Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: October 7th, 2014.
Director: Edward Murphy
Cast: Geoffrey Binney, John Dresden, Jillian Kesner, Cameron Mitchell, Hope Holliday, Vic Diaz
Year: 1982 Purchase From Amazon
Alternately known as Kung-Fu Cannibals, Edward Murphy’s Filipino lensed exploitation oddity Raw Force starts off with a scene that takes us to Warriors Island. Here a man with a bad German accent and a Hitler moustache named Speer (Ralph Lombardi) coerces with his shaggy haired assistant as they meet a group of evil monks (led by Filipino exploitation king Vic Diaz!). Why? So they can trade naked women for jade and the monks can use the women to resurrect the dead martial arts warriors that are buried on the island and for which it has been named.
Meanwhile, some guys, led by a dude named Mike (Geoffrey Binney) and some girls are on a cruise ship where yet more martial arts is going down. One of the ladies, Cookie (Jillian Kesner from Firecracker) is a tough cop but the guys don’t know that until they call her up for a demonstration and she beats one of them up. Who is in charge of the ship? Well, the good Captain Harry Dodds (Cameron Mitchell). Of course there are a few other characters on hand, like the ship’s cook – a martial arts expert in his own right – and the crazy aging hostess who can’t help but remind us of Phyllis Diller. Before the boat takes off, two of the male passengers ditch their ladies and hit up a cathouse where the Hitler guy from earlier overhears them talking about heading to Warriors Island. He warns them against this, he doesn’t want anyone treading in on his business, but no dice. The boat leaves the port and everyone parties like crazy on the way there (look for Jewel Shepard of Return Of The Living Dead and Camille Keaton of I Spit On Your Grave fame) as most of the ladies get naked and most of the guys get drunk.
It all hits the fan when the bad slave trader guys show up. A big fight ensues and then everyone gets off at Warriors Island and fits more – but what they don’t count on is the monks and their ability to raise those aforementioned martial arts warriors from the grave to do their evil bidding!
This is one of those movies that throws in everything but the kitchen sink and still manages to be kinda-sorta coherent. The plot is admittedly not the deepest nor is it particularly ripe with allegory but it moves quickly enough and offers up ample opportunity for nudity, fighting, or fighting with nudity. There’s also some great cannibals, some zombie warriors, a Hitler buy, a decapitation and a gratuitous bazooka scene! The movie takes advantage of the locations that The Philippines offers, taking us on a bit of a tour and showing off everything from a crowded inner city area to a remote graveyard – it’s got some neat stuff going on in the backgrounds if you pay attention to that sort of thing.
As far as the martial arts action itself is concerned, it’s pretty decent. People fight all over the damn place in this movie – strip clubs, graveyards, boats – you name it. The fight scenes are well shot and fairly well choreographed as well, which helps add to the excitement and entertainment value. By the time the zombies have shown up at the end it’s all gone off the rails but at the same time, it’s all the better for it. On top of that we get a fun cast to work with. The principals are all fine, with Cameron Mitchell actually showing a few moments of mild enthusiasm. Vic Diaz is the stand out, he’s an evil monk and because he’s an evil monk he laughs a lot. Why? Not sure, really, but every time he does this it’s fantastic. Ralph Lombardi is all kinds of awesome as the Hitler guy too. He runs around in a white suit with his bad accent and his twitchy eye kidnapping naked Filipinas and never breaks character.
Don’t go into this one expecting a whole lot of attention to detail, because there are logic gaps the size of Texas in here and continuity errors aplenty, but if you can look past that type of thing and just enjoy this one for the constant ride of sex, violence and silliness that it provides you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time at the movies.
Raw Force was previously released in a low budget multi-pack put called The Grindhouse Experience Force Five but that transfer was lousy and sourced from a beat up old VHS tape. The film now arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome framed in a 1.78.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition scanned from the original 35mm negative. The opening credits show a fair bit of print damage but once we get past that, things clean up considerably. There are some shots that look softer than others and a bit dirtier than others but by and large, this is a clean and very colorful image. Any print damage that does show up after the credits is pretty minor, white specks and not massive scratches or anything drastic like that. Color reproduction is excellent, which is important when you’re dealing with such a garish film as this, and everything really pops nicely in this regard. Skin tones are appropriately warm and natural while detail is solid pretty much throughout. It stands to reason that this is as massive upgrade over the aforementioned Force Five release but the movie really does look quite good here. No problems with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and this feels like a pretty authentic representation of the movie, an appropriately film-like transfer.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono mix, there are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind provided. As to the quality of the mix, it’s fine. It sounds like the low budget single channel track that it is but it’s got clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. There is the occasional pop audible in the mix but no serious issues with any hiss or distortion.
The main supplement on the disc is a brand new featurette entitled Destination: Warriors Island that is made up of interviews with writer/director Ed Murphy and cinematographer Frank Johnson. It’s a pretty amusing piece, both interviewees shoot from the hip. Johnson talks about how he got onboard with the project and what it was like shooting on location with the cast and crew. He also talks about the proposed sequel that never happened and how the film was received by critics when it first played. Johnson discusses his work behind the camera as well, sharing some amusing stories about a few key scenes. The disc also includes a six minute audio interview with Jim Wynorski who worked as the finishing editor on this feature. He shares his thoughts on the picture and talks about some of the challenges that arose while trying to put all of this together.
Rounding out the extras are the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection and as this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie with identical extra features is included inside the Blu-ray case.
The Final Word:
Raw Force is trash movie gold, a veritable non-stop barrage of action, nudity, violence and nonsense that is every bit as over the top and mind-numbingly stupid as you could want. God bless Vinegar Syndrome for this one.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!