Monday, 5 April 2010

Raw Force (1982)

Even a Nazi biker rape scene can be rendered
hilarious through the addition of heart-print boxers

A lot of people, myself especially, tend to romanticise the exploitation films of the late 70s/early 80s. Generally they were bait-and-switch routines that preyed on the public's unquenchable thirst for blood and tits. Even the best of them fail to live up to the promise of their often-awesome theatrical posters and, truth be told, the vast majority are just flat-out boring. Raw Force is one of those rare exploitation films that delivers, taking a kitchen-sink appoach that delivers a little bit of everything: zombie samurai, cannibal monks, kung fu masters and a whole lot of titties, all executed with a level of competence that frequently dips into lols-ville. Delicious.

The film revolves around a human-trafficking ring run by Mr. Speer, a man in a white suit with a Hitler moustache and terrible German accent (subtle). As the film opens he and his team of mercenaries are taking a load of Filipina prostitutes to the mysterious Warrior Island. There he is met by a group of cackling monks (wearing tattered robes straight out of Tombs of the Blind Dead) who exchange the girls for a couple of baskets of jade. Or rather one basket, the monks reduce the sum after they reject one of the girls for not having enough junk in the trunk. You may think they're a bit picky for celibate, island-dwelling monks, but it turns out that these lovely ladies aren't for fuckin', they're for eatin'. They believe that eating female flesh gives them the power to raise the dead, specifically the bodies of disgraced martial artists that have banished themselves to Warrior Island. Or something.

Cut to three moustachioed guys from the Burbank Karate Club taking a trip on an extremely shabby cruise line. Since the ship is packed with martial artists, all keen to visit Warrior Island, the cruise manager (an extremely annoying woman) decides to change their itinerary and make a brief stopover there. The ship's cook/kung fu master Chin balks at the idea, saying that the island is forbidden to everyone except "disgraced martial artists" and setting foot on it will incure the wrath of Buddha. Maybe the local tourist authority shouldn't hand out Warrior Island brochures then, even if they do appear to be mostly blank.

During a stopover the passengers take in some of the local sights (kickboxing, cheap markets), while a couple of Burbank Karate Clubbers split off from the main group and head to a brothel. Subsequently Speer and his men bust into the joint disguised as policemen, rounding up a bunch of girls to sell off to the cannibal monks. The two men escape as a gaggle of topless women stream out of the upstairs window and across the rooftops. Indeed there are a lot of topless women in this film, but the most egregious example is when several minutes of jiggle footage is haphazardly edited into a bar fight, such that the stripper nonchalantly dances away while the bar is trashed around her.

The film's love of tits and bizarre, anarchic spirit is most explified during an extended comedy sequence in the middle of the film. The individual bits aren't funny at all, but they are so random and ri-goddamn-diculous that they gradually build momentum until the movie is a freight train of awesome. The scene revolves around a birthday celebration for some random character who is never mentioned again, and takes place in a crappy wood-panelled room that looks like a family den circa 1977. The movie cuts between the following gags, usually involving unknown characters who only appear in this one scene:
  • An older woman pimps out her friend to a guy only for him to start ranting about how modelling is the devil's work ("No Betty, the devil's no joke")
  • A fat, balding bartender hits on a girl by smashing a block of ice with his head and then asking "Want to have dinner tonight, doll-baby?"
  • A woman gets a birthday cake smooshed all over her boobs and has to take a shower.
  • A tall woman and a short man try to have sex in a cramped bathroom.
  • A woman paralytic state of drunkeness is casually sexually assaulted by a pervert.
  • A clumsy martial artist knocks over a table where a family are in the middle of a spaghetti dinner.
The drunken merriment is interrupted by a bunch of Speer's mercenaries, who are dressed like a Village People cover band. Speer heard that the two guys at the brothel were on a cruise to Warrior Island, so he decides to kill everybody on the ship. One of our heroes gives a death-swirly to a Nazi biker in heart-print boxer shorts while Chin gets into a swordfight with a pirate in a midriff-baring vest and glam makeup. Eventually the pirates set the cruise ship on fire and Chin, the ship's Captain (played by Cameron Mitchell), the cruise-line owner and the Burbank Karate Club and a female SWAT officer named Cookie all escape onto a life-raft, I guess leaving the rest of the passengers to die.

They wash up on Warrior Island anyway, and after a gun-fight with a bazooka-toting Speer and his men they are captured by the cannibal monks. This is where the much-ballyhooed zombie warriors come into play, as the monks use their cannibal powers to raise up a bunch of samurai and ninja zombies. There's no real consistency, obviously; sometimes the samurai jump and flip about, other times they shamble along in slow motion (I don't mean they move slowly either, whenever the zombies are shown they use a cheesy slow motion filter effect). Anyway, they defeat the zombies, Speer gets eaten by pirahanas, and they fly away in his plane. The film ends with a title card: "To Be Continued..." Oh, I wish.

There's a lot to enjoy about this one. The kung fu fights and gun battles aren't fantastic but it's hard to get bored when there's hilariously awful dialog like "Go ahead Cookie, he doesn't have to know you're on the LA SWAT team". Also, tits. I enjoyed it a lot. I don't know why they gave it such a generic title, though. It would probably have been more successful they'd called it Burbank Karate Club vs The Zombie Samurai of Warrior Island. Maybe the theatre's marquee space was extremely limited.

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