RAW FORCE (Shogun Island, Special Force, Kung Fu Cannibals)
1982, dir: Edward Murphy
My first experience with RAW FORCE was a couple of years a go when I got my hands on the Grindhouse Experience Volume 1 DVD box set, released by the somewhat shady Fortune 5 label. On the set were some wonderful films such as MANDINGA, EXECUTIONER 2 (there was never a first one), THREE TOUGH GUYS and the wonderfully bleak, yet trashy WOMEN’S CAMP 119, to name but just a few. All films were essentially VHS rips, some looked better than others. Of course, a lot of these films are nearly impossible to find on disc otherwise, so if you’re aren’t a quality freak, sets like that one are perfect to build your library and experience some great pieces of exploitation cinema. I had many an hour watching the films on the set and Raw Force was no exception. Thanks to the wonderful folks over at Vinegar Syndrome, we can now finally watch this obscure genre bending masterpiece in a legitimate form. What exactly is Raw Force you may ask? Let me dust off my robes and I will tell you as I work on my karate skills.
The Burbank Kung Fu Club are having a jolly old time in the Philippines. They rent out a boat captained by none other than Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace, Carousel) and head for the mysterious Warriors Island, said island is infamous for being a place where disgraced martial artists go to die. Before reaching the island, the Burbank Boys enjoy the sights and women of the local brothel as well as partying on the ship itself with a whole host of lovely ladies, one of which works for the FBI and one is even on the run for murdering her husband! There’s even a small role from the lovely Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave, Savage Vengeance). Unfortunately however, they’re about to stumble upon a slave trafficking operation headed by a Nazi war criminal and his band of mercenaries. The two parties first get ‘acquainted’ in a bar where a massive brawl breaks out. Just when they think it’s over, the mercs attack the ship to prevent the holiday makers from reaching the island. Of course, they fail and the survivors finally make it to the island where they discover cannibalistic monks headed by legendary Filipino character, Vic Diaz (Ilsa, Death Force). To make matters worse, those fabled warriors have begun to rise from the grave and are ready to kick some human behind. Talk about a holiday from Hell!
Overall, Raw Force is one of those films that you can’t really place in one genre. It’s got action, sleaze, vampires, zombie ninjas, Nazis and slapstick comedy. The great thing about the film is just how silly and insane it gets. There is always something happening on screen. One minute there could some absolutely ludicrous dialogue, and then the next scene, some gratuitous nudity. First time viewers will not know what to expect. Raw Force is one of those fabled exploitation films that gives you exactly what it promises in some shape or form. It’s one of those instances were the film poster captures the mood of the film perfectly There is something for everyone with Raw Force. You want kung fu? You got it! You like attractive women baring all? You got it! What’s that you say? You want to see cannibalistic monks and undead ninja warriors? YOU GOT IT! I’ve been seeing some talk online that some people are disappointed with the film itself. How can you NOT be entertained by this piece of sleazy trash!? You need to at least experience this film at least once in your life.
Once again, Vinegar Syndrome have done a stellar job. This year has seen the label release some fantastic obscurities and Raw Force is no exception. What you get is a Blu-ray and DVD combo. I only have the ability to play DVD and going off that alone, all I can say is that Vinegar Syndrome have done a terrific job in restoring and presenting this crazy piece of cinema. It’s a gorgeous 2k restoration from the original negatives and is presented in widescreen. Not only that, but there are some nice special features too. We get the informative and often amusing Destination Warriors featurette featuring interviews with Ed Murphy, the films director and Frank Johnson, the films cinematographer as well as a short audio interview with Jim Wynorski, the films editor. Of course, we also get the original theatrical trailer. I of course have to mention the artwork. What a fantastic looking release! Overall, this could be one of Vinegar Syndrome’s best releases. Sure makes for a more than welcome upgrade of my worn VHS rip!
Raw Force is available in a Blu-ray and DVD combo from Vinegar Syndrome