Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Raw Force (aka Kung Fu Cannibals)
Genre: Gonzo Action/Supernatural Horror/Zombies
Tagline: It’s nourishment-human flesh. It’s guardian-the undead. It’s sanctuary-the island.
Released by: Media Home Entertainment
Director: Edward D. Murphy (not THE Eddie Murphy)
Note: This review was originally published on 11/24/11
Plot: This sleazy, low budget, action-packed exploitation epic concerns a group of martial arts experts and friends known as The Burbank Karate Club, whom all take a singles’ cruise aboard a luxurious yacht to the mysterious Warriors Island.
Suddenly, their ship is attacked by a band of vicious pirates that pillage the vessel and set it aflame. The Burbank Karate Club fights back and escapes to the island, along with the ship’s alcoholic skipper, his hen-pecking wife and a few attractive young ladies. There they discover that their tropical sanctuary is anything but!
Turns out the island is controlled by a cabal of monks that employ the pirates to bring them captured young women, so they can be used to perform a cannibalistic ceremony in which the dead bodies of ancient kung fu warriors are reanimated to fight once again… but they didn’t count on having to deal with The Burbank Karate Club!
Thoughts: I rented this one from Video Nutz when I was a teen with my buddy, Curtis. It had everything a fifteen year old boy could possibly want in a movie, but no longer gets: nudity, violence, martial arts, samurai zombies, ninja zombies, pirates that wear Nazi helmets and Superman t-shirts, a main villain in a white suit sporting a Hitler mustache, cannibal monks, cheap ass explosions, ridiculous gore, insane action and man-eating piranhas! And it’s all in one motherfucker of a movie!
This is one of the few exploitation films I’ve seen that completely lives up to the promise of its awesome VHS box art! Virtually every incredible image from the cover is actually in the movie at some point. Except the piranhas, which are a pleasant surprise you don’t see coming. I’d also like to point out how totally rad it is that the letter O in the logo for Raw Force is a deadly Chinese throwing star. Bravo!
Blonde martial arts hottie, Jillian Kesner (star of Firecracker) plays Cookie Martial, a member of SWAT, as well as an accomplished karate pro. She teams up with The Burbank Karate Club on the boat and proceeds to kick massive amounts of pirate, zombie and cannibal ass, while wearing a halter-top and skin-tight jeans. I love her.
The movie shifts genres on several occasions. It starts off like a women-in-prison flick as the crazed cannibal monks receive a new bundle of unfortunate ladies from the pirates, who are then paid the women’s weight in precious jade for their services. The girls are stripped naked and placed on a bamboo scale, where they are weighed. One of the underweight girls gets chopped in two by a zombie with a samurai sword. It’s an incredible way to open a movie.
Then it shifts to a T & A sex comedy on board the boat, where an acid-mixed-with-cocaine-Boogie Nights-style party ensues. A drunken (literally) Cameron Mitchell serves as the ship’s captain and the film’s (not so) comic relief.
When the pirates attack, we’re suddenly thrust into an action/adventure movie with lots of kung fu fighting, gun shooting, an attempted rape and one of the cheapest explosion effects I’ve ever seen.
Once on the island, we are introduced to the horror portion of the film. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve seen a movie that features zombies using kung fu and fighting with swords. They kick your ass and then they eat your ass! It’s such a beautifully insane idea.
Needless to say, The Burbank Karate Club is victorious by the film’s conclusion and the boys fly off into the sunset with their grateful gals… THEN a title card pops up that reads: TO BE CONTINUED!
Well, it’s been almost 30 years now and I’m still waiting! I’ve been checking the video aisles in the new releases section at Video Nutz for a very long time and I still haven’t seen it, but I want it right now. My friend Curtis and I fully expected to grow up in a world where Raw Force was a popular series of films, but like Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, it never happened. Had it, what a glorious world it would have been to live in. 9/11 wouldn’t have taken place. I’m sure of it. I DEMAND Raw Force 2: The Return To Warriors Island!!!!!! Come on, Edward D. Murphy! Make it happen!
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