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Retro Review: BLIND RAGE (1978)

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BLIND RAGE
(Philippines - 1978)

Directed by Efren C. Pinon. Written by Jerry O. Tirazona and Leo Fong. Cast: Tony Ferrer, Leila Hermosa, Leo Fong, Fred Williamson, Charlie Davao, Carlos Padilla Jr, D'Urville Martin, Dick Adair, Darnell Garcia, Golay, B.T. Anderson, Subas Herrero, Bing Velasco, Chuck Doherty, Max Alvarado, The SOS Daredevils. (R, 81 mins)

"Let's begin by synchronizing your Braille watches." 

Cheaply-made and amateurishly-shot, BLIND RAGE is a thoroughly ridiculous high-concept Filipino mash-up of heist flick, blaxploitation, and kung-fu involving a group of blind men hired to steal a secret $15 million CIA slush fund from the vault of a Manila bank. The mastermind is Johnny Duran (Charlie Davao), a bank representative working with the US Treasury to secure the $15 million as part of the covert "Project Southeast Asia," designed as an emergency fund for US allies in the region to launch a counterattack should Vietnam be plotting any more shenanigans. Duran and teacher-for-the-blind Sally (Leila Hermosa) work on putting together a crack team of blind guys from all over the world--mostly criminals--since no one will think them capable of pulling what's tantamount to a SEEING-EYE DOG DAY AFTERNOON. There's American gangster Willie Black (DOLEMITE director/co-star D'Urville Martin), who lost his sight during a botched attempt on his life; Hong Kong's Lin Wang (co-writer Leo Fong), a Tong "liquidator" who tried to skim off an opium deal and was promptly rewarded with acid being thrown in his eyes; matador Hector Lopez (Darnell Garcia), who went blind when he was gored by a bull; and the only non-criminal, Tokyo-based, blind-from-birth expat American magician Anderson (Dick Adair). Sally thinks they need a fifth person to handle the more technological elements and act as a decoy by pretending to have sight, so she hires past student and low-level hood Ben Guevera (Tony Ferrer, a huge star in the Philippines who was best known for headlining a long-running series of Filipino 007 knockoffs), so "he can get even with the world for what happened to him years ago," specifically, trying to pull a fast one on a rival crime outfit and getting a power drill to the eyes.






Haphazardly-assembled and erratically-paced, with its 81 minutes feeling like two and a half hours, BLIND RAGE--just out on Blu-ray from Scorpion because physical media is dead--is nevertheless an enjoyable bad movie. The blind men go through the requisite training, which also includes wearing specially-made shoes with metal soles so they can tell when someone else is perhaps walking away to call the cops or trigger the alarm. Willie tries to rape Sally at one point, and she's rescued by a furious Ben, but it's training as usual right after and it's never mentioned again. Much of the dialogue is post-synced (Fong--later the star of 1984's KILLPOINT and 1986's LOW BLOW in Crown International's ill-advised deep-dive into "Fongsploitation" (© Marty McKee)--is dubbed by another actor), and when it's not, the results range from dreadful (the whole scene with the Treasury guy) to nonsensical, as when Duran meets with a sinister silent partner (B.T. Anderson) who introduces himself with "My name is Lew Simpson...most of my friends call me Wilbur." And that's not even counting Martin's Willie making a getaway and emphatically declaring "I wouldn't give two cents in Chinese horse manure for your life!" Also, why bring along a blind magician and not utilize his skills? Why bring Ben along to pretend to see only to abandon the whole idea and have Ferrer be the actor who most invests himself in delivering a convincing "blind" performance? By comparison, Martin (portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the recent DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) doesn't even try, looking around, walking right up to doors and opening them, appearing less like a blind guy and more like some dude just wearing sunglasses. Speaking of which, why even bother going through the trouble of hiring blind guys? Why not just have guys pretend to be blind? Training blind guys and reconstructing the exact layout of the bank so they can count their steps and memorize the bank interior seems like a lot of extra prep work.


Directed by Efren C. Pinon with all the skill and production value of BLACK DYNAMITE if helmed by Al Adamson, BLIND RAGE boasts of globetrotting location work all over the world, which mostly consists of fleeting shots of Davao walking around in Vegas, Tokyo, and Hong Kong as he recruits all of the blind participants. Davao disappears for much of the middle, but he's essentially the lead in the first and third acts (top-billed Ferrer doesn't even appear until nearly 30 minutes in), with the entire opening devoted to long shots of him driving around various recognizable L.A. locations on his way to meet the Treasury guy. Pinon brings The Hammer down for the finale, however, with Fred Williamson turning up in the final ten minutes, reprising his role as CIA agent Jesse Crowder from a pair of his own 1976 drive-in actioners, DEATH JOURNEY and NO WAY BACK (he would play Crowder again in 1983's THE LAST FIGHT). In an interview in the Blu-ray bonus features, Fong says a chance encounter with Williamson led to his brief appearance, shot in Los Angeles, where he gets a fight scene with Davao on top of a building next to an IHOP that, according to Fong, served as the production's unofficial office during the L.A. portion of the shoot (was the "chance encounter" just Fong and Pinon showing up at that IHOP one morning and interrupting Fred's breakfast?). Williamson probably knocked out his role in a day and a half, tops--not a bad gig to show up 70 minutes into an 80-minute movie and instantly be the hero. It's this final section where BLIND RAGE finally starts to look like an almost-professional action film. While not exactly good in the standard sense, there's enough of a marked change in style and execution in those climactic ten minutes that it's likely Williamson took charge and directed his scenes himself.


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