I Saw A Film!

A lanky NYC, street-tough martial arts teacher and devotee of Eastern philosophical outlook, and sometime peacenik (with the ACTUAL unlikely name of Warhawk Tanzania (The WWWF could have used him)) finds himself having to not only heal a rift between the Chinese and Black street gangs, but also just flat out fight a demon in the the dirty subway.

This film, while suffering from laughable special effects and the stiffest Karate you’ve ever seen–I mean, there’s no way they’d ever hit each other with those demonstration kicks, and bullshit “pushed” punches. Did no one study Bruce Lee?–is actually fairly creative and moves along with some respectable alacrity.

The movie opens with a bizarre ancient ritual of sacrifice involving a bunch of monks being decapitated (presumably) to raise our nominal devil (also presumably, it’s actually kinda hard to tell what they’re doing). The demon spends most of the film afflicting a few random people with bizarre and grotesque infirmaries before they die. There’s an amulet of power, though I’m not really sure how it fits into the narrative. Sadly, the gangs are fighting each other because the hero’s student and trusted right-hand man, Rodan, has become involved the business of drugs. Though, the bad dealings seem to have originated with the East Asian dealers taking both money and drugs from Rodan (though, he was warned by his Sifu to stay away from the drugs). The largest part of the film is just some very stiff street brawling of the, “let’s practice some turning kicks” variety.

We are also introduced to some cops, one of them, the new partner to the dark and cynical veteran is actually pretty funny, and ceaselessly spouts stories about mutated creatures in the sewers and subways “very likely” coming out and attacking people. Great stuff, but I’ll remind my dear readers that in 1976 this didn’t just seem plausible, we all full on believed it.

OK, so while much of the film is a fairly serviceable martial arts story, the sort that Donnie Yen kills in these days (seriously that Massachusetts native is fun to watch), the end sequence, while suffering from crap special effects and clumsy editing, actually makes for a decent climax. I mean, don’t get your hopes up or anything, I really only mean it’s not bad for what looks like a film made over a weekend by buddies hooked up to a martial arts school (with a lot of multi-ethnic friends). When you’ve watched as many films as I have over the years you do kind of learn to appreciate the various levels of both affordability and functional effectiveness. If a bunch of amateur karate students can get five bucks each and do some kicks in a buddy’s film, and get the story across that there’s a gang fight – well do you really need to fly in Team Jackie Chan? Especially if you have Warhawk Tanzania. Warhawk Tanzania people. I think he made one other film, there’s not much about him on the IMBD database. I thought for sure he was probably an actual martial arts school owner.

Incidentally, like all great monster films, the action on the lobby card does not happen in the film. That Creature From the Black Lagoon lookin’ creature does not appear in this film, and no hotties are harmed in the making of this picture (pout-it is boobless). I don’t think Warhawk even dons those sweet yellow cover-alls, nor does he look anything like that.

Oh, also, keep your eyes open for comic Brother Theodore, a not infrequent Late Night with David Letterman show performer, and script-writer.

this sweet slice of 70s new york kung-fu cinema is free on Prime

One thought on “Devil’s Express (1976)

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