Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Directed by Barry Rosen
Simitar VHS

Back in 1996-1997, Scott Reynolds and I had a weekly Movie Night Ritual. I would head to his apartment, sit down with some popcorn and soda pop and enjoy a sweet, sweet movie. We would alternate weeks. The whole shebang began with me showing him Don’t Go In The Woods. He showed me The Wild Bunch. You can probably guess from those first choices that I didn’t always bring the class to these get-togethers. (Sometimes I did. I brought It’s A Gift and Brewster McCloud.) Yes, I brought The Last Slumber Party and Quisenberry’s Scream. Scott brought classy stuff and a load of blaxploitation films. One of them was Gang Wars, a film I’d never heard of, but any film starring Warhawk Tanzania has to be great. And, it turns out my prediction was right. This is an exploitation film of the first order.

If a blaxplotation film begins with a prologue sent in “CHINA 200 BC”, then you’re in great hands. Just relax. Warhawk runs a kung fu school of some sort. He and his assistant, the hot-headed Roldan, head to Hong Kong for training. Roldan digs up an ancient amulet. A demon follows them back to New York City. It hides in the subway and kills folks. And, as always, this is just a small taste of what happens. It’s like describing Moby Dick as a book about some guys hunting a whale. The main plot is important but, oh those incidentals.

Multi-racial gang wars involving awesome kung fu fighting. Dumb honky cops. A demon in the subway tunnels killing people. Gold (lame?) overalls worn during the final fight. A scene that clearly has dialogue but has funky music dubbed over it instead. Warhawk vanishing for a large chunk of the second half so we can focus on other characters. And, even the VHS getting into the fun by replaying a 30-second scene at a subway platform. Hell, Brother Theodore even shows up! The film seems willing to film anything provided it’s entertaining. That is the sign of some steamy, fragrant exploitation. Something for everyone.

What does this film have that you might enjoy? Well, here’s something: The fight scenes. All the fight scenes look very well choreographed. I know this because it looks like they just filmed the cast practicing their moves. Everything moves a bit too slow. Punches don’t connect. Blood flies from people for no reason. And, when one fight scene begins with Roldan in a mesh top, Heaven is a place on Earth.

Warhawk keeps a strong presence throughout, even thought he does vanish for quite a stretch. The man has everything. He is a Kung Fu Master. He is respected by all, the gangs and the cops. He can kick your ass up and down the street and make you want to apologize to him for wasting his time. He, of course, has an awesome lady. They get a “Day Out” montage with a sweet, sexy soul number playing over it. And, we never see the woman before or after that scene, except briefly in the end. Why should we? We can infer that she must be great by her nearness to him. There must be another film where the romance is the main story and there’s a “Kick Ass” Montage in the middle where this movie happens.

I love a film with a “We’re just making this all up” feel to it. Hell, that’s what I’m doing right here. We follow Warhawk, the demon rises, then we follow the gangs, then some demon killing, then the cops, some gang fighting, some this and that. It’s all great. Each portion is so entertaining that you forget about the other bits until they reappear. Did you ever see Nashville? It’s like that, except one has Henry Gibson and one has the Subway Demon.

Pretty awful. I think Scott’s copy was EP. My copy is an EP copy of his. If you can imagine that. Under all the EP bother, it looks like decent low-budget 70′s film except the print is far too dark. On my copy, you can’t see what’s happening during the final subway fight. Imagine my joy when, on a Code Red DVD, I saw a preview for Devil’s Express and you can actually see what’s happening! Where’s that DVD?

I’m lucky I have this copy.

There is always another one out there. Just when you think you’re hitting the end of the line and there is no more insanity left…This weekend, I saw Gone With The Pope and reacquainted myself with this wonderful film. So, there is stuff out there, hiding away and kicking my ass when I least expect it. Thanks for finding this one, Scott. Movie Nights were awesome. Sorry about Frozen Scream.

Gang Wars — watch it. Watch it now.

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