Fight for Your Life (1977)

The racist language used by William Sanderson — yes the guy from TV’s Newhart — as he attacks a black family is probably why this movie ended up as a section 1 video nasty. I first discovered this movie thanks to Cinema Sewer, which is where I learned of many a disreputable film.

Sanderson plays Kane, a hate-fuelled racist who somehow has found it in his heart to break out with an Asian man and a Mexican fellow, so there’s that. They break into the home of kindly Ted Turner (Robert Judd, who was Scratch in the non-Britney Crossroads) and proceed to use every racist term in the book when they aren’t beating down the black family.

Director Robert A. Edelson refused to do a commentary track when this was re-released by Blue Underground but he was kind enough (I guess) to an interview in Steven Thrower’s Nightmare USA in which he re-watched the film with his maid Dorothy. So…yeah. He only made one other movie, The Filthiest Show in Town.

Much like how the old Mom and Dad theatrical showings used to divide up audiences, the marketing of this film had black and white versions, including the title Staying Alive that was just for black audiences and unique trailers for each race. There’s also a trailer that’s just a still photo with no sound at all for thirty seconds, then the title and rating. Wild.

Many of the video nasties seem quaint today, as you ask yourself, “Why did they ban this?” This is the kind of virulent piece of hate that wouldn’t even get near a screen these days. Sure, it ends up with the catharsis of seeing the criminals pay for all of the verbal and physical terror that they unleash, but man…getting there is none of the fun.

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