Blu-ray Review: Raw Force

Directors always brag about doing more with less as part of the enticement to make an indie film away from the studio system. There is a creative element that must come into play when you can’t merely throw money to make things happen on the screen. But what happens when a young eager director must conceive of excess on a bare bones budget? This is when the lessons from Roger Corman school of film production go into effect. The novice can’t hold back on the weirdness. They must make a movie that will get people from across the county scoot to the drive-in theater. The movie has to be more than good. The movie must be “you can’t believe what happened next” good. Raw Force is a low budget film that constantly ups the ante in the exploitation game. How extreme does it get? The climax of the movie features kung fu zombies.

The movie opens not with kung fu zombies, but a group of Asian monks that are trading for caged women. Among the monks is the legendary Vic Diaz (The Bird Cage). It’s easy to tell that these monks aren’t normal praying folks since they have hungry eyes and not a lustful look as they carry the women back to their temple. On the other side of the ocean, the Burbank Karate Club is embarking on a cruise to Warrior Island. This is a place where kung fu fighters go when they’ve been disgraced. Rumor has it they are undead. Either way, a boat filled with prime American action talent is setting sale. In stroke of good luck, the ship is captained by Cameron Mitchell (Without Warning). Unlike his usual weekend gig for an exploitation film, Cameron sticks around for most of the story and even has a few action moments. He gets to face off with Vic Diaz in the battle of the exploitation all stars. Also along for the ride is Jillian Kessner, the star of Firecracker. She’s back for another round of buttkicking that might include losing her top. The trip to Warrior Island is a bit bumpy with pirates wanting to highjack the boat. This leads to a massive mixed martial arts fight on the high seas. How many of them will survive so they can battle the kung fu zombies? That would be giving away too much of a film that just seems to get wilder with each scene.

Raw Force is a blissful low budge affair that refuses to admit it’s not Waterworld. The boat sets throw authenticity out the window. How many tramp steamers have wood paneling below deck? There’s plenty of excuses for characters to strip down and fight. They even have a police raid on a massage parlor to get more skin on the screen. Nothing seems to hold this film back from going the extra mile of weirdness in order to please those lucky enough to wander into the theater. Raw Force is the Citizen Kane of kung fu zombie flicks.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer is beyond great for the film. You get to see all the nuances of Vic Diaz on the screen. Although you also get to see how messy the optical effects can get. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono. You’ll hear a lot of groaning from the zombies when they arrive.

DVD has the film and bonus features.

Destination: Warriors Island (14:31) breaks down how the filmmakers went so over the top on a low budget. Director Edward Murphy talked his way into the chair after writing the script. This project was sold on the concept of Kung Fu zombies and women in cages. Brilliant!

Audio Interview with Jim Wynorski (5:04) as he explains how he had oversaw the final edit of the movie. He figured out how to make the movie move. He praises the cover art.

Trailer (2:17) makes this essential viewing as it distills so much into the short tease.

Raw Force is a fantastic voyage to low budget island filled with action and zombies. This is a complete over the top moment from 1982.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Raw Force. Directed by: Edward Murphy. Starring: Vic Diaz, Cameron Mitchell, Jillian Kessner, Geoffrey Binney and John Locke. Rated: R. Running time: 86 minutes. Released: October 7, 2014.