BILL’s BIZAREE BIJOU
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
RAW FORCE (1982)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if there’s a multitude of drag queens and camp sensibility, if go-go dancers in cages are featured, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
Here at the Bizarre Bijou, we love our weird little movies, but even we can get blind-sided by films so weird they defy description (not that we won’t try). These are the films that can’t really be categorized, that force you to watch for ninety minutes with your mouth agape in the sheer wonder at the beauty of its freakishness. And one such movie is what I am dubbing the greatest trash exploitation sex comedy kung fu horror zombie action adventure ever filmed. Of course, I doubt there’s ever been another, but what the hell? Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you RAW FORCE (1982). First, let’s see if I can do justice to the (ahem) plot. Bear with me, friends, this one is way, WAY out there.
Our film begins on Warrior Island, which from the looks of the native monks who wear BLIND DEAD pointy-hatted filthy robes, is located somewhere in the Philippines. Another clue is Vic Diaz (BLOOD THIRST, 1971, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, 1972), the reigning jolly whacko from dozens of Filipino exploitation films. A plane lands, and a chubby Hitler lookalike with a bad comb-over leads several mercenary types with ponytails and big muscles to the monks on the island. They are bringing them a half dozen crying women, who are stripped and placed in a bamboo cage, traded for baskets of pure jade. One girl is deemed too skinny, and she is chopped in half by a zombie samurai who looks like Chuck Norris in pasty undead make-up. The monks find this hilarious.
Suddenly, we are in a car with the Burbank Kung-Fu Club (????), three guys who are trying to catch a boat to sail to various ports, including (duh, duh duuuuuh) Warrior Island, a place where karate warriors who were shamed go to die. We have Mike O’Malley (Geoffrey Binney of HOT POTATO, 1976, and once a redshirt on STAR TREK), a Hollywood stuntman; mustachioed Gary Schwartz, who wears short shorts; and musclebound John Taylor (John Dresden of General Hospital). They meet the cruise director of the ship, Hazel Buck (Hope Holiday of THE APARTMENT, 1960, IRMA LA DOUCE, 1963) who is a loudmouth, annoying type, who irritates the captain of the ship, Captain Harry Dodds, played by exploitation superstar Cameron Mitchell (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, 1964, THE DEMON, 1981, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, 1978, and hundreds more). He and Hazel have a sort of love/hate relationship going, screaming at each other and chewing scenery until they both have splinters in their gums. There is also a Chinese cook, Go Chin (Rey Malonzo of SHANGHAI JOE, 1978, and EYE OF THE EAGLE, 1987) who knows karate and helps give a demonstration with the Burbank Karate Club on the deck of the sailing ship. Mike O’ Malley gets cozy with a pretty woman, Ann Davis (Jennifer Holmes of the NEWHART show and THE DEMON, 1981) and must deal with her drunken lout of a husband, Lloyd (Carl Anthony…Patrolman Larry in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, 1959!). There’s also a female L.A. S.W.A.T. team member played by the beautiful Jillian Kesner (FIRECRACKER, 1981, THE STUDENT BODY, 1976) and her sexy friend Eileen (Carla Reynolds of MANIAC COP, 1988) who give the karate boys some lessons in women’s lib! Okay, they flip them over their shoulders.
The passengers debark for a small unnamed island, where one group, led by Hazel, goes to the “K-Mart of Jade.” “I can’t believe these prices!” Another group goes to watch a real kick-boxing match. Lloyd and Mike go to a brothel, “the House of a Thousand Pleasures,” where many unclothed women reside. Mike, a good guy, doesn’t indulge, but as Lloyd is about to get his freak on, along comes the chubby Hitler guy and his pony-tailed minions, and they kidnap all the prostitutes! I hate it when that happens!
Everyone meets up in a bar, and the ponytail leader overhears that the group is going to Warrior Island, which could put a crimp in their Jade smuggling and white-slavery plans. So, a huge bar brawl erupts, with everybody kicking and fighting and hitting each other with bottles. This makes everyone happy, so they return to the boat, set sail, and throw a gigantic party where whacky shenanigans ensue. Yes, someone gets hit in the kisser with a birthday cake. Everyone couples up and there is sex in a bathroom, tied up in a bed, right out in the open….it is wall to wall boobies, folks. On a PA system, you hear “Those of you who wish to end up sitting on the toilet for the rest of the trip, with violent, projectile diarrhea, try the Hungarian food in our restaurant, courtesy of Michelle the Hungarian bitch.” Yes, we have made a left turn into sex comedy territory.
In the midst of all the debauchery, Ponytail and his followers, dressed as FLASHDANCE-inspired pirates, attack the ship and shoot arrows into several of the horny guests! This is the cue for non-stop karate action while topless ladies (I use that term loosely) run hither and yon. Eventually, there’s a fire, and the ship burns down, killing everyone except our heroes in the karate club, the captain, Hazel, the Chinese cook, and the S.W.A.T team woman. Eileen has been kidnapped, taken to Warrior Island, and is being basted.
You see, the monks don’t want all these women for sex. They want them for Barbeque!
So, eventually the group ends up on Warrior Island (naturally), and they must save the basted women, kill the monks, fend off the Hitler guy and the Ponytail gang, and fight off hordes of shamed undead samurai and ninjas. It’s a zombie vs man free for all!
Have I mentioned the lake of piranhas? Or the crazed bathroom sex scene? Or the gangster’s moll who murdered her lover? The nude cameos by Camille Keaton (I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, 1978) and Jewell Shepard (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1985)?
How about priceless lines of dialogue like:
- “That’s what I get for teaming up with a hippie.”
- “I’m going shopping. Is there anything you need, besides deodorant?”
- Or “We are now departing. Those of you tossing money, we are again reminding you that the divers requested that you do not throw pennies, nickels, or dimes. Only quarters and above.”
RAW FORCE was the first film written and directed by Edward D. Murphy, and the inexperience shows in so many ways…like matte paintings that don’t match the foreground and any sense of coherency flying out the window to make room for more outrageousness. Still, he finds a weird sense of campy fun in all the hijinks, and the man has chutzpah to spare! Who else would throw together a movie like this and release it upon an unsuspecting grindhouse public. From its campy tone, we are assured that none of this is to be taken seriously. It’s all in good fun. Murphy only directed one other film —HEATED VENGEANCE in 1985, and that makes me sad. It also makes me want to view a movie called HEATED VENGEANCE!
The music in RAW FORCE is pretty rousing—a good score—because it was written by the great Walter Murphy, who also wrote musical scores for the TV series FAMILY GUY, THE COMMISH, HUNTER, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and AMERICAN DAD! He is also well known for his 1976#1 disco hit, A FIFTH OF BEETHOVEN! Remember that one?
Oh, RAW FORCE, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Zombies, kung-fu fighting, pretty SWAT team members, rugged and handsome heroes, the Nazi biker guy, weird accents all over the place, Hope Holiday and Cameron Mitchell (two old pros having a ball), mad monks basting pretty blondes with huge basting brushes while munching on femurs, gore, blood, piranhas, and boobies, boobies, boobies (to quote Patty Duke).
If you are a regular movie-goer (and if you are, what the heck are you doing reading this column?) you’d give RAW FORCE 0 stars out of four.
For people who love grindhouse cinema or exploitation movies, I give RAW FORCE four GIANT basting brushes out of four! Trashy perfection!
© Copyright 2014 by William D. Carl