlin’s kid’s real-life babysitter. However, the teens acting is poor and they are given too much screen time without any ability to carry the film. The worst is Stan Rice who plays Martin and whose frozen facial expressions and monotone delivery makes him seem like he is a zombie.

David Roya as Bernard Posner the main antagonist in the film gives a decent performance, but the character’s motivations are confusing. He is aggressive with everyone and yet when Billy Jack appears he freezes up even though Billy is nothing more than a shrimp of a guy wearing a dorky looking hat. One scene in a café has Billy going on a long overly-dramatic rant and he turns his back to Bernard who remains frozen in terror even though he could’ve easily just whacked Billy in the back of his head and knocked him out. Another scene has Billy standing next to Bernard’s car who is in the driver’s seat and orders him to drive the vehicle into the lake, which he obediently does even though I thought he could’ve put the car into reverse and either run Billy over or forced him to jump into the lake instead.

The idea was to show that Bernard was a coward, but even a coward can act aggressively if given the upper-hand and by having him behave in such a strange way makes these scenes and the film as a whole seem very implausible and amateurish. Apparently actor Roya had these very same concerns and he argued with Laughling about them, which ended up creating a lifelong rift between the two.

The characterizations are broad, but on an emotional level it still works particularly the final scene where the students line-up and defiantly raise their fists into the air as Billy Jack is being driven away. The film’s pacifist stance while still delivering a high quota of violence has taken a beating by the critics through the years, but I saw it a little bit differently. I interpreted the message to be that pacifism is good in theory, but not always effective in execution.

billy jack 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 1, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Tom Laughlin

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

Forced Vengeance (1982)

forced vengeance

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Too much Chuck Norris.

Josh Randall (Chuck Norris) works as a security guard at a Hong Kong casino run by Sam (David Opatoshu) and his son David (Frank Michael Liu). Stan Ramiondi (Michael Cavanaugh) approaches the two men about purchasing the casino from them, but Sam refuses due to Stan’s connections to organized crime, which makes Stan very upset. Soon Sam and David are found dead and Josh goes on a vengeance to seek justice, but it proves difficult because Stan seems to have spies and hit men everywhere who are more than willing to take Josh down.

The production seems less like a movie and more like a vehicle showcasing what a tough guy/stud Norris is. The characterizations are too broad and the meager plot is predictable and formulaic. I found it hard to get into and seemed to lose interest the more it progressed. Anyone looking for even an ounce of sophistication will surely be disappointed. Adding some humor might have helped. Norris’s voice-over narration has some, but it is definitely not enough.

The fight scenes really don’t add much. There are just so many high kicks one can watch before that becomes as monotonous as everything else. Showing some of it in slow motion only makes it cheesier. The fights also have too much of a predictable quality with the big bad guys standing dumbfounded while Norris kicks their ass. In fact the only fight sequence that was interesting is the one in which Norris is not in. There is also one fight shown at the beginning over the opening credits that gets repeated later in the movie, which makes it very redundant. The loud, booming music, which was done to somehow create tension, instead becomes obnoxious.

The acting is overall wooden and the dialogue is dull and uninspired. Even the old pros seem to be phoning in their parts. Norris in particular speaks in the same monotone voice and his face remains expressionless throughout. The only performance that I liked was that of Cavanaugh’s and that was because he has the perfect looking face for a bad guy especially with those clear blue eyes. In fact he has more than a passing resemblance to Terence Stamp and the fight that he has with Norris at the end while on a boat and using a wooden hook is mildly engaging.

The on-location shooting done in Hong Kong and the opening shot showing Hong Kong’s sprawling skyline is impressive, but everything else is not and I found this to be a real chore to sit through.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 30, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: James Fargo

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video