Hello, there. It’s Josh. I’m writing an intro. 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 my buddy Michael Monterastelli, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a glorious showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. His passion for VHS is such that I thought it would be fun to talk him into sharing his vast collection with us. My only rule for him? The movies can’t be available on DVD.

Take it away, Mike!

Title: Raw Force (A.K.A. Kung Fu Cannibals)
Genre: Gonzo Action/Supernatural Horror/Martial Arts
Year: 1982
Tagline: Raw Force! Untamed and Unleashed to Kill! One Blow! The Death Blow!
Released by: Media Home Entertainment
Director: Edward D. Murphy (Not the Eddie Murphy)

click to embiggen

Plot: This sleazy, low budget, action-packed exploitation epic concerns a group of martial arts experts and friends known as “The Burbank Karate Club,” as they 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, a friendly Asian kung fu master, and a few attractive young ladies. However, they soon 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 who wears a white suit and sports 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 radical it is that the letter O in the logo for Raw Force is a deadly Chinese throwing star. Bravo!

Then there’s blonde martial arts hottie, Jillian Kesner (star of Firecracker), who 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, all 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 out. 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-BoogieNights-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 successful film series, but like Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, it never happened. Had it, what a glorious world this 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! I’ll bet the box art will be bitchin’!

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