Thursday, August 19, 2010

Low Blow (1986)



When the odds are against you... Hit first, hit hard, and hit with a LOW BLOW. Man's deadliest weapon is still his fist.

Back of DVD:

On the outskirts of San Francisco, a killer is loose, armed only with his mind. The leader of a mind-warping cult, Yarakunda (Cameron Mitchell) needs only to utter a few words to send his followers on a rampage of murder and destruction. When the daughter of wealthy industrialist, Templeton (Troy Donahue), falls under his evil spell, Templeton decides to fight back. He hires an ex-cop, Joe Wong, turned private investigator who is known on the street for getting jobs done. With the help of 5 special underground martial arts fighters, they penetrate the commune on a dangerous rescue and destroy mission.


Movie Review:

First some corrections. That poster, as cool as it is, has nothing to do with anything. The poster would have you believe this movies is about some sort of vigilante trucker who takes on the local punk gang. There's no-one in Low Blow that looks anything like anyone in that poster, especially not Leo Fong who is the complete antithesis of that muscly guy! Also, it appears to me that the Yarakunda cult don't do anything except sew crops, let alone raise insane killers.

Written, produced by and starring Leo Fong I knew this would be a crazy low budget affair from the outset. A robbery is taking place at the local deli. Fong hears gunfire from his office so comes down to investigate, opens the door and shouts to the cook "Hey, where's my ham sandwich!". The gunmen order him to sit down, but Fong takes out his pistol and shoots the gun men dead. He turns to leave then quips "Forget about the sandwich". Excellent start.



Fong gets chewed out at the police station by the Captain ("I aughta nail your ass to the wall!") and he is reminded that he is no longer a cop. Cut to a scene of a girl at some sort of cult commune being brainwashed by a blind guy in a black cape (Cameron Mitchell), then back to Fong at a cafe ordering chicken soup. The chef really puts on the "me so solly" routine as he takes a live chicken and chops it up (off camera) for the soup, but Fong stops short of eating it when he hears somebody being mugged in the street. He runs to help, beats up the muggers and gives them the advice "I never wanna see you again." Fong retires to his beaten up jalopy of a car, swears at it in Chinese then drives away.

This movie had absolutely no budget; surely less than something like Ghetto Blaster. They afforded widescreen cameras which is something in 1986 but I think that left no money for an audio guy or a cast that could act. This isn't a huge problem though because Low Blow is an absolute riot. I had my mouth open in disbelief for the first fifteen minutes it was so much fun.



Leo Fong can't act. He is atrocious and has less facial expressions than Keanu Reeves. He also can't fight very well. There's one scene when he trashes a car with a plank of wood but it's like watching an old woman bat somebody with her handbag. It doesn't matter though because he does it all so hilariously you just keep watching. He is also a hysterical driver, one of the intentional pieces of comedy constantly used throughout the movie. Leo drives badly but he parks much worse, always driving the car up the curb or hitting it into a pylon; it's fantastic stuff.

As we've learnt, Fong is no longer a cop. He is in fact a Private Investigator and bounty hunter, and obviously quite a bad one too as he doesn't seem to be able to pay his bills. Fong sits in his disgraceful office in a singlet top and not much else. A client does come to see him though - John Templeton, form John Templeton International. His daughter, Karen has been missing for two weeks and he wants her found. She seems to have run off to join the aforementioned Yarakunda cult. We see her in the yard with a dozen other workers ploughing the field, receiving a pep talk from the crazy second-in-charge Karma (Akosua Busia). She's a total nutter and it becomes increasingly obvious over the course of the film that she is taking advantage of the leader of the cult, Yarakunda himself (also known as Papa.. hahaha), that blind old man in a black cape that preaches love and peace - not at all the sewing of seeds and general warmongering promoted by Karma. The woman is clearly possessed and in need of an Exorcist in this scene (check out the video links at the end of this review).



Fong starts investigating the case and asks around town about Karen. He attends a lecture on Yarakunda and discovers that the woman Karma is actually a con pulling a scam to get peoples money. The lecturer warns Fong away from going, but determined to solve the case and get the girl back, Fong starts recruiting fighters from boxing rings and street hustling to help infiltrate the commune. A little later on he even holds a fighting competition in a dirt pit to find the best fighters; one of the winners is a huge muscle lady! Funny, funny stuff.

It seems that once you are in this cult you are here to stay. A kid, clearly now disinterested in the teachings and ploughing, tries to escape but is quickly brought down by Karma's cronies and thrown into a cell. Fong drives his jalopy to the commune and posing as a reporter gains entrance. This is short-lived as the cronies run a check on his licence plate, discover he is a P.I. and throw him in the cell with the kid after a brief torture session (Karma bites his ear and kicks him in the nuts!). He comes up with a hilarious attempt to escape by lighting a barrel on fire and beating up the guards when they come in to attend to it. Leo and the kid steal a commune car and escape, the kid firing a shotgun out the rear window and Fong driving through a meticulously erected wall of cardboard boxes!


Eventually Fong get's his gang of temporary mercenaries together and they infiltrate the commune and obviously rescue the girl. The best part of this is seeing a young Billy Blanks in his first ever role losing to Fong's awesome display of martial arts!

There is a lot of funny bad action in Low Blow, I couldn't possibly list all the highlights, and at only 86 minutes the movie does not overstay it's welcome (though 75 minutes would have made it tighter). My second favourite scene is the one I mentioned earlier of Fong trashing a car with a plank. This is special because not only are the occupants still in the car, but once he gets bored with the plank he cuts through the roof with a readily available circular saw! By the end only the bare frame of the car is left.


My absolute favourite scene, which you can also see in the clips below, is a fight between Fong and a beefy guy. The guy strangles Fong and says "I got you now, Chinaman!" Fong wrestles the guy to the ground and in a display of brute strength punches through his face, leaving a puddly mess of skin and bones! Totally over the top. I love it.

There are plenty of clips on YouTube of this great movie, mostly supplied by the one dedicated user. Make sure you check them out, then find a copy of the movie, invite your friends around and drink to Leo Fong!




    The Video:

    Surprisingly for a movie of this vintage and obviously low budget the picture was sharp and clear for the most part, and 16:9 enhanced (though the bit was not set on the DVD and required manual switching). The problem is the audio. I'm sure the DVD is a clear representation of the source material, but that source material is bad. Half the cast mumble their lines, especially Fong, and it doesn't help that the soundtrack never stops. Some scenes require the cast to shout at each other which just causes bad audio clipping. I think they must have borrowed some knackered microphones from the local school!



    1. Fantastic Review!

      You're right! Fong is hilariously bad in this! Another Fong\Cameron Mitchell classic is "Ninja Assassins" aka: Enforcer From Death Row.

      Here's our Review:

    2. Thanks for the feedback Ty! This was indeed gold. Enforcer From Death Row looks amazing, I'll be sure to track it down!

    3. I didn't think this film was very funny, I just found it REALLY dull for the most part due to it having virtually no action, personally I thought TO THe Limit was a much better unintentionally hilarious action film then this piece of crap film was. If you want to check out a Leo fong film that's actually good, then i'd highly recommend you watch Killpoint.

    4. Well I guess we disagree on this one, but Killpoint and To The Limit sound interesting as well. Might have to put Killpoint on my immediate purchase list.

    5. I can't wait to check this out. It looks like the exact kind of movie we got into this business of reviewing DTV action for. Great review.