KICKBOXER (1989) and this week we bestow another silver anniversary (world title?) on BLOODFIST (1989), the Roger Corman produced film that looked to stake its claim in the box office bloodsport. Not only did this film launch the last major star (of the direct-to-video era) for Corman, it also served as the impetus for what would become the most sequelized American martial arts series.
Roger Corman will always be known as much for his films as his ability to spot good actors and give them their big break in show business. As the legend has it, Corman first spotted Don “The Dragon” Wilson, a kickboxing champion, in a profile in a martial arts magazine. After a very successful kickboxing career that begin in the mid-70s, Florida native Wilson moved to California in the mid-80s to pursue acting, but only had a La Choy commercial and GENERAL HOSPTIAL gig (as Thug #1) to his name by the time Corman came calling. With the aforementioned BLOODSPORT and KICKBOXER giving a resuscitating punch to the martial arts genre, Corman, never to miss out on trend he could bank on, quickly signed Wilson to a several picture deal. The first of these pictures would be the perfectly titled BLOODFIST.
an interview Winkless did with our buddy Marty McKee, Corman approached him with the project and gave him ten days of prep time before flying off to the Philippines for production under the watchful eye of Cirio Santiago in December 1988. Yes, ten days, less time than it takes for Tom Cruise to decide on which lifts to wear. When given the opportunity, Winkless didn’t blink (ah, boo yourself!) and he headed overseas for three months.
under the tutelage of Kwong (Joe Mari Avellana), his sibling’s old trainer, to find the killer. While checking off every martial arts cliché in the book (this is, after all, a Corman cash in), BLOODFIST actually plays with several conventions and features a few twists not commonly seen in this type of movie. Director Winkless actually gets a lot of bang for his buck, portraying the exotic locales for all of their “stranger in a strange land” worth and even getting some nice crane and helicopter shots. His biggest coup is undoubtedly surrounding Wilson with a legit army of fighters. The film features several real fighters including Dutch kickboxer Rob Kaman and future star and workout guru Billy Blanks. With each fighter introduced in the opening credits with their fighting style and international championships, it gives the film an air of legitimacy where it counts the most. As it stands, Wilson is still the best kickboxer to ever grace the screen as a leading man. And for a beginner, The Dragon acquits himself well. While his high kicks will always outshine his acting ability, he is affable and believable in the role.
The greatest BLOODFIST poster ever:
A selection of BLOODFIST worldwide VHS covers: