I Saw A Film!
This is the story of a dirty truck that, once buried, can erupt from the ground with it’s turbo-charger and make for a great poster. As young dummies, my friends and I wanted to see this old stinker because we thought, like the film-makers must have, that watching Qui-Chiang Kane take on Norris on the big screen would be super fun! Of course we were naïve simpletons and really had no concept of the lies, the dirty lies, that films long had duped us with to get our cash. David Carradine was an actor acting like he knew martial arts. Norris was a karate champion who lived loved and devoted himself to Tang Soo Do who kinda could act.
LWM starts out smoothly enough, a wicked Mexican bandito has taken a bunch of law-enforcement hostages and is criminally chewing the scenery like he’s auditioning for the role of King Henry the Eighth in a cos-play festival. Our hero takes his time, arranging his sniper rifle, finding just the right dusty peak from which to spy our evil proceedings, and trying to look flinty in the sun. The bad-guy shoots one of the troopers in the head (holy shit!), but this does not yet motivate our hero, he’s really biding his time squinting off into the distance and listening to actual eagles . . .
Soon young buck trooper, Mr. Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager falls in love with McQuade and engages in all sorts of macho romantic intrigue, pursuing in vehicles and invading his home, only to get chased off by a very rowdy dog. Love is like that sometimes.
Finally, we get to Barabara Carrera, the moll of evil Carradine who is a local corrupt boss of some sort, and a karate expert who glees in putting on performances of beating people’s asses so mercilessly that finally his wife, Barbs, can’t stand it anymore and dreams of a Norris-like, no-speaking, feral man to kick-ass back. She gets her wish.
Along the way we have an aging gunslinger-looking mentor, an evil dwarf who seems straight out of the Wild Wild West show–Loveless anyone–and more cliches and Kurosawa cum Sergio Leone, old school, violence than you can shake a dead rattlesnake at.
It sounds like it would be great, but it’s not. It’s dull as old bones and while its impact was strong in 83, when I was still a teen, much of this film is so uninspired it’s hard to focus. In fact, I read a book while it was on. Now, a film like this is created for the sole purpose of pairing these two martial arts stars. One a bonafide martial arts master, the other a master of curious performance arts and cultivating a whole lot of stories about his unusual and sometimes entirely schizophrenic character. As the replacement for Bruce Lee in an age when we couldn’t handle looking at Bruce as a leading man in Kung Fu, things got ever more bizarre when Carradine brought the role back in a kind of mystical lousiness support role. Sort of Ghost for Kung Fu fans. But, I can’t stress enough how inspired most martial arts practitioners were by the old Kung Fu series. We all adored the quiet, gentle warrior, and longed to have those sorts of skills and the countenance of the Lao Tzu style hero. All that aside, the fight sequences are sad. Sure Chuck throws a few impressive kicks, but he also performs standard movie hokum, the arm twisting stunt man classic “cowboy throw” and loads of WWE style forearm bashing. It’s like they told him to fight like he actually doesn’t know how to fight. And of course, Carradine moves like a dancer instead of a martial arts master, and while it’s OK because he’s also got the smirk of a true evil person, I’m surprised directors and stunt coordinators agreed that this was good enough.
Back to Carrera, what a beauty. The sequences of her and Norris hitting it off and falling into a mud puddle while smooching are cinematic turkey pot pie. Delicious junk food, but nothing difficult to set up.
Bad guys shoot the dog. Fair warning. That’s how you know they must die.
This special mix of cheesy westerns and martial arts is running free on Prime (USA) and great Saturday afternoon chuckle fodder.