Release Date(s)1982 (October 7, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C+
When it comes to sleazy action movies that don’t make a lot of sense narratively or even logically, you can’t get much better than something like Miami Connection. That’s a movie that’s just chock full of moments that you leave you questioning the actions of the people who made it. That movie could also pass for a PG rating at times because of how straight-laced it is most of the time. There’s no nudity, not too much bad language, and not a lot of over-the-top violence, save for the very end. But on the other end of the spectrum is Raw Force, a movie that’s Miami Connection’s total opposite with heaping amounts of nudity, bad language, and over-the-top violence.
Previously known as Kung Fu Cannibals in the U.S., Raw Force is one of those trashy action movies that’s never been given a proper home video release until now. It’s one of those hidden gems that if you’re a good-bad movie fan, you’re going to embrace it with open arms. Not a lot makes sense in Raw Force on not just a story level, but with characters as well. The story is that a group of people known as the Burbank Kung Fu Club travel by boat with their fellow passengers to a strange island known as Warriors Island, wherein some evil things are going on including lady sacrificing, cannibalism, and dead warrior resurrection. It’s up to the group to take out the strange order of monks and the gang that they’ve employed to charter in their sacrificial victims to the island if they want to get off the island alive.
And right off the bat, you know you’re in for a good-bad movie when somebody like Cameron Mitchell pops up on the screen, who, in my estimation, is one of the reigning kings of bad movie actors. He always managed to pick the wrong projects (or right projects, depending on how you look at it), and he is joined this time around by his then girlfriend Hope Holiday for a bit of banter back and forth. There are also a couple of other familiar faces in the mix including Vic Diaz as one of the evil monks (a face that’s familiar to many action movie fans), John Dresden, Geoffrey Binney, and Jillian Kesner. It’s impossible for me to say with a straight face that they turn in some fine acting performances because this movie isn’t about acting, it’s about the action, and the action is great. All you have to do is look up the fantastic trailer for this movie and you’ll know exactly what you’re in for. This is a movie that’s out to satisfy its audience with all of the carnage and nudity that one could hope for in a movie as silly and over-the-top as this one is. As a consequence, it’s one of my new favorite good-bad movies.
One would expect a high definition transfer for a forgotten movie like Raw Force to be of questionable quality. They’d be both wrong and right with that conclusion. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray presentation of the movie is pretty stellar given the age and the discarded nature of the movie. Amazingly enough, it was sourced from the original 35mm camera negative at 2K quality. There’s a medium layer of grain that is handled quite well throughout the movie, helping to preserve a high amount of image detail. Colors are also quite vibrant with very accurate skin tones and lush jungle hues. Blacks aren’t very consistent, but that’s to be understood given the low budget nature of the film. They’re still quite good given that fact. Contrast and brightness are never quite totally even from scene to scene, but again, this is limited to the original photography. There’s been plenty of print damage left intact on this presentation, which is perfectly suitable for a movie like this. Overall, it’s quite an impressive presentation without being perfect, as if it ever really could be. The audio that comes on the disc, which is a single English mono DTS-HD track, doesn’t quite reach the same impressive levels of the image quality, but is appropriate for the presentation at hand. It’s a rough mix of a movie which has some light damage leftover, but I didn’t notice any dropouts of any kind. Dialogue is never completely audible, especially during some of the party scenes on the boat when shots are constantly changing between different groups of people, but it’s good enough for what it is. Both sound effects and score show their age as well, but again, they have enough life to them to make them worthy enough of the track. And this is a very center speaker heavy presentation, and appropriately so. Overall, it’s a terrific presentation of a movie that was previously lost to us on home video, and given that fact, any kind of quality at all is a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on this disc.
Vinegar Syndrome has also gone and put together a few extras for this release as well. First of all, instead of a traditional chapter selection, you get a reel selection instead, of which there are five in all. For the main set of extras you get the featurette Destination: Warriors Island, which contains interviews with director Edward Murphy and cinematographer Frank E. Johnson and acts sort of like a “making of.” There’s also an audio-only interview with Jim Wynorski, who was the movie’s finishing editor, and also the movie’s original theatrical trailer in high definition. This is also a region free release and it includes a copy of the movie on DVD as well.
The effort that was put into this release is staggering. Thanks must be given to Vinegar Syndrome for digging this title up because it’s truly a gem. If you hadn’t heard of or seen Raw Force previously (I admit I hadn’t), you owe it to yourself to pick up this lost sleaze classic and experience it for yourself in all of its whacked-out, unclothed, kung fu zombie glory.
- Tim Salmons