Duel of Fists (1971)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

In Duel of Fists, a Hong Kong engineer must travel to Thailand to find his long-lost professional boxer brother who is having problems with the mob. David Chiang is Hong Kong engineer cum kung fu expert Fan Ke. His dying father tells Ke that he has an older half-brother in Thailand. He knows nothing of him other than that he is a professional kick-boxer. He departs immediately for Thailand.

Meanwhile, half-brother Wen Lieh (Ti Lung) is being forced to box for some Bangkok gangsters because he needs the money for a life-saving operation for his mother. He must fight Cannon, a boxer notorious for killing men in the ring.

After meeting, and becoming friends, the two charismatic men finally discover they are brothers and band together to fight the evil cookie-cutter gangsters.

Shot mostly on location in Thailand, Duel of Fists is not among Chang Cheh’s best work. The story is predictable and the fights in the ring, although well-choreographed, are long and drawn out but packed with very little drama when compared to other Chang Cheh pairings with David and Ti. Even the showdown between Cannon and Wen Lieh lacks spirit. There is some improvement during the finale when the dynamic duo pair up against the gangsters, owing mostly to the loud ‘70s pimp clothing that David Chiang sports.

Now. Let’s talk about the girlfriends of our heroes. Wen Lieh’s ladylove Yulan (Ching Li) does nothing but stand around and worry for her man’s fate. Fan Ke meets a nice Thai girl named Meidai (Parwarna Liu Lan Ying) who dresses just as goofy as he does and does nothing but look doe-eyed in every scene.

Last, there are entire scenes that serve no purpose other than to promote the fact that they shot Duel of Fists on location in Thailand. There are plenty of glamour shots of Ti Lung riding a motorcycle through the streets of Bangkok and David Chiang’s character even has time to sightsee at some temples while looking for his brother. Viewers who are really into Thai kick boxing may find this film interesting and it’s nice to see Lung and Chiang in a modern setting with modern clothes and haircuts, but for the rest of us, it’s much less than a worthy effort from the team of Cheh, Chiang and Lung who brought us some of the greatest Shaw Bros. epics ever made. Watch those instead!

ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: The Count Yorga Collection: The Return of Count Yorga (1971)

Count Yorga and  his servant Brudah have been revived by the supernatural Santa Ana winds. Sure, I mean, whatever it takes to get more of Yorga facing off with early 70s hippies, right?

This time around, Yorga is going after not just adults, but the children of an orphanage and their teacher Cynthia Nelson (Mariette Hartley). One of the students, Tommy, even watches as the brides of Yorga rise from a graveyard.

How bad does Yorga want her for his bride? Well, he sens is undead army after her entire family, tearing them apart and hypnotizing her into thinking they’ve left her in his care. Also, Yorga now doesn’t just have the disigured Brudah helping him, he also has a witch who can tell the future. And she believes that unless Cynthia isn’t killed or turned soon, she’ll be the death of her master.

This one is, if possible, even more bleak than the first film but still finds moments of humor, like Yorga watching The Vampire Lovers.

The ads for this film refer to Yorga as the Deathmaster. That would be the name of another Quarry-starring vampire movie, The Deathmaster, but it is not a Yorga sequel. There was a plan to make a third film in which Yorga would live in Los Angeles’s sewers with an army of undead homeless people.

American-International Pictures also considered a movie that would have had Count Yorga face Dr. Phibes. Instead, Quarry would play Phibes’ adversary in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. As it was, Quarry was pretty much Price’s enemy nearly every time they were in a movie together, just as much off-screen as on-screen. It was mainly because Quarry was AIP’s new horror star and Price’s contract was nearly up.

I love that this movie ends with nearly every character either dead or turned into a vampire; the hero has become the villain, the children are about to be consumed and Yorga’s curse keeps unliving.

Arrow Video’s The Count Yorga Collection has brand new 2K restorations of Count Yorga, Vampire and The Return of Count Yorga from new 4K scans of the original 35mm camera negatives. Plus, you get an illustrated perfect bound collector’s book featuring new writing by film critic Kat Ellinger and horror author Stephen Laws, plus archive contributions by critic Frank Collins and filmmaker Tim Sullivan. The limited edition packaging has reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Heather Vaughan, fold-out double-sided posters for both films featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Heather Vaughan, twelve double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards and a reproduction pressbook for Count Yorga, Vampire.

The Return of Count Yorga has new audio commentary by film critic Stephen R. Bissette;  audio commentary by David Del Valle and  C. Courtney Joyner; The Count and the Counterculture, a brand new interview with film critic Maitland McDonagh; Chamber-music of Horrors, a brand new interview with David Huckvale about the scores for both films; an archival interview with film critic Kim Newman; the trailer; radio spots and an image gallery.

You can get it from MVD.

CANNON MONTH 2: Lunatic (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although released by 21st Century as Lunatic in 1981, this is really a re-release of  The Night Visitor, which was on the site on April 10, 2022.

Salem (Max Von Sydow) has escaped a near-inescapable insane asylum, a place where he’s been trapped since being wrongly charged with killing a farmhand. Now he truly is deranged and is out for revenge on those he believes are guilty: his younger sisters Emma (Hanne Bork) and Ester (Liv Ullmann) and her husband Dr. Anton Jenks (Per Oscarsson), the man who accused Salem of the murder.

Beyond the fact that the villain is actually the hero of this, it has an incredible score by Henry Mancini that was made for synthesizer, 12 woodwinds, organ, two pianos and two harpsichords — with one tuned to be flat and add dissonance.

Originally entitled Salem Came to Supper and released again ten years later by 21st Century Film Corporation as Lunatic (before that company was bought and rebranded by Menahem Golan after the breakup of Cannon), this was directed by Laslo Benedek (who made the 1951 Death of a Salesman) and written by Guy Elmes, who adapted several Italian films for Western audiences.

CANNON MONTH 2: Straw Dogs (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Straw Dogs was not produced by Cannon. It was, however, released on video in Germany by Cannon Screen Entertainment.

I know they made a remake of Straw Dogs in 2011, but there’s no way I can imagine people not being beyond upset with this movie. The violence probably wouldn’t upset all that many people, but the two graphic assaults of Susan George — much less the quick flash that she may not have been all that upset by the first — would be greeted by a procession of anger the likes of which no movie made today would be able to create. I mean, would director Sam Peckinpah have been able to make movies in today’s world? One could argue that he struggled to do it in the 70s.

Based on The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams and written by David Zelag Goodman and Peckinpah, the story begins with David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) moving his wife Amy (George) back to her hometown of Wakely. Her ex, Charlie Venner (Del Henney), has a gang of horrible townsfolk like Norman Scutt (Ken Hutchison), Chris Cawsey (Jim Norton) and Phil Riddawa (Donald Webster) and each of them resents the meek academic American making love to one of their own.

David and Amy have moved into her father’s house, Trenchers Farm, and hired the four men to fix it up. As the house improves, their marriage falls apart, as she claims he left America because he was a coward afraid of conflict and that he treats her in a condescending manner. He withdraws into his study of stellar structures while she teases the workmen with her body.

Despite the men killing their cat, David still goes hunting with them. They pull the snipe hunting trick and abandon him, heading back to his home so that Venner can attack his wife. That coupling seems a bit too much like lovemaking by the end and as she holds her ex-lover, Scutt comes in with a gun and forces Venner to hold her down. By the time David returns, Amy says nothing.

The next day, David fires the men and Amy has a breakdown in church when she sees them. Things get worse — a local boy named Henry Niles (David Warner) ends up being seduced by a relative of Venner named Janice Hedden (Sally Thomsett). When the men chase them down, he accidentally kills her and goes on the run. After David accidentally hits him with his car, he takes the boy home, which brings the foursome back to begin invading the home.

Then David says, “I will not allow violence against this house.”

What follows is a Hoffman descending into the kind of barbaric behavior one expects in a Stanley Peckinpah movie.

Straw Dogs is older than I am and still packs such infernal power. We see ourselves cheering for David to finally rise up, but is too much well, too much? I guess not from the same man who made The Wild Bunch. I’ve been thinking this film over and over in my head and trying to figure out how I feel about it. It’s not ambivalence. I’m just seeking an answer.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Butterfly Affair (1971)

Inspector Silva (Stanley Baker, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin) is a former private eye and now a surveyor and guard for the interests of a diamond company  Vista Alegra, Venezuela. This is a town where diamonds come right out of the mud. It’s also where French singer Popsy Pop (Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon a Time in the West) has come — on tour? on vacation? why does she travel with a giant Alice In Wonderland book and doll? — along with gangsters led by Marcou (Henri Charrière, the writer of Papillon, the story of his time in a penal colony and his later escape). They want to steal at least $2 million dollars of diamonds.

The heist goes down and only Popsy escapes. The men — except for Marcou — are all killed, with Silva making a deal with the elder criminal: He will help the detective search for Popsy and the diamonds. In exchange, Marcou is to get Popsy, whom he is in love with and he will receive 15 percent of the diamonds.

The two men soon realize that Popsy is able to get into their heads and hearts, which makes her dangerous. Who will get the diamonds? More to the point, who gets the girl?

Directed and written by Jean Vautrin (along with J.B. Beellsolell), this was also released as The 21 Carat Snatch.

CANNON MONTH 2: I, Monster (1971)

Dr. Charles Marlowe and Mr. Edward Blake, the main characters in this movie, are not fooling anyone. This Amicus film is really an adaption of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and has Christopher Lee in the main role and Peter Cushing as his lawyer Utterson, who thinks that Marlowe and Blake are two different people.

This is the first movie that Stephen Weeks directed. He’d go on to make Sword of the Valiant for Cannon in the 80s. The script comes from Amicus head Milton Subotsky.

Originally intended to be released in 3D, the film used the Pulfrich effect — in which the “lateral motion of an object in the field of view is interpreted by the visual cortex as having a depth component, due to a relative difference in signal timings between the two eyes” or in short, the eye and mind are fooled into seeing depth where there is none — it seems like the foreground is always moving to the right and the background sliding to the left.

Peter Cushing has said that this was one of the least enjoyable movies he made, but I’ve heard that about several films.

CANNON MONTH 2: Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on June 2, 2020.

Five years after Africa Blood and Guts, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi returned with this movie, which is pretty much one of the roughest films I’ve ever made it through.

This was shot primarily in Haiti, where the directors were the guests of Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, who gave them diplomatic cars, clearance to film anywhere on the island and as many extras as they required to be used as slaves being treated exactly as slaves were. They were also invited to a nightly dinner with Duvalier himself.

If your mind isn’t already blown, stick around.

Goodbye Uncle Tom is based on true events in which the filmmakers explore America in slavery times, using published documents and materials from the public record to make what they consider a documentary, even claiming to go back in time to achieve this level of realism.

This movie was made in opposition to the claims that Africa Blood and Guts was racist. It didn’t work, as Roger Ebert would say, “They have finally done it: Made the most disgusting, contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary.” He also stated that “This movie itself humiliates its actors in the way the slaves were humiliated 200 years ago.”

The movie was originally released in Italy in a 119-minute version and was immediately withdrawn. I’ve read that the directors were sued for plagiarism by writer Joseph Chamberlain Furnas. It was then re-released with 17 more minutes of footage.

The director’s cut shows a comparison between the horrors of slavery and the rise of the Black Power Movement, ending with an unidentified black man’s fantasy of living out William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner. In that book, Turned is divinely inspired and given a mission from God to lead a slave uprising and destroy the white race.

This ending upset American distributors so much that they forced Jacopetti and Prosperi to cut more than thirteen minutes of racial politics that would upset their audiences. Pauline Kael still said that the movie was “the most specific and rabid incitement to race war,” a view shared with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who said that Goodbye Uncle Tom was a Jewish conspiracy to incite blacks on white violence.

This movie is not for everyone. But I feel that it needs to be seen. I rarely get political on this site, but in truth, I feel that we as a country have not done enough to understand the roots of the black experience. While an Italian exploitation film isn’t the best way to learn more, it’s a start.

It’s no accident that Cannibal Holocaust would eventually use the music of Riz Ortolani to juxtapose the horrific images on screen with the beauty of his compositions. The composer had been working with the duo since Mondo Cane, where his song “More” nearly won an Oscar.

But make no mistake that this movie, while intending to be educational and anti-racist, still employs the tools of the mondo and exploitation. How else do you describe the conceit that these filmmakers have gone back in time, taking a helicopter with them that they use to fly away from the terrors of the plantation at the end?

In 2010, Dr. David Pilgrim, the curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, said that when he showed this film to a class, it led to some major traumas. “On the day that we watched Goodbye Uncle Tom three students had unexcused absences, several cried while watching, one almost vomited; most sat, sad and disgusted. I taught for another fifteen years but I never showed that movie again.”

He went on to say that the film “is a more truthful portrayal of the brutality and obscenity of slave life than was Roots; however, I have some major problems with the film. I find it ironic that a movie that explored the exploitation and degradation of Black people was filmed in a way that exploited and degraded Black people. In some ways Goodbye Uncle Tom was just a XXX movie set against the backdrop of slavery; the “peculiar institution” served as an excuse to show sexual and violent gore. Jacopetti and Prosperi told a great many painful truths about slavery but they debased hundreds of Blacks to make the film.”

“I said all of that to say this: Jacopetti and Prosperi were not the messengers that I would have selected, and their implied assumptions about Blacks are troubling, but they made a movie that accurately portrayed the horrors of slavery. Of course, it is the case that a realistic depiction of the savagery of slavery would be difficult to watch no matter who made it. This is why when you finish watching Roots you may feel that a family has overcome great oppression and a nation has become more democratic; whereas when you finish watching Goodbye Uncle Tom you just feel sick to your stomach.”

That says a lot about this movie in a better way than I can, but I’m still going to try to sum it up: this is a well-made movie that may have been made with the best of intentions, but was made by two people who only had the experience to make exactly what they made. It is a movie made about slavery that used slave labor. It is a movie that offended both liberals and conservatives, those that believed in tolerance and those that were racist, those that were black and people who were white. This is a message movie that had its message taken away by American producers, leaving two hours of shock with none of the moral it so desperately needed.

If this movie upsets you, perhaps you needed to be upset. You should be less upset about a movie made nearly fifty years ago and more upset about our nation’s history of racism and intolerance. And you should definitely be upset about the lack of civil rights in our country today. I’m writing this after a day of nationwide protest, with police cars ablaze and crowds of protesters and the press teargassed.

CANNON MONTH 2: Face-Off (1971)

Also titled Winter Comes Early — the name of the band in the movie — this George McCowan (FrogsThe Shape of Things to Come)-written and George Robertson-written film — based on writing by Neil Young’s sportswriter dad Scott — has Art Hindle as Billy Duke, a hockey player who becomes an overnight sensation playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He’s also dating a singer named Sherry Nelson (Trudy Young) who hates all the violence of hockey. That won’t do for his coach Fred Wares (John Vernon), who wants to break up the young couple so Billy can focus on playing hockey. As for Sherry, her former love and bandmate Barney (Frank Moore) is trying to win her back but drugs seem to be really winning her heart.

This is a great opportunity to see 70s NHL hockey with players like Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson, George “Chief” Armstrong, Darryl Sittler, Ron Ellis, Rick Ley, Paul Henderson, Bobby Baun and more showing up on the ice.

CANNON MONTH 2: Who Killed Mary What’s ‘Er Name? (1971)

Ah man, another impossible to find early Cannon movie.

Also known as Death of a Hooker, this is the tale of diabetic ex-boxer Mickey Isador (Red Buttons, not playing a comedy here) who feels that the NYPD didn’t do enough to investigate the murder of his sex worker neighbor Mary. To solve the case, he teams up with her friend Christine (Sylvia Miles, Madame Zena from The Funhouse), his daughter Della (Alice Playten, under all that makeup, she played Blix from Legend), the drunken Val (Conrad Bain) and would-be director Alex (Sam Waterston).

This movie feels like it lives in the same sleazy neighborhood as any other grindhouse New York movie while never dwelling in that gutter, such as when Mickey turns down a freebie when he saves Christine from being assaulted.

Director Ernest Pintoff also made Lunch Wagon and Jaguar Lives! As for the cast, it’s filled with notable minor pop culture stars, like Earl Hindman (Wilson on Home Improvement), Ron Carey (Carl Levitt on Barney Miller), Gilbert Lewis (The King of Cartoons) and David Doyle (Bosley on Charlie’s Angels).

CANNON MONTH 2: Maid in Sweden (1971)

Dan Wolman also made Baby Love and Nana for Cannon. Here, the Israeli filmmaker is in Sweden, making a movie about a young girl named Inga who leaves her small town for the big lights and big city of Stockholm. There, she’s shocked to find her sister Greta (Monica Ekman) is living in sin with her boyfriend Casten (Krister Ekman, Monica’s real-life husband). Before you can say Swedish adult film imported by Cannon, Casten is making love to both sisters, putting a wedge between them. Then, Inga leaves for home.

This movie has just as much sex as travelogue footage, padding it — barely — to eighty minutes.

Yet it has one thing that makes it worth watching.

Inga is played by Thriller star Christina Lindberg.

Yes, the one-eyed demoness of revenge.

I’d like to not have this article descend into me being a Tex Avery wolf over Lindberg, but that’s incredibly difficult. If you ever wondered, was the world created by an accidental combination of chemicals and the Big Bang or was there a Divine Designer behind it all, I point you to Christina Lindberg and ask you to make up your own mind.