Devil’s Express (1976)

Devil’s Express was in my recommended Amazon Prime video list for some time. And now that I’ve just finished watching it, I wish that I could have seen it even sooner. This is the kind of movie that I feel like becoming an apostle for — it’s a film that hardly anyone talks about and has probably never seen, but combines all of the elements that make it perfect for culthood — it’s the perfect mix of blaxploitation, 1970’s occult, tough guy cop and martial arts films, all in one off the rails package.

When The Warriors came out, the distributor of this film retitled it as Gang Wars to try and make more money. And sure, it’s about gang fights. It’s also about so much more.

Back in 200 B.C., Chinese monks get rid of an evil medallion by dropping it into a hole. That’s where it stays until sometime in the 1970’s, when martial arts teacher Luke Curtis (played by a man who has an even better real name, Warhawk Tanzania, who is also in Black Force) and his sidekick Rodan (no, not that Rodan, this guy is played by Wilfredo Roldan, also of Black Force) travel overseas on a spiritual journey. Sadly, Rodan can’t erase the revenge in his heart, so when he finds the medallion, instead of resisting its evil, he takes it.

When they get back to New York City, a demon possesses a Chinese guy and starts violence everywhere he goes, setting up a feud between the Blackjack and Red Dragon gangs. The cops try and keep things cool, but the martial arts action just can’t be stopped.

If you’re looking for cameos, this one’s got ’em, from Brother Theodore (The ‘Burbs) to David Durston, the writer and director of I Drink Your Blood as a doomed 9 to 5’er!

Also, if you’re looking for a funky soundtrack, gold lame outfits, a villain named Lo Pan (yes, really), a final kung fu fighting monster that is wearing tennis shoes, Dolemite-esque chop sockery and the kind of movie that five different writers all making a totally different movie at the same time, then this film is exactly what you’re looking for. You’ve got a hero cool enough to help train the cops, but also street enough to not trust them. You’ve got romance. And you’ve got fights with missed cues and nonsensical editing. Holy shit, writing this review makes me want to watch this movie all over again.

There’s even a subplot where one of the new cops thinks that all of the murders and gang violence are the result of mutated pets that have been flushed into the sewer. And how does a martial arts instructor so devoted to harmony and bettering himself also let a coke dealer and gang leader learn from him? Why did Warhawk Tanzania do so few films? Why didn’t they make ten sequels to this movie? When can I watch it again?

Luckily, the folks at Code Red have released this on blu-ray. You can also find it on Amazon Prime. I’d advise that you watch it today. Leave work or whatever you’re doing and just do it.

Be sure to visit our other Karate Blaxploitation reviews with Force Four, Velvet Smooth, Dynamite Brothers, and The Black Dragon’s Revenge.

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