Schlock Value: Raw Force (1982)
In the early ‘80s, the movie scene in Hong Kong started churning out films that combined popular horror elements with their trademark chopsocky action (Spooky Encounters, Kung Fu Zombie, Mr. Vampire). Of course, it wasn’t long before we started making our own here in the States. In 1982, Ansor International released Raw Force (aka Kung Fu Cannibals), a completely batshit insane film that throws everything at the wall and makes about as much sense as one could expect. It was directed by Edward D. Murphy (his directorial debut), and featured, of all people, Cameron Mitchell. The poster is gaudy and brilliant as all get out. It’s got bright, swirling colors, flying kicks, automatic rifles, half-naked women, an exploding boat, and a giant blue spectral warrior with his katana raised high, all beneath the words: “Raw Force! Untamed and Unleashed to Kill!” Yeah, this should be good.
The film opens in an island somewhere in the Pacific. This is Warrior’s Island. In the first scene, an Asian man who looks curiously like Adolph Hitler arrives with a band of Nazi henchmen and a small group of nubile young women. Asian Hitler’s name is Thomas Speer and we learn that he’s been kidnapping prostitutes to trade with the island monks for their valuable jade supply. After the women are stripped bare and corralled into a cage, Speer and his men take their jade and are on their way. Meanwhile, Mike, John, Cookie (yes, Cookie), and other members of the Burbank Karate Club are on the mainland, looking for a boat that will take them out to see the sights and check out this mysterious Warrior’s Island they’ve been hearing stories about. In the meantime, they’ve just been chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, chatting up the local babes and getting into fancy karate-filled bar fights. Eventually, they meet a boat captain, Harry Dodds (Cameron Mitchell), who agrees to take them out.
As they head out on the water, Speer and his men are busy luring women into their bogus “police” van. En route to the island, they encounter our heroes in the party boat, which has become little more than a floating brothel. When Speer and his Nazi henchman board the boat, a massive fight sequence breaks out resulting in the boat catching fire and our heroes stranded on a small dinghy in the middle of the ocean. Speer and his men, meanwhile, fly back to the island to make their next deposit. Here, we learn that the monks are not using these kidnapped women for sex, as one might assume. Instead, they are barbecuing them and eating them, believing doing so will maintain their control over the island spirits.
After some time, our heroes manage to drift to Warrior’s Island where they immediately encounter Speer and his men. Cue: a shootout/fight scene involving hand-to-hand combat, assault rifles, and a friggin’ bazooka. As Speer and his men retreat into the jungle, the island monks greet our heroes and invite them to a meal and offer them help, but only if they can prove themselves in battle against the monks’ champions. Now, prepare to suspend your disbelief because these champions are goddamn zombie ninjas. Yes, you read that correctly. Zombie ninjas. The film culminates in a spectacular action-packed climax wherein our heroes, as well as Speer and his nazis, rush to the shore to escape the island via Speer’s seaplane, while also fighting off zombie ninjas and each other along the way. As our heroes take to the air, the film ends with the words, “To be continued,” promising a sequel that, unfortunately, would never come.
I’m happy to say that Raw Force is every bit as ridiculous and fun as I expected it to be. It’s got all of the incompetence and complete lack of logic that today’s more self-aware bad movies try to emulate. I mean, the bad guy is made up to look like Hitler, and the heroes are white, macho all-American types. Why? Because it saves time, and honestly, it’s totally fine. The narrative, ridiculous as it is, serves only to cram in as much fighting and female nudity as humanly possible, sometimes at the same time. And the effects are about as cheap as you can possibly get: when the boat is engulfed in flames, the fire is all superimposed, the valuable jade is all spray painted chunks of green foam, and many of the shots of the zombie ninjas are unnecessarily slowed down, giving them a terribly choppy slo-mo effect. They even rip off Piranha, straight up lifting attacking piranha footage for a scene where a man falls into the water.
Everything is about as bad as you can imagine, but I’ll say this: it’s not boring. Sure, the characters are barely fleshed out, and everything generally feels pretty amateurish, but the fight sequences, of which there are plenty, keep the film moving forward. Just about every time the films starts to slow down a bit, another fight sequence pops up. And the choreography is surprisingly okay. I mean, yeah, they have their bad moments (like when an actor is seen applying blood to his own face), and not every punch or kick is sold as well as it could be, but all things considered, there’s some decent stuff in there.
While it’ll never be considered a classic, Raw Force is a damn enjoyable experience, and I imagine it would be even better with a crowd, or even a few friends. You can find it as part of Fortune 5’s Grindhouse Experience Vol. 1 box set, but that copy is just a horrible VHS rip with bad tracking issues and all. Instead, I suggest you check out the fantastic Blu-ray restoration from Vinegar Syndrome.