Color, 1982, 86m.
Directed by Edward Murphy
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Geoffrey Binney, Jillian Kesner, Hope Holiday, John Dresden, Jennifer Holmes, Vic Diaz
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Color, 1982, 86m.
Zombies! Nudity! Cannibals! Bar fights! Kung fu! Piranhas! Cameron Mitchell as a drunk sea captain with a gun fetish! A Hitler look alike with a rocket launcher!
If you think all these things couldn't possibly exist in one movie, then clearly you've never run into this berserk Filipino genre mutation backed by Lawrence Woolner of Dimension Pictures, an outfit with a chain of movie theaters in Louisiana. The action starts with a bunch of unclad young women being shipped off against their will to an island by a bunch of evil monks somehow in cahoots with said Hitler clone, presumably for the local sex trade but, as we later learn, actually intended for something more overtly gruesome.
Meanwhile some martial arts students from the Burbank Kung Fu Club are sailing in the area and occasionally getting into scrapes with the locals or going to strip clubs. Or both. Among them are Mike (Binney) and Cookie (Kesner, star of the amazing Firecracker), while the ship captain is, naturally, Cameron Mitchell. As it turns out, they're all heading to a tournament on Warriors Island, which is also where the evil monks and pseudo-Hitler are involved in a plot to raise disgraced local warriors from their graves. In the interim, pirates in masks and strange outfits occasionally burst in and try to kill everyone before everyone converges for a big undead melee.
Wow. This film actually exists outside the realm of any kind of normal film evaluation as it smashes together every single exploitation element that could be sold at drive-ins in the early '80s. The kung fu craze was starting to warp in very strange ways thanks to the infusion of horror elements, particularly from Shaw Brothers, and the relentless output of Filipino productions during the '70s had slowed down to a trickle, so in a way it made sense to toss in as much skin, mayhem, blood, and gunfire as possible to fill up an hour and a half. On top of that there's a totally bizarre supporting cast highlighted by Filipino exploitation requirement Vic Diaz and, popping up inexplicably in the buff for a cameo as "girl in toilet," I Spit on Your Grave's Camille Keaton. Perhaps the weirdest cast member here is Hope Holiday, chewing up scenery years after her most notable stint as a comic lush in The Apartment and decades before raising a stink over The Wolf of Wall Street.
Raw Force first bowed on home video one year after its theatrical run courtesy of a VHS from Media, which replicated the fantastic poster art on its cover. After that the film dove deeply into obscurity, swapped occasionally on the collector's market or tucked away in a gray market "Grindhouse Experience" set transferred off that same old tape copy. Most inexplicably, it even turned up as a German bootleg DVD under its alternate title, Kung Fu Cannibals. Fortunately you can chuck all of those in the trash thanks to the 2014 dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition from Vinegar Syndrome, which sports a terrific new 2K HD transfer from the original negative. As you'd expect from their past video miracles, it looks great with appropriately saturated colors and a vast amount of information completely obscured in prior versions and the few circulating, battered 35mm prints. The DTS-HD mono audio on the Blu-ray sounds as good as you'd expect given the nature of the production.
Both the Blu-ray and DVD contain the same supplements, which are recommended for providing some context as to how this crazy quilt of a movie came together. In "Destination: Warriors Island," we get a 14-minute look at the making of the film courtesy of writer-director Edward Murphy and cinematographer-producer Frank Johnson, who talk about meeting the chain-smoking Woolner, being forced to take Holiday since she was Cameron Mitchell's girlfriend, hand splicing 12 frames out of 150 prints for a comic effect, disputing that "To be continued..." card at the end of the film, and writing a potential sequel with Jonathan Winters! Then there's a five-minute audio interview over the phone with Roger Corman regular Jim Wynorski, who was recruited by the producer to cut a final edit of the film. Finally we close out with the theatrical trailer, which does a great job of selling the sheer insanity it's promoting. If you're searching for the perfect party trash movie, you've come to the right place.