What if I told you that Raw Force (1982) directed by Edward D. Murphy is an action-horror-kung fu-sexpolitation film set in the Philippines and the surrounding islands, starring a group of martial artists form a Californian kung-fu school, who along with an assortment of tourists on a chartered boat captained by Cameron Mitchell. They go on an island hopping trip, finally arriving at a certain island reputed to have undead grand martial artists, guarded by cannibal, sex obsessed monks in brown robes who are also into slave trading young women in exchange for jade gemstones. Get the picture. Imagine selling that to a producer, that producer was Frank E. Johnston who is also a celebrated cinematographer. This is the premise of the film and to be honest it was fun to watch on all levels, from the staged low budget martial arts, the regular boobies that kept popping out, the poorly designed zombie martial artists. This is exploitation done right.
The plot is a mish-mash of a number of exploitation tropes, it begins with a group of martial arts students from Burbank, California on a trip to South East Asia (Phillipines) where they meet a mixed bag of tourists and other hangers on all aboard a rusty old passenger ship captained by Captain Harry Dodds (Cameron Mitchell). From there the team meet jade smuggling mercenaries who smuggle not only the prized jade, but women who are sold to cannibal monks who have sex then eat their victims! Add an island where disgraced martial artists lay buried until they are summons on vengeance sprees by the lunatic monks, who kill their female victims for sacrifice to their gods. The plot then veers into action territory as the students, teaming up with a stuntman and a female police detective, go off on a vengeance mission to stop the monks, destroy the zombies martial artists and rescue the female captives, while having a mini war with the mercenaries. The story is totally bonkers, but for a film that is perfect for a typical Saturday night pizza and beer combo, you cannot go wrong with watching Raw Force. Did I forget to mention the piranhas!
This is not a film that was going to win any major awards unless it was an obscure cult award ceremony, no, this film has survived via word of mouth and regular VHS rentals until a very nice transfer onto BluRay by @88Films who enjoy bringing out these kinds of films to a wider, younger audience. I for one remember seeing the poster artwork at the local video rental store, and being mildly intrigued until my attention went elsewhere to some low budget post apocalyptic movie, or anything with Clint Eastwood in it. That saying, I am glad I have now watched this film and would recommend it to anyone on the plot alone, it is weirdly insane and has no logic, but it is fun!
Bit of trivia. A sequel was mooted but never made, as the titles begin to roll, a To Be Continued appears, though it never did.
* Above is one of many VHS artworks released globally. This one was for the UK market.