Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: September 10, 2013.
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Cast: John Carradine, James Inglehart, Leon Issac Kennedy, Jayne Kennedy, Vic Diaz
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When you combine the talents of Cirio H. Santiago, John Carradine, Leon Issac Kennedy and the mighty Vic Diaz on one DVD, you can’t help but tremble in fear at the greatness that DVD will contain. Vinegar Syndrome are brave enough to do just that, however, by pairing up two of Santiago’s movies, both made in 1978 no less, making for one totally radical double dose of Filipino fury.
Also known as Fighting Mad, this first feature stars James Iglehart as Doug Russell, a soldier involved in a gold smuggling operation. His business dealings take a serious turn for the worse when his partners decide his services are no longer necessary and leave him for dead but luck is on Doug’s side when the ocean tosses him onto the beaches of a lovely desert island. At first it seems like Doug has the place to himself until he comes face to face with a pair of Japanese soldiers who have been there so long they have no idea that the Second World War has come to an end.
Now you’d think these guys would kill Doug, but nope, they’re actually pretty nice guys. They take him in and tend to his wounds and then decide that he’d make a good samurai. As such, they give him some training in the art of swordsmanship. While Doug is training, however, things aren’t going so well for his wife, a chanteuse named Maria (Jayne Kennedy). She’s none too impressed with the arrival of Doug’s former business associates, chief amongst them McGee (Leon Isaac Kennedy), who gets a little rough with the lady in ways that a gentleman should not. McGee is also using the stolen gold to finance a crime spree – and there’s only one man who can stop it! So yeah, Doug finishes up with the Japanese guys and heads home to set things right, sword in hand and revenge on his mind…
Presented here for the first time in a version that runs roughly twenty minutes longer than previous releases and under the alternate title of Vengeance Is Mine, this version ends with quite a bit more of a nasty impact than it has in the past and it’s cool to see this alternate version surface from the Vinegar Syndrome vaults. The movie itself holds up well, it’s got a good bit of action to it and a pretty brooding plot. It’s interesting see Leon Isaac Kennedy play the bad guy here, given that he’s best known for playing more noble roles like that of Too Sweet in Jamaa Fanaka’s Penitentiary movies but he does it well. His real life wife at the time, Jayne Kennedy, also does a fine job here and even gets the chance to sing us a song before it’s all over and one with.
The plot is a fairly typical revenge movie but Iglehart (yep, the same guy from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls) makes for a likeable enough hero even if he’s a little wooden in some of the more dramatic moments. A supporting effort from Carmen Argenziano as Doug’s other business partner, Morelli, is also amusing and hey, keep your eyes peeled for Vic Diaz if you know what’s good for you. Nice locations, good fight scenes, solid pacing and a memorable score make this one a blast.
Meanwhile, John Carradine’s career was continuing to go in increasingly more bizarre directions when he worked with Santiago on our second feature, Vampire Hookers, which was also released on VHS as Night Of The Bloodsuckers and which is also known as Cemetery Girls.
After an opening scene where Carradine reads some weird prose to the camera, we meet up with Tom Buckley (Bruce Fairbairn) and Terry Wayne (Trey Wilson), two American sailors on shore leave looking for some fun. As they check out the big city the encounter a bar full of transvestites and then almost get mugged – their evening is not off to a great start. Things take a more interesting turn when a friendly cab driver brings them off to a cemetery in hopes of finding their missing commanding officer. Here they meet Cherish (Karen Stride), a gorgeous hooker who just so happens to operate out of a… cemetery. Probably not a good sign.
Nevertheless, these guys want to see how this is going to play out. Soon enough it turns out that Cherish is a vampire and that she answers to Richmond Reed (John Carradine), the ‘vampire in chief’ of the area. He and his right hand man, Pavo (Vic Diaz), also employ two other vampire hookers, Suzy (Lenka Novak) and Marcy (Katie Dolan). Thankfully the sun rises before our sailors can be turned into a midnight snack, and they make it out alive. But when Tom hears that the girls just might be so included to act human for a night and orgy with him, well, he’d be a fool not to check that out. I mean, have you seen those chicks?
Not to be taken in the least bit seriously, this one is pretty hokey stuff. Carradine hams it up and Diaz is every bit his equal here. Both men appear to at least be having a good time with the material and were probably pretty aware of how goofy it all is. The comedy is bad, the kind you groan at more than you laugh at, but even still it’s hard not to snicker at all of this. Santiago does a good job using color here and actually gets some interesting compositions working in his favor whenever the movie heads into the cemetery.
Fairburn and Wilson are fine as the primary male leads, coasting through the movie from one ridiculous gag to the next, while Stride, Novak and Dolan are all quite beautiful and perfectly cast as the titular ladies of the night. Not in the least bit scary though packed with horror movie clichés, Vampire Hookers isn’t a particularly good movie but it is at least stupid enough to make for a fun time killer.
Both movies are presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen and in very nice shape. Death Force looks good, Vampire Hookers looks great. Neither film is in bad condition here, though Death Force does show some wear and tear at times, while the second feature is nearly pristine. Colors really pop here, they’re reproduced very nicely, and detail looks about as good as can realistically be expected from two low budget seventies films presented in standard definition.
The Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks that accompany each movie also sound fine. Range is understandably limited by the source material but dialogue is easy enough to understand and any hiss or distortion that gets into the mixes is minimal. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.
Extras include a static menu offering chapter selection and a trailer for Vampire Hookers.
The Final Word:
Yeah, these have been released before, but Death Force debuts here in a longer cut and Vampire Hookers has never looked better – so if you’re a fan of one or both of these pictures or just need more Vic Diaz in your life (and you do), consider this one mandatory.