7 September 2004 | RetroRoger
Roger Corman's Thrilla in Manila
First starring role for Light Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion Don "The Dragon" Wilson, 'Bloodfist' is worth every penny of the $4.95 I spent on the bargain DVD.
Forget the critics. This is one of Roger Corman's earliest ventures into the martial arts genre, and, like much of the Corman library, there's lots of respectable bang for the few bucks spent on the production.
First, let's get past the name thing. Wilson has taken some smirks in the media for adding "The Dragon" to his name. But the man was just being pragmatic. I mean, do you remember the other Don Wilson? The paunchy, bulldog-jowled, middle-aged announcer on the old Jack Benny Show? Prior to 'Bloodfist', he was the only Don Wilson anyone had ever heard of in showbiz.
Would you have lined up at the box office for a martial arts movie starring that guy?
The Set-up: Wilson's half-brother is a prizefighter in a shady Manila fight club who ends up dead after winning a fixed fight.
Cut to Wilson back in sunny Southern Cal, who promptly explains to a bunch of grade school field trippers that he runs a gym, but does not box professionally because HE ONLY HAS ONE KIDNEY. He donated the other to his (late) half-brother. This begs the question: Why was the brother fighting? One assumes that he also had one kidney (the donated one), unless Wilson generously gave one of his away because he felt his brother should have two ...?
As in the best Corman films, the action takes over fast, and the field trip isn't even out of the building before Don gets the call that his brother's dead.
The Dragon hops the next thing smokin' to the Philippines, officially to claim the body, but I can't help thinking that in the back of his mind, Don didn't wonder just a little about getting that kidney back. Imagine his disappointment when the Manila officials open a green file cabinet and hand him an urn. Full of his brother's ashes. Including at least one powdered kidney. Nothing left but revenge, since we're already here.
Wilson promptly picks up a painter-slash-kickboxing trainer, a party animal-slash-kickboxer roommate, and a translator-slash-exotic dancer love interest. Which brings us to actress Riley Bowman, who plays the love interest. Where did this woman go? 'Bloodfist' was not only her first, but also her last movie. And Riley exhibited ... ample ... uh ... skills. Exactly the type of open-minded, halfway-talented actress that Corman employed again and again and again in his New Horizon and Concorde flicks. What a loss.
Oh, well. Back to the action. You get a great selection of tournament adversaries for Wilson, who also double as suspects in his brother's murder.
There's a little twist to the ending, tantamount to Burgess Meredith whupping the daylights out of Rocky Balboa.
Better than 'Swamp Women'. Close to the pleasures of 'Attack of the Giant Leeches' or the first remake of 'Not of This Earth' (the Traci Lords one). No self-respecting Corman fanatic should be without a copy of this. 'Bloodfist' is worth a B-movie 5 out of 10.