Charles Band's 111-minute FISTS OF FURY is a fast-paced, light-hearted and unerringly enthusiastic celebration of martial arts movie mayhem. Or, as hostess Cynthia Rothrock promises in her opening salvo, we're about to be taken on "an epic journey through some of the hardest hitting, viciously violent, ass-kickingest films to ever tear their way onto the silver screen".
Kicking off - quite literally - in a gym, Cynthia fights off a would-be assailant before addressing the screen and introducing us to both her and the film. And then, without hesitation, we're into the first of many chapters exploring different facets of the most enjoyably OTT films of the 1970s and 1980s...
The first segment is dedicated to "Femme Fatales".
Things get off to a flying start with the breathless trailer for 1989's FIGHTING WRONGS (arguably better-known as FEMALE REPORTER or ABOVE THE LAW 2: THE BLONDE FURY. Fittingly, this sees Rothrock at her kick-arse best, battling it out with manic assailants in a shopping mall. Elsewhere, there's the pure joy of watching an insane stuntman leap from an aeroplane and freefall through the sky. Mental, thrilling stuff.
That's closely followed by the original trailer for 1973's DEADLY CHINA DOLL, which ably demonstrates how capable Angela Mao was when it came to knocking seven shades of shite out of her male adversaries. She also turns up in the crazy-looking STING OF THE DRAGON MASTERS.
"They're women, they're warm ... they're wildcats!" salivates the male voiceover during the preview for EBONY, IVORY AND JADE (a.k.a. SHE-DEVILS IN CHAINS). This teaser is most remarkable for its almost poetic narration - which I'll wager took countless takes to master - and some of the finest exaggerated sound effects ever committed to celluloid: every punch and kick makes such an impact!
SISTER STREET FIGHTER (1974) follows, affording us the opportunity to enjoy not only Sonny Chiba's undeniable charm but the lovely Etsuko Shiomi's unapologetic badassery too.
Get ready for full-on funky porn-style music over the hilariously sweaty action of WONDER WOMEN, with Nancy Kwan and her truly slimy foe, Ross Hagen.
And then, we're back with present-day Rothrock, who fends off a portly bearded gent with nunchakas (did he really need to go topless?!) before introducing us to a fine selection of Bruce Lee knock-offs.
Hold tight while we get treated to trailer for the likes of BRUCE LEE'S GREATEST REVENGE and BRUCE'S DEADLY FINGERS (both starring the very game Bruce Le), 1978's ENTER THE FAT DRAGON (with Sammo Hung as an oversized action hero) which purports to be "based on the true story of a die-hard Bruce Lee fan" while doling out its odd mix of adept choreography and painful comedy, and the same year's FISTS OF BRUCE LEE with Bruce Li delivering a suitably shameless interpretation of his idol.
The third chapter is entitled "Weapon Deception", which Cynthia leads us into after scaring three male attackers away with an impressive bit of swordplay.
Trailers for LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH, MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, INVISIBLE SWORDSMAN and more keep the energy high while celebrating the best uses of weaponry in these mental films.
And on this goes. It's an agreeable party tape, a trailer compilation with occasional interjecting from the affable - and relevant - Rothrock. The trailers are amazing in their own way: fast-paced, action-packed and stuffed to the gills with unintentional humour. Rothrock's linking scenes are in keeping with their almost camp excess, and the whole thing works surprisingly well as a result.
How can you tire of these trailers? As well as those already mentioned, we get genuinely invigorating clips from JAGUAR LIVES (with Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence!), SUDDEN DEATH, Yang Sze as CHINESE HERCULES, FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH, seminal 1974 Chiba flick THE STREET FIGHTER, ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER and THE CRIPPLED MASTER. There are far more too, of course - at close to 2 hours in length, FISTS OF FURY has plenty of vintage trailer fun to proffer.
The segments in-between each trailer run are camp and light-hearted, Rothrock having a whale of a time poking fun at her tough chick persona. Band's direction isn't flashy - he keeps things simple and light, knowing that the real attractions here are the vintage previews on show. They certainly account for the vast bulk of what's on offer; the Rothrock linking clips are kept brief.
FISTS OF FURY is coming to DVD from Full Moon Entertainment, who are also releasing it On Demand. We were sent an online screener link to review. The film looked very good in its widescreen presentation, albeit the quality of the trailers naturally fluctuates depending upon source materials. At their worst, some are VHS quality - but the majority of them look fine. The linking scenes are, of course, pin-sharp and vibrant.
For fans of the halcyon days of martial arts action cinema, this should be viewed as must-see fare. For the uninitiated, give it a go and see what fun you've been missing out on!
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Full Moon Entertainment|