Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RAW FORCE (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray/DVD) - One Blu-ray! One Death Blu-ray!

The first time I saw Raw Force was at my first Exhumed Films Horrorthon in Philly. I had not heard of it before that moment though it was included on a set called the Grindhouse Experience that I had purchased a year or so earlier. While I hadn’t had the chance to watch that particular movie in the set, once I realized that I had in my possession I was excited to watch it. The crowd experience for Raw Force was like no other I had had before. The entire audience laughing in the wee hours of the morning. Everyone excited and electrified. It was one of the first experiences in a theater where you could feel the camaraderie among an audience that came from so many backgrounds and genre affiliations. The debate would rage as to whether Raw Force or a later movie Lady Terminator was a better viewing experience (and a year later whether the SOV Boardinghouse generated more laughs). Raw Force stands out in that pack despite being in good company.

You must understand that when I finally had the chance to watch it again I was looking for that 35mm experience. That feeling that a movie was larger than life and entertain EVERYBODY in the room. My heart nearly broke as I realized that the version I was watching was super compressed, unpreserved and tragically messy. I suppose that’s not surprising. Collections like the Grindhouse Experience aren’t really for collectors but should be considered gateway drugs into the obscure and unusual. I could barely watch Raw Force as it stood in my collection. I would quickly find another movie screened by Exhumed, The Children, on that same set. Same issues. They almost look like tragic VHS rips rather than professional transfers. The recent re-exploration of Raw Force demands that it be treated more kind.

Of course there have been separate DVD releases of both The Children and Raw Force since that time. The Children I picked up and was pleasantly surprised that it was a much better edition than my Grindhouse Experience disc. I waited on Raw Force hearing rumors that we might see an HD transfer sometime in the future. Little did I know it would be one of my favorite labels, Vinegar Syndrome, who would step up to the task of taking an action packed, comedic horror boobfest and turn it into a work of art or at least display it as the amalgamation of perfect trash that it is. Raw Force is out now from Vinegar Syndrome. The verdict is in, and I believe there is a consensus that it looks damn good. That is also my stance. Color rich with deep blacks. Cleaned up. Crisp. It’s a good looking disc preserving traditional cover art and featuring a couple of extras that will be good for fans.
For those of you who haven’t seen Raw Force, let my advice be to you that it is meant to be enjoyed in a group. You need to experience this flick with a bunch of folks who know how to have fun with a horror flick. These should be people who “get it”. It is not a scary movie by any means but features some campy perfect horror imagery. You’ll probably appreciate the fight sequences more than the horrific elements if not the connection to the boobie filled sex comedies of the early 80’s. It’s probably best described as a sex action comedy with evil monks. Speaking of the evil monks, think of them as perfectly living Blind Dead with an appetite.

Extras include a Jim Wynorski interview who is the Finishing Editor on the film. Wynorksi’s work is not limited to his work as an editor, but truly spans an impressive career as a director. There’s been a resurgence in Wynorski’s movies as of late. We first noticed the interest when the Dead Air crew tackled Chopping Mall and 976-EVIL 2. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. His catalog includes over 200 movies, many of which fit in quite well with Raw Force. If you enjoy Raw Force I encourage you to examine Jim’s back catalog. Listening to his interview will make you an instant fan and will help enrich your viewing of Raw Force (not that anything is needed to enjoy Raw Force).

Also included is a featurette called Destination: Warriors Island with Director Ed Murphy and Cinematographer Frank Johnson as well as the theatrical trailer. This is a new 2k restoration from the 35mm camera negative, so as we discussed before, this will not look like a VHS. It looks like a beautiful piece of schlock action horror. The print I had seen at Exhumed Films’ Horrorthon was very nice, but this is a beautifully preserved edition. I know that this film has been making the round at screenings and drive-in movie fests. Make sure to appreciate it on the big screen and the small screen. You are nearly guaranteed to have the same crowd experience as I did.

Raw Force is available now. It’s more than one blow. More than the deathblow. It completely encapsulates a period in the early 80’s where anything was possible. Gonzo was king and the age of anything is possible in movies was happening on a level just below the brow of major theatrical Hollywood releases. This is your introduction to cinema insane.

Synopsis from Vinegar Syndrome:

Welcome to Warrior’s Island, burial ground of disgraced martial arts masters!

When the Burbank Kung Fu Club travels to this mysterious island, they quickly find themselves facing the bloodthirsty vengeance of flesh ripping, kung fu fighting zombies, gun-toting white slave traders and a band of strange monks, who may be the only key to explaining the madness. Edward Murphy’s RAW FORCE is a virtual smorgasbord of over the top sleaze –mixing zombies, cannibals, outrageous action, gore, copious amounts of nudity and starring exploitation greats, Cameron Mitchell and Vic Diaz.

Vinegar Syndrome presents this quintessential piece of early 80’s trash newly restored from the original camera negative and on blu-ray for the first time!

Features Include:

+ Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack | Region Free | DTS-HD Master Audio
+ Restored from 35mm camera negative
+ “Destination: Warriors Island” (The Making of RAW FORCE) w/ Director Ed Murphy and Cinematographer Frank Johnson
+ Audio interview w/ Finishing Editor Jim Wynorski
+ Original theatrical trailer

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