James (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) Inglehart stars as a soldier smuggling gold in from Vietnam that gets stabbed in the back and left for dead by his dirty partners. He washes ashore on a desert island inhabited only by two Japanese soldiers (Who think that WWII is still going on!) who nurse him back to health and train him in the ways of the samurai! They teach James to swing a samurai sword “like Joe DiMaggio” to cut cocoanuts and a lot of other Mr. Miyagi type shit. While James was away, his partners used the gold to finance a personal mob war to carve out their own turf. One of the baddies (Penitentiary’s Leon Isaac Kennedy) even roughs up James’ wife a little bit. James soon returns home to the USA wielding his samurai sword looking for revenge and hacks everybody up real good.
I was actually a bit surprised how much I liked this flick. It’s a quirky mix of blaxploitation and samurai movies and even works really well as just a straight-up revenge picture. Director Cirio H. Santiago can do just about anything in my book. From TNT Jackson to She Devils in Chains, this guy has done some really great stuff and Fighting Mad is one of his best. Santiago delivers on the action and gives us a lot of fast paced shootouts and a couple rousing swordfights. Fighting Mad also features one of the finest Kung Fu in a barbershop fight scenes ever committed to film. Santiago even sprinkles in a little bit of gore into the mix too. There are a lot of decapitated heads (Inglehart even gift-wraps one of them) as well as a few fine shots of juicy spurting neck stumps.
The acting is better than you’d expect and helps to elevate the film from the usual B Movie fare. Inglehart is excellent and physically intimidating and Leon Isaac Kennedy makes for a suitably slimy villain. Kennedy’s wife, Jayne Kennedy (who was such a bitch that she made poor Leon take HER last name when they got married) is also quite good as Inglehart’s long suffering wife. She also sings (not badly) too. Pilipino action fans should also get a kick out of seeing veteran character actor Vic Diaz in a small role as well.
Fighting Mad is no classic or anything but it’s better than most Kung Fu oriented blaxploitation movies that were being made around the same time. As a bonus, you also get a smorgasbord of great dialogue like, “The only brother is the man on the back of a dollar bill… and he ain’t black!”, “If he dies, do I get my bed back?”, and the immortal, “Those mother humpers!”
AKA: Death Force.