Monday, April 26, 2010

Blind Vengeance Week: BLIND RAGE (1978)

Welcome to Video Junkie's first ever theme week! We've often been accused of being the blind leading the blind, so what better way to start off than movies centering on the seeing impaired? Wait, blind folks can't see movies. Yes, we are a cruel bunch here. So get ready for a week's worth of reviews of flicks centering on the unsung and unseeing!


For the inaugural entry, we highlight one of the odder bits of blind exploitation cinema (blindsploitation?) in...

BLIND RAGE (1978) - Banker Johnny Duran (Charlie Davao) gets a bank heist offer from criminal Lew "My friends call me Wilbur" Simpson (B.T. Anderson) that is too bad to be true. Simpson wants to have five blind men rob a bank in Manila of $15 million dollars. Why? "No one would ever suspect blind men of robbing a bank!" Well, I guess that settles it. They assemble the global blind crew - Triad member Lin Wang (Leo Fong), US gangster Willie Black (D'Urville Martin), magician Anderson (Dick Adair), Filipino Ben Guevara (Tony Ferrer) and blind matador (!!!) Hector Lopez (Darnell Garcia) - and get trained by teacher for the blind Sally (Leila Hermosa) in a bank mock up. Seriously. The job goes off perfect before Ben is suspected by local cops ("Hey, I've got this blind guy in my files") and he quickly provides cinema's quickest ratting out of partners ever. Everyone expect Duran is killed in a huge explosion (their next grand idea was to sneak into the airport by hiding inside a partially hollowed gas tanker actually carrying gas!). Duran makes it to Los Angeles at the 70 minute mark where private eye Jesse Crowder (Fred Williamson) is waiting to take him down.

And you thought THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962) was the top blindsploitation title? You have to hand it to the filmmakers though as they went all out. It is not every day you see a film that makes the bank robbing dogs concept in THE DOBERMAN GANG (1972) look credible in comparison. Yet you have to admire them because not only do they roll with it, but they make quite possibly the best exploitation film they could with such a ridiculous concept and follow through on it. I mean, there is seriously a line where Duran says, "Alright, let's start by synchronizing your Braille watches." The crooks could have had the same success rate and saved some time if they just barged in with guns a blazin' rather than take the time to train a bunch of blind guys. You also have to love any film that has the gall to include a blind guy rape attempt followed by two blind guys duking it out.

The film is all over the map - literally, as they shot in the US, Mexico, Japan and the Philippines. Well, at least Charlie Davao got some free trips out of it as he is shown wandering those locales. For all we know, the rest could have been shot in Utah (although a majority of it appears to have been shot in the Philippines). I'd love to hear the financing stories on this. The filmmakers also gather up a pretty stellar exploitation cast. First up is VJ favorite Leo Fong. Fong had done a few cheapo action vehicles in Manila already and he actually gives the best performance as a blind guy (his stilted acting working in his favor?). He gets to throw down before he is blinded by having acid thrown into his eyes. His blind highlight is shooting a woman during the bank robbery because she makes a noise and then he apologizes. Other highlights include D'Urville Martin showcasing some Dolemite-inspired Spastic Fu © Rudy Ray Moore and Filipino legend Tony Ferrer getting his eyes drilled out.

Top billed Fred Williamson shows up as an afterthought, only appearing on screen for about ten minutes. Sporting a one-piece blue jumpsuit and his trademark cigar, this marked the third time Williamson played the Jesse Crowder character (previously seen in NO WAY BACK and DEATH JOURNEY, both 1976). One can only imagine what it would have been like if he had played a blind character as well. So if you are having an itch for a movie about blind bank robbers, go straight to BLIND RAGE. It is truly one of a kind and the best (only?) entry in this subgenre. You really have to see it to believe it (ah, boo yourself!).

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