Raw Force

Director: Edward Murphy                   
Cameron Mitchell, Geoff Binney, Jillian Kessner

I like a good steak like the next guy, though I also admit that there are times I like to sink my teeth into a gooey piece of cheese. When it comes to movies, I admit I watch more than my share of cinematic cheese, though I also enjoy good movies with good production values. Sometimes, however, I like a movie that combines both competence and cheesiness. Raw Force is one of those movies, a wonderful mix of the ludicrous and decent. The decent comes with a few of the production values being especially slick; in the opening, we see several shots of an airplane in the air from various angles, all of them well photographed. (The cinematography of this movie is especially decent.) Adding the triumphant Walter Murphy score, one starts to think that hey, here's a low budget movie that looks like it will shape up to be able to stand beside the big boys. The airplane lands, and out comes the cargo - several young women, who mildly protest when they get their clothes ripped off as they are hustled along. The half naked (one completely naked) women are put into a bamboo cave, where they are weighed by several cannibalistic monks, who intend to barbecue (not boil or bake, it is stressed later on) the women for dinner. Yep, the plot is strictly cheese, but hey, these bits of steak go well with the cheese found in this movie.

It's not just the premise of this movie that's cheese, it's, well, just about everything else. Yeah, I guess this movie could officially be called cheese, but quite often there's something slickly done. Sometimes it's the other way around; take, for example, when the three men of the Burbank Karate Club pull into the harbor where their cruise ship awaits to take them on a several week long cruise for singles. When we first see the cruise ship, it looks gigantic, and we see QUEEN MARY written on the side. Impressive. When the ship pulls out to sea, we see that the ship has suddenly shrunk both in length and the number of decks it has, and sports a spotty paint job. Could it be that captain Cameron Mitchell has an ancient sea curse on him, bringing gloom wherever he stumbles? Later on in the movie, pirates spill gasoline all over the ship and set it on fire. In some background shots, we see the top parts of some giant flames. This looks good, until the camera shifts a little, and then suddenly those flames that were peeking over the top of the ship are suddenly launched into space, with a distinct flat bottom edge that was right on the edge of the objects the flames were previously peeking from behind. Slick cheese, that's what we have here.

Another thing funny about the fire on the ship is when the characters are near the camera, some odd looking flames shoot out from the bottom of the screen, almost as if they were coming from gas jets. Enough about the flames for now, let's get on with the story. It concerns the adventures of those three men from the Burbank Karate Club, who are indistinguishable from each other except for their names (Taylor, Schwartz, and O'Malley) and the fact one of them has a mustache. Don't ask me which one. The cruise they are on takes them into the waters of Southeast Asia, and one of their stops is Warriors Island, where that opening scene took place. Warriors Island is a place where disgraced warriors were buried, and superstition says that the monks on the island have the power to raise them from the dead, should the situation warrant it. It's actually no rumor - early in the movie, we see one of these fresh looking (except for sickly green makeup) undead warriors slice one of those women. But that subplot comes later in the movie. It comes to the attention of a Dr. Speer, a German accented guy with a Hitler mustache who was the one trading the fresh meat for fresh jade rock at the beginning of the movie, that the cruise is not going to pass by the island, but actually stop at it. Fearing that his illegal trading may be jeopardized, he sends out his goons several times throughout the movie to stop the cruise, not realizing that Cameron Mitchell acts so drunk in this movie, he'd probably bypass the island by accident. But Speer doesn't realize that he's against the power of the Burbank Karate Club!

Of course, the various attacks on the crew and passengers on the ship (not just by Speer's goons) cues in the expected fight sequences. Surprisingly, the fights by themselves are among the movie's few disappointing scenes. Oh, the scenes where the token Chinese crew member fights the various attackers are pretty good, mainly because it's clear that he's talented at martial arts, leaping around and making lightning-fast moves. The fight scenes with the other actors are another thing. Sometimes they are shown in molasses-slow motion, robbing any last bit of excitement they might have had. One martial arts move rips off the windshield scene from Good Guys Wear Black, though the editing easily makes it apparent that the stuntman was never in any danger at all. The fight scene in the bar, and the fight scenes on the deck of the ship are so dark, it is sometimes hard to tell who is who, and just what is going on. Maybe it's no surprise that in that bar fight, there are constant edits to the topless dancer of the bar, who keeps jiggling away nonchalantly as bones are broken around her.

This movie has a lot of breasts shown throughout, both in extreme close-up and in medium shots. Of course it's sleazy, and it's lots of fun. Credit the makers of this movie for giving a lot of variety in the nudity, as with the scene where a naked girl on a bed repeatedly slams a gas can on the head on an especially thick-skulled creep. I think the same guy was the one who, when he pulled down his pants, revealed a pair of boxers covered with red hearts. Yes, this movie has a number of attempts at intentional humor to offer us. There's one bad guy gets killed by a swirlie in a bathroom, the monks keep rolling their eyes and jump around and giggle a lot, and the dialogue has such howlers as, "Holy smokes! Who the heck is he?", "Go ahead Cookie - you don't have to tell him you're a member of the L.A. SWAT team", and "I feel so sick, I feel lousy."

The ship's bar might have to serve drinks in paper cups, but almost every minute of Raw Force serves us something savory, whether it be slick or cheese. True, those fight scenes are overall disappointing, and I was surprised the craziness and energy didn't increase when they actually reached the island, but it's still a very fun movie. In fact, I am kind of surprised that it isn't better known after 18 years. I'm also surprised that after 18 years, they still haven't acted on the promise they made at the end: "TO BE CONTINUED". C'mon, guys, take another cruise to Warriors Island!

UPDATE: I got this information from Gary Arturo Flossmann:

"I was an "extra" in Raw Force in the bar scene at the bar in Manila [I was the tall, bearded white guy in the orange Hawaiian shirt].

"Not only were the drinks served in paper cups, it was actual alcohol. Everybody was so drunk [I don't drink so was about the only sober one] that continuity completely fell apart.

"The naked dancer is used so much because the director was trying to make his own little blue movie of her and probably shoot hours of just her dancing. I talked her into insisting on more money since she had not been hired to dance naked....

"There was a Filipino AD who kept getting yelled at by the American director since most of us thought the American guy was a teenager making his first movie and took our director from the Filipino.

"Cameron Mitchell was nice to everybody but he defiantly liked his liqueur.

"The bar itself was a real one in a very seedy [and dangerous] part of the port of Manila.

"I was an American university student in Manila [my dad was an engineer for the US Navy in the RP] and often got bit parts as a token American in local movies.

"I never saw this movie until I found it online last year. It's working title, Warriors Island, was what my pay slip said and I never knew the real title and it wasn't on Cameron Mitchell's filmography. Until I found it last year, I had no idea what the rest of the movie was about.

"The "Asian" fighter in the bar was a relatively well-known Filipino, as I recall, and most of the other guys were habitue's of films but I remember this one guy who sat outside and read poetry with his girlfriend between scenes."

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Also: The High Crusade, Highway To Hell, Sinbad Of The Seven Seas