(US - 1982)
Written and directed by Edward Murphy. Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Geoff Binney, Hope Holiday, Jillian Kesner, John Dresden, Jennifer Holmes, Rey King, Carla Reynolds, Carl Anthony, John Locke, Mark Tanous, Ralph Lombardi, Vic Diaz, Camille Keaton, Jewel Shepard. (R, 86 mins)
Fans of early '80s grindhouse and late-night cable have largely kept RAW FORCE to themselves over the years, but that's likely to change with Vinegar Syndrome's release of the film in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. A revival of the MIAMI CONNECTION sort is likely, and while both are equally ridiculous, RAW FORCE at least knows it's ridiculous. Writer/director Edward Murphy is interviewed in the release's accompanying retrospective, and says "It was a movie for 17-year-old boys...and it probably still is." Probably the best Philippines-shot B-grade T&A actioner that Roger Corman never produced, RAW FORCE has a winking and very tongue-in-cheek attitude, mixing action, horror, comedy, and gratuitous nudity into a jawdropping plot that's equal parts kung-fu epic, DAWN OF THE DEAD, Nazisploitation, raunchy slob comedy, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, and THE LOVE BOAT. Anyone taking this seriously is completely missing the point: RAW FORCE is the kind of sleazy exploitation gem that demands to be resurrected on the midnight movie circuit.
FIRECRACKER) or King. With most of the actors, however, it looks awkward and not-very-rehearsed, which of course only adds to the enjoyment. Like the filmmakers, most of the actors--particularly Lombardi as the evil Speer--seem to be in on the joke. RAW FORCE has such a pronounced sense of anything-goes giddiness that it's indicative of what might've happened if Filipino exploitation legend Cirio H. Santiago was clever enough to make a self-aware spoof of his own trash movies. In that sense, it almost belongs in the same category of self-conscious New World titles like HOLLYWOOD BLVD (1976) and PIRANHA (1978), but if anything, RAW FORCE is more ridiculous and cartoonishly over-the-top than almost anything Roger Corman was releasing in the early '80s, GALAXY OF TERROR worm-rape notwithstanding. It's not enough to have martial arts fight scenes and topless beauties throughout (including I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE's Camille Keaton and future DTV erotic thriller mainstay Jewel Shepard in tiny roles), but RAW FORCE take it several steps further by throwing in a Hitler surrogate as the primary villain along with evil, clapping, cackling monks and a kung-fu zombie army. And it ends with Dresden's Taylor breaking the fourth wall and winking at the audience as a title card promises "To Be Continued..." thereby essentially all but openly stating that yes, RAW FORCE is a comedy.
|Cameron Mitchell (1918-1994)
HEATED VENGEANCE, starring BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA's Richard Hatch. In the bonus features, the gregarious writer/director, who left movies to becoming a practicing attorney, talks about living as an expat in the Philippines after serving in Vietnam. He found work as a bit player in a slew of Filipino exploitation titles before stepping behind the camera. Like his cast, Murphy knows RAW FORCE is a stupid movie, but you can see the enthusiasm emanating from Murphy now and immediately see why RAW FORCE is so much fun. Murphy might be a bit too enthusiastic and reveling in the newfound attention that Vinegar Syndrome is bringing him. He talks about Holiday being Mitchell's girlfriend, but never mentioning her husband. Instead, he names Jonathan Winters as Holiday's ex-husband, and that was never the case. Winters was married once, to the same woman from 1949 until her death in 2009. Murphy claims to be good friends with Winters, even saying Winters was brought along by Holiday and Mitchell to a dinner meeting for a potential RAW FORCE II (it was never made, despite the joking promise at the end), yet he's surprised when offscreen interviewer Elijah Drenner informs him that Winters is dead (he died in 2013). I'm not saying Murphy is telling tales out of school--maybe Winters stepped out on his wife with Holiday, who knows?--or indulging in some full-of-shit revisionist history like Mark Damon claiming it was he, and not Roger Corman, who directed 1961's THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, but it's possible that he misspoke and is simply confusing Jonathan Winters with someone else. It's also hard to believe Winters would even entertain the notion of accepting an offer to co-star in RAW FORCE II, unless he was just tagging along to get a free dinner out of it.