Death Force (1978)

“Beaten, Betrayed and Bustin’ Loose!” I accidentally stumbled upon this bona fide guilty pleasure while seeking out a 1976 Peter Fonda film called Fighting Mad (little did I know that Death Force was rereleased in the early 1980s under the title Fighting Mad). Believe it or not, I kept waiting for Fonda to make an appearance in this highly entertaining exploitation flick – but no such luck! A trio of Vietnam vets – “Doug Russell” (James Iglehart), “McGee” (Leon Isaac Kennedy) and “Morelli” (Carmen Argenziano) – smuggle a casket full of gold bricks out of the war-torn country. Feeling greedy, Morelli convinces McGee to help him kill Russell and dump his body overboard. Somehow Russell miraculously survives and washes ashore on an island inhabited by two stranded Japanese soldiers still fighting World War II! With their help, Russell quickly learns the way of the samurai (as dramatized in a series of amusing Karate Kid-style vignettes). Improbably making his way back to the United States, Russell befriends a cab driver and sets out to find his wife, struggling nightclub singer “Maria” (Jayne Kennedy), and young son. Armed with a samurai sword, he also becomes a one-man killing machine in his quest to seek vengeance against McGee and “Morelli – who have by now risen rapidly through the ranks of organized crime. Although the film is extremely violent, the laughable special effects (witness the various decapitations!) turn everything for the most part into cartoon-style gore. However, as extremely low-budget martial arts revenge flicks from the 1970s filmed in the Philippines go, Death Force is actually a lot of fun. Keep your expectations low and you might find it to be a rather mindless but enjoyable experience. Death Force was directed by Cirio H. Santiago (TNT Jackson). Iglehart appeared in both Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) and Savage! (1973).

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