Inheritor of Kung Fu (1977)

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

 Inheritor of Kung Fu has almost as many titles as release dates. Possible alternate titles include: Avenging Dragon, Hero at the Border Region, Two Graves to Kung Fu, and Soul Collector. The film was produced in Taiwan and very little information is available.  It is listed in several sources as having been released in 1977, ’78, 1983 and ’84. It almost certainly was not produced in the 1980s as by then, the Wuxia genre has all but died out replaced by high octane police stories and bullet ballets. 

The version I saw from Martial Arts Theater was of poor quality. Even if it was restored and complete, Inheritor of Kung Fu probably wouldn’t make much sense, anyway. At least not in its present form. Rumors abound that the film was originally set to be two films shot simultaneously to take advantage of Ti Lung’s star power, but I haven’t been able to corroborate this with a primary source in Asia. 

Ti Lung is the handsome hero who befriends a Princess (Chang Ling a.k.a Pearl Cheung) and her servant while on the road. Ti tries to help them battle off some masked bandits but ends up being rescued by the Princess who possesses Kung Fu skills superior to his own. Fans of Kung Fu cinema will easily predict things won’t stay that way for long. 

Ti perfects his fighting skills while somehow getting in the middle of a few clans who are all at odds over a special Kung Fu manuscript. From there the movie takes a somewhat mythical turn. Supporting characters come and go doing strange things that have nothing to do with the plot while the lead villain disappears for 60 minutes of the running time leaving viewers to wonder if a more complete cut exists. The Wu Tang Collection’s YouTube channel is a slightly better print (link below.) 

The fight choreography is good but a lot of the wirework is poorly hidden. The sets are bad and there are some serious continuity and technical issues. I won’t even mention the white guy who comes flying out of the lake during the last act with no prior mention of a reason such a thing should happen. You know it’s springtime when the white guys come shooting up out of the water.

Everyone involved with it should disown Inheritor of Kung Fu except for Ti Lung. What a trooper. Ti saves the film. He kicks serious ass and plays second banana to no one as was common in his Shaw Brothers films with David Chiang. He really has time to showcase his Kung Fu and rises to the occasion as a charming leading man. [Full disclosure: I’d watch Ti read from the 1977 phone book, so I’m biased.]

The Martial Arts Theater DVD release has a running commentary track with HK movie expert and author Rick Meyers and African American HK stuntman Bobby Samuels. The two don’t seem to pick apart the film’s plot either and Meyers failed to identify Pearl Cheung even though there are resources available that showcase her. They also refer to the main bad guy as “The Mad Korean” but upon checking another print of the film, there are no Korean names listed in the credits. Despite these inconsistencies, Meyers and Samuels offer some interesting information on Ti Lung, Hong Kong and Taiwan Kung Fu cinema and are overall very pleasant to listen to. If anyone out there has more info on this title or its production, I’d love to read it! 

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The first part of this originally ran in Drive-In Asylum

When American International Pictures started hyping The Incredible Melting Man, they went all out. And by all out, I mean they gave in to the sinister urge to varnish the truth. A poster for the film had this statement on it: “Rick Baker, the new master of special effects, who brought you the magic of The Exorcist and gave you the wonder of King Kong, now brings you his greatest creation, The Incredible Melting Man.”

The poster upset William Friedkin so much he tore it off someone’s wall. Sure, Baker had assisted Dick Smith on The Exorcist, but he admitted, “I really didn’t do anything creative, I just did labor” in a public apology for a publicity campaign that he had nothing to do with.

That said — Baker’s effects for the film are perfectly goopy, gory and great. He created a skull-shaped flesh-painted helmet that Alex Rebar would don, then Baker would cover him with more paint and Dick Smith’s recipe for blood — methyl paraben, corn syrup, water and powdered red and yellow food coloring (and a few ounces of Photo-Flo), ending up with such a mess that Rebar would need to peel the costume off at the end of each shooting day.

I knew none of this as I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. One day in 1977, I was simply looking at Halloween costumes in a Revco drug store at the Shenango Valley Mall. As I gazed at the various Imagineering makeup kits — like THE FACE made with FLEX-O-SKIN — I came upon a sight that would possess my every waking moment for the next several months. 

The Incredible Melting Man makeup kit.

I stood, mouth agape and frozen in fear, like how the characters in an H.P. Lovecraft story act when their mind is decimated by an elder god (or how a librarian in a Fulci movie simply sits and waits for a spider to eat his face). Then I started screaming and ran from the store. I paced outside, waiting for my parents and brother to emerge (back in the 70’s, parents would simply sit their kids in front of the toy department or magazine rack while they shopped, because we didn’t know about abductions yet). The entire ride home, I kept replaying the image of that face melting away, convinced that because I had touched the box that my own visage would soon fall apart and I’d die, a mess in the back of my parent’s stationwagon.

I had no idea that The Incredible Melting Man was a movie. All I knew was that I lived in mortal terror and my nightmare would never end.

When I finally saw the movie, I discovered that maybe I was afraid for no reason.

Directed and written by William Sachs, this was intended to be a parody of horror films but ended up being a straight scare movie and suffered as a result. It’s still a blast and Baker’s effects are pretty great.

Poor Colonel Steve West (Rebar). His mission to Saturn ended with both his fellow astronauts dead and his face and hands melted off. He spends most of the movie randomly showing up and killing couples, as well as getting his arm chopped off by an axe before suffering that most bleak of all movie big bad deaths: he’s mopped up by a janitor the next morning.

The horrifying visuals that haunted my childhood dreams aren’t nearly as frightening as I thought they would be. Years of not watching this was just wasting my time. I’m goign to mentally send young Sam a message and tell him to get that makeup kit.

Rainbeaux Smith shows up as a model and that’s usually all it takes for me to watch a movie.

CANNON MONTH 2: Joey (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a Cannon movie but a 21st Century release. It was originally distributed in 1975 as Deliver Us From Evil

The trailer for this movie claims that it’s “a movie that tells it like it is about blacks. The beautiful blacks. The evil blacks.”

It’s also a movie that’s preaching to its audience about ending the drugs and violence in black communities to the point that it moves from blacksploitation to Godsploitation. It starts with Chris Townes (Renny Roker and yes, he is related to Al) going shithouse in a room full of glass vases and getting sent to a psychiatric ward where he screams at people. When he gets out, he has to deal with the worst white people ever at work and back home with his landlord. Maybe he can get with Mindy (Marie O’Henry), a social worker who he has a crush on. Well, when he drives her home, his maniac skills behind the wheels show her that yes, Chris is a dangerous human being to be avoided.

Chris needs to get with Mindy, so he decides to start being nice to the wheelchair-bound Little Joe (Danny Martin) to prove how nice of a guy he is. But then it is revealed that Mindy is married and Chris uses Little Joe to meet her friend Kim (Kandi Keath) because this movie flies through characters and at the same time, black on black crime is out of control to the point that it appears in this movie and is moralized over more than a day of Fox News.

But you know, I kind of love this as it ends with Chris looking directly at us, the audience, and demanding that a million black men march on Washington 18 years before that happened. And then this title comes up:

The tagline for this movie was “

Director and writer Horace Jackson had some talent. Sure, this movie is all over the place, but there’s a scene where criminals beat up Mindy that is really artistic. And sadly, it could still be made today and be completely relevant. You could watch this and laugh at how silly and earnest it is or you could look at it as a filmmaker using all of the tools that he had to get out a message that he believed in.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Cathy’s Curse (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I love this movie so much that I have a full-sized painting of Cathy’s face that lights up — thanks Mark Dockum — and it’s been on the site three times: once all the way back on October 24, 2017, another time when John S. Barry wrote about it on November 15, 2018 and a reprint of when I wrote about it for Drive-In Asylum #12, which you can buy right here, and which follows: 

There has never before or since been a movie where pure evil finds its origin in a rabbit crossing the road that’s narrowly missed by a misogynistic father, who then smashes his car into a ditch where it goes up like a tinderbox. It’s movies like this that made me run on foot from my first fender bender, diving into a snowbank, waiting for my car to blow up real good. Spoiler warning: It sure didn’t.

Cathy’s Curse finds its true origins in many places. First, the Canadian Film Development Corporation was formed to encourage more movie-making north of the border. According to Canuxploitation.com, “thanks to $10 million dollars of allocated funds in 1971 and the added incentive of tax shelter laws that increased the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) for money used in the production of a Canadian feature film from 30% to 100%, Canada experienced an unprecedented explosion of moviemaking.” That money gave birth to filmmakers like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg, as well as the maniacs behind this film.

Secondly, Canadian horror is strange to American eyes. Again, Canuxploitation.com claims that’s because these films “are distinctive in the way they present concepts of individuality, community, and even morality. Our films tend to be more story and character-focused than their American counterparts, and when at all possible, the “wild” Canadian landscape is used to full effect.” In particular, films from Quebec stand out as even stranger than the rest of the country, with Possession of Virginia and The Pyx coming immediately to mind.

Finally, the third father (I should set them up with Argento’s Three Mothers) to Cathy’s Curse is a preponderance of occult-based films in the mid-1970s. Thanks to the one-two Satanic punch of The Omen and The Exorcist, filmmakers saw child possession as a rich source of appropriation.

So why do I love this movie so much? Because I believe that it was made by aliens who have no understanding of how human beings truly behave or act. It’s like John Keel’s stories of how the Men in Black were often confused by everyday objects like pens and had no idea how to eat food properly. Characters make asides that seem to be important plot points that ultimately go nowhere while glossing over things that end up being essential.

In my exhaustive research of Canadian possession movies, which was done with several cans of Molson as a control group, I have learned that when kids get taken over in a Canadian film, instead of the pure bile and meanness of say, Regan MacNeil, they just end up becoming impolite and swearing a lot more. Cathy Gimble, our heroine in this film, immediately picks this up. From forcing a group of children to repeat that all women are bitches to stabbing kids with needles, she goes from polite North of the Border pre-teen to Rhoda Penmark in no time flat.

Why else do I love Cathy and her film so very much? Because there are so many lessons to be learned. For example, if your daughter finds a frightening-looking doll in the attic — much less an attic that has a giant cast iron frog that no one ever comments on in the film — don’t let her keep it. And if you want to make sure your psychokinetic problem child is being properly taken care of, don’t entrust her daycare to a handyman that’s had lifelong issues with the sauce.

I adore Cathy’s Curse for its inconsistencies. Cathy’s powers are never really explained. They can do everything from blow-up knick-knacks to making snakes and rats appear out of nowhere to pulling maids out of windows like a Helen Reddy loving Damien Thorn, Cathy has the power she needs when she needs that power. How does one use the power to make food rot and get covered with bugs properly? You can’t very well join Alpha Flight (Canada’s Avengers) with that one.

I celebrate this movie for its actors, blessed with limited abilities, hilarious pronunciations and magical leather coats complete with wooly fur. A scream or an overreaction happens in nearly every scene.

You know how most horror movies start with an opening sequence showing how nice and happy everyone’s life is to juxtapose how horrible everything gets when the supernatural invades the real world? This movie will have none of that. Every single frame is packed with goofball weirdness. People wear dresses in the coldest of snow. Every wall is covered with pictures of animals. Next door neighbors just happen to be mediums connected to the spirit world. Strange music cues and cuts in the middle of dialogue happen for no reason whatsoever.

Unlike draconian films that have a point of view or an actual plot, this is a movie with no real point of view. Instead, it’s less a narrative and more scenes of Cathy destroying lives. You won’t learn a pesky moral or meaningless lesson. Instead, you will watch a young girl repeatedly tell off old women, including the immortal line where she refers to a medium as an “extra large piece of shit.”

In short, Cathy’s Curse is the kind of film that I put on and people say to me. “Why would you show me that?” and I never invite them to my house ever again. It’s a good litmus test to weed out boring people who have no idea how to enjoy the magic of film. You didn’t need them anyways! You have Cathy!

You can watch Cathy’s Curse on Tubi or get it from Severin.

CANNON MONTH 2: Prey (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Van Ryn wrote this for the site on June 27, 2021 when we did an entire week of Norman J. Warren movies. Cannon didn’t produce this, but did release it on video in Germany as Scotia/Cannon. Check out Bill at Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum.

Norman J. Warren’s unique brand of low budget bat shittery is all over the damn place. While not always totally satisfying (I’m looking at you, Inseminoid), when he’s hot, he’s hot. 1977’s alien freakout Prey is one of the hot ones. Its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach blends elements of D. H. Lawrence’s The Fox, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a dash of Night of the Living Dead thrown in for the hell of it, and this is no accident — the script was being written while filming was progressing, with Warren taking on the project based on the premise alone.

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And oh, what a premise. Prey gives us the story of an alien creature who arrives on Earth in a spaceship (unseen by us, other than a colored light show that could have just been a groovy light from Spencer Gifts) and immediately encounters two Earth people who are having a romantic tryst in a parked car. He murders both of them, assuming the identity of the man, whose name is Anderson. This being capable of interstellar travel uses a futuristic walkie talkie to communicate with some home base (apparently off-world, which…wow! That’s some wi-fi!), and appears to be on a mission to observe us in our natural habitat. He also likes to eat meat, and that’s it. Total carnivore, this alien.

He moves on and discovers a large secluded estate nearby, where lovers Jessica and Josephine are living an isolated life together. They encounter some mutilated rabbits, which Jo attributes to the work of a fox. They also find our space-hopping buddy “Anderson” (wink wink), seemingly injured, and even though Jo reacts with immediate total hostility, Jessica is excited to finally get someone to talk to other than Jo, who is suspiciously dedicated to making sure Jessica never, ever goes anywhere on her own. They take him back to the house and allow him to stay, which turns out to be a really bad idea on so many levels.

I adore the fact that this movie is so low budget that it doesn’t even attempt to present any convincing alien technology, but it does have some built-in style that expensive effects could never buy. The manor where most of the action takes place is a fantastic location, with wooded areas bathed in muted green and overcast skies — this is England, after all — and amid all these earth tones are a few scenes with shockingly bright red gore. And for sheer “What the hell am I watching?” kicks, just wait until you see the weird slo-mo scene where Anders and the women roll around screaming in a shallow pond. There’s something almost S.F. Brownrigg about Warren’s work, despite their visual style being different. They both have the ability to create a memorable atmosphere in their films, despite having no visible budgetary advantages.

Anderson mostly stumbles around in a daze, acting like he has no idea what parrots are, or plants, or why people bring them into their homes for decoration. He doesn’t know any locations, either, claiming to be from London after he hears one of the women suggest it.  When they press him for his first name, he says “Anders”.  His hostesses serve him a vegetarian dinner — Jo goes total OG meatless preachy on him — but he responds by vomiting and rushing out of the house to find some more animals to mutilate for dinner.  He also doesn’t know anything about sex, and he spies curiously on Jessica and Josephine having screaming sex together. Jo develops a theory that Anders is an escapee from a local mental institution, and later on we come to realize she may have been doing some projecting when she came up with this idea.

That’s one of the interesting things about this weird movie, there is actually an intriguing relationship between these two women, and the script ends up surprising us about one of them, but it exists uncomfortably alongside the fact that one of the characters is a flesh-eating alien, which sort of steals the spotlight.  For this reason, I suggest multiple viewings of Prey. In fact, it should be a tradition.

CANNON MONTH 2: No. 1 of the Secret Service (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site for the first time on April 9, 2020. No. 1 of the Secret Service was not produced by Cannon but was released on video by Cannon / MGM/UA Home Video.

In 1977, there hadn’t been a James Bond film since 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. After the film’s release, producers Saltzman and Broccoli dissolved their relationship, with Saltzman selling his stake in Eon Productions’s parent company, Danjaq, LLC, to United Artists.

There was also the possibility that there would be two different Bond franchises, with Broccoli’s 1977 effort being The Spy Who Loved Me and Kevin McClory using his lawsuit to perhaps make James Bond of the Secret Service.

Lindsay Shonteff decided to fill the void.

Sure, he’d made The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide WorldThe Million Eyes of Sumuru and Spy Story, but now he was going to make his very own Bold movie.

Instead of James Bond, Charles Bind (Nickey Henson, Psychomania) has the license to kill.

He’s up against K.R.A.S.H. (Killing Rape Arson Slaughter and Hit), their leader and a weirdo named Arthur Loveday (Richard Todd, Asylum) who is killing off rich financiers.

If you think the Roger Moore-era films are too silly, you’d best avoid this movie. I mean, what did you expect? The name Charles Bind comes from Carry On Spying, after all.

This was followed by two sequels that had different actors play 008: Licensed to Love and Kill with Gareth Hunt and Number One Gun, which has Michael Howe in the lead role.

If the theme song “Givin’ It Plenty” is familiar, well, you may have seen Tintoreraas many times as I have. It’s in that movie too.

People to keep an eye out for former Dr. Who Jon Pertwee, Katya Wyeth (Hands of the Ripper), Geoffrey Keen (Minister of Defence Frederick Gray in six Bond films), former pro wrestler Milton Reed (who is in all manner of spy films, from Dr. No and Casino Royale to The Spy Who Loved Me and Deadlier Than the Male) and Oliver MacGreevy (The Ipcress File).

Bond never would use a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 66 revolver, much less the 50 calibre Browning machine gun.

CANNON MONTH 2: Operation Thunderbolt (1977)

This is where the Cannon of the 60s and 70s would meet the Cannon of the 80s.

Distributed by the Dewey-Friedland Cannon, this film was directed and produced by the men who would take Cannon into our hearts: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Based on the hijacking of a flight by terrorists and the mission that freed the hostages known as Operation Entebbe, this movie nearly feels like a documentary.

Originally intended to be a larger budget Hollywood to be made shortly after the actual events with Steve McQueen in the main role, that project died and that’s when the Cannon boys of the 80s came in. They  recreated Uganda’s Entebbe Airport and acquired several realistic scale models of the Ugandan Air Force MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters. Even better, because this wa sproduced with the co-operation of the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli government, three of the four Hercules transports from the actual event are in this movie. The footage is so realistic that Cannon sold te rights to several documentaries to use it.

Anyone in the movie spoke their native langauge, while an international cut was made with just English being spoken.

This same story was turned into two TV movies: the Irving Krischner-directed Raid on Entebbe — with Charles Bronson as Brigadier General Dan Shomron, Yaphet Kotto as Idi Amin, John Saxon as Major General Benny Peled and Robert Loggia as Yigal Allon and Marvin J. Chomsky’s Victory at Entebbe, which had Helmut Berger as Wilfried Böse, Linda Blair as Chana Vilnofsky, Kirk Douglas as Hershel Vilnofsky, Richard Dreyfuss as Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, Helen Hayes as Etta Grossman Wise, Anthony Hopkins as Yitzhak Rabin, Burt Lancaster as Shimon Peres and Elizabeth Taylor as Edra Vilnofsky. Man — look at those casts!

Golan’s film has a pretty awesome list of talent, though. There’s Klaus Kinski as terorrist Wilfried Bose, Sybil Danning as one of his followers and Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Yigal Allon and Gad Yaakobi — all Israeli government officials — as themselves.

This movie was actually a pretty big success at the box officer and with critics, as Golan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

I love Menahem stories and they may not be true all the time, but this one, well…when one of the cargo pilots told him that he was too tired to do another taken, Golan grabbed a prop Uzi and put it to the man’s temple and forced him to go back into the cockpit.

CANNON MONTH 2: American Raspberry (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: For another take on this film, click here.

A strange unknown source — just like the Max Headroom signal hijacking in Chicago on the night of November 22, 1987 — takes over America’s airwaves and replaces them with even more sexual shows — in the middle of jiggle TV? — and the President demands that it be fixed.

Directed by Bradley R. Swirnoff (who also directed the similar Tunnel Vision) and written by Swirnoff with  John Baskin (who actually wrote some jiggle TV with Three’s Company), Stephen Feinberg (the proctologist from Tunnel Vision) and Roger Shulman (who created the series Crazy Like a Fox), it includes fake shows like Celebrity Sportsman Presents: The Charles Whitman Invitational, in which celebrities like Warren Oates get to shoot at real people from a tower just like the Texas Tower Sniper; Manny’s Nymphs, a Charlie’s Angels show with heavy set women and a Mamorax commercial that does the “Is it real or is it Memorex” idea with a speech from Hitler.

As you can see, there’s no filter in this movie, as it sees where the line is and steps it over and over again. After all, one of the shows is called The Shitheads and people on the street get buckets of waste put on their heads, as well as American Excess instead of American Express and a frontier gynecologist who performs horseback exams. That should reveal to you the level of sophistication that you’re about to get into.

The cast includes Joanna Cassidy, Fred Dryer, Kinky Friedman, Dick O’Neill, Stephen Furst, Harry Shearer, Art Fleming, vaudevillian Paul “Mousie” Garner and many, many more.

Warner Bros. was the original distributor but found it unreleasable. Cannon Films took over, changed the title from Prime Time and released it as American Raspberry.

CANNON MONTH 2: Mustang: The House That Joe Built (1977)

Robert Guralnick directed, wrote, produced and edited this documentary about the Mustang Ranch, which became Nevada’s first licensed brothel in 1971 under the ownership of Joe Conforte.

Just 20 miles east of Reno, the ranch was basically a trailer park, but if you wanted legal lovemaking, well, it was the place to be in the U.S. Guralnick spent months there before filming — certainly for research purposes only —  so the owners and the girls would be comfortable with him as he used his handheld camera to shoot this movie.

Conforte left the U.S to go to Brazil and escape tax evasion charges a few years after this, leaving behind his prison yard-esque paradise, which is still open today after being sold by the U.S. government which is pretty wild when you think about it. He also was involved in the 1976 murder of Oscar Bonavena, a former friend who may have had an affair with his wife. He was shot dead at the ranch by Conforte’s bodyguard.

It seems like literally the unsexiest and saddest place on Earth, so here’s to the maniacs that can go there and still get it up. Then again, I feel that legal sex work would solve a lot of our nation’s mental issues.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977)

“She served her country… the only way she knew how!”

Lynn Redgrave? Out.

Joey Heatherton? In.

World-famous prostitute Xaviera Hollander is called to testify in front of the United States Congress for an indecency trial, which means that we’re about to get tons of cameos as senators, like Phil Foster from Laverne and Shirley as Senator Krause, David White from Bewitched as Senator Rawlings, Ray Walston as Senator Sturges and Jack Carter as Senator Caruso. Really, this movie was cast by the 70s, as Billy Barty, George Hamilton, Rip Taylor, Joe E. Ross, Harold “Oddjob” Sakata, Edy Williams and Larry Storch are all in the cast. So is Cisse Cameron, the wife of Reb Brown!

What are we to say to Sydney Lassick and Louisa Moritz, who just two years before were both in the Best Picture, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and now were together again in a softcore sex comedy? That’s Hollywood?

Cannon must have had a deal with director William A. Levey because they also picked up his Slumber Party ’57 and later Lightning the White Stallion. Writer Robert Kaufman also wrote Love At First BiteDr. Goldfoot and the Bikini MachineDr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs and Freebie and the Bean. Barney Cohen, his uncredited co-writer, was the man who created the TV series Forever Knight. He also wrote Killer PartyFriday the 13th: The Final Chapter and was the executive consultant for the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV series.