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Bare Knuckles (a movie review)

I’ve come across this 1977 movie while perusing materials from the great Something Weird Video (a trailer for this flick was included in Dusk to Dawn Trash-O-Rama volume 1) and because why the hell not, I’ve decided to watch it. I couldn’t find it on a DVD though, but luckily someone uploaded it to Youtube (that’s actually one thing I so hate…trying to get some film just to find out it was never officially released on DVD/Blu, and copies available are basically just grey market copies).

The movie was directed by Don Edmonds, who is more famous (or infamous, take your pick) for directing Ilsa, the She-Wolf of the SS (and one of the “sequels”, Ilsa, the Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheikhs).

Don Edmonds, the director of Bare Knuckles
The director of Bare Knuckles, Don Edmonds.

And what is it about? We’re watching Zack (Zachary) Kane (Robert Viharo), a bounty hunter, who’s on the case of a masked killer. Not because of any sympathies, of course, it’s 15 grand reward he’s after. If doing right thing pays…well, people will do it.

Robert Viharo

As his life goes on, he meets (actually, saving her from her brutish companion) a girl named Jennifer Randall (Sherry Jackson) and they start a relationship.

Sherry Jackson

Anyway, we meet the killer quite early in the movie, the masked guy swings a long blade and hiss like a cat (well, one would say it’s a man pretending to be a Catwoman, lol) and we witness him murdering a woman on the street. Some windows get opened, people watch, but one woman recognized the killer (as his victim manages to put his mask down) and she goes into hiding.

Kane overhears the talk between cops and woman’s flatmate and starts looking for her, which doesn’t go without some fights and some dead. Well, it’s 70’s cop sleaze, after all (OK, Kane is no cop, but you’ve got the idea). After finding her, he gets the info about the killer’s identity, who’s some rich asshole with mother issues (and already killed two women). And, to make it more interesting, he’s quite skillful in kung-fu.

Mike Heit in the role of the killer Richard Devlin

After attending a party thrown by killer’s unsuspecting mother (Karen Kondazian), where Kane and Richard Devlin (the killer, played by Michael Heit) exchange some words (Kane knows and Devlin knows that he knows) and Devlin sets his eyes on beautiful Jennifer. Well, unlike some movies where the hero would save his queen from peril, here we’re dealing in exploitation and sleaze and Randall is killed (along with a random witness).

That obviously doesn’t go well with Kane, who sets out for the revenge, and after a little dragging in the middle the movie finally gets going wild. Car chase (well, Kane in the car chasing Devlin on the motorcycle) in exactly the way we like (reminded me of French Connection a little bit), the obvious car crashing through the cardboard boxes (for it looks f*ckin cool, isn’t it?) and final fight on between the railroad wagons and on the railroad bridge. Guess who’s gonna bite the dust?

Bare Knuckles fight scene
Kickin’ ass bare knuckles style.

Surprisingly, for a 1977 low budget release I really liked it. That says a lot, because I usually doesn’t watch stuff from that era, but the combination of 70’s wah wah funky disco, some dramatic music and sleazy enviroment (plus cool, serious as a cancer, moustached hero) proved to be a working combination, so yeah, I can’t complain (and while we don’t see any fantasy kung-fu fighting there, I am actually OK with it. In reality you wouldn’t see any fantasy kung-fu there neither). The only thing I could genuinely complain about is the fact that music and effects were much louder than the dialogues (in the copy I’ve seen) so I’ve missed some stuff (and I think I’ve missed some critical information, but whatever, forget it). And also, the editing of fight scenes sucked. But I think I can live with that.

Don Edmonds and Mike Heit in 2007

Check the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdo0WYC6FEA

Full movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqzl4BkSUf8

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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