Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Days and Filippino Stick Fights

As you might have heard, the Northeast got popped with another snowstorm yesterday, though this was the first one that really affected us here in Baltimore. After dodging a bunch of Mother Nature's best shots over the last couple months we took a quick kick in the shins in the morning and then a rapid-fire series of blows to the solar plexus around evening rush hour.

So with my better half snowed in at work and not in the mood to follow something closely enough to seriously review it I shuffled through my Netflix Instant View queue until I found ARNIS: STICKS OF DEATH aka STICKS OF DEATH.

This 1984 Filippino actioner (which looks like it was made around 1975) stars Roland Dantes as a muscle-bound street hustler named Johnny who learns the ways of arnis from his wizened old grandfather after some slightly better-dressed thugs try to rub him out when he doesn't want to join forces. (Arnis is a form of self-defense employing sticks and is the Philippines' national martial art and sport.)

After the obligatory "training sequence" and a fight with some over-matched poachers (despite their use of machetes and a chainsaw!), Johnny heads home and joins the police force (?), woos a local mobster's daughter, and teams with an Italian INTERPOL agent to capture an American mobster staying at a Holiday Inn. All while training for and winning the big Arnis Invitational.

STICKS OF DEATH has the all-over-the-place plot shenanigans one comes to expect from martial-arts-inspired low-budget action but there's a schizo charm to it that makes the time pass quickly, sorta like a decent Bruceploitation flick.

But don't be misled by the poster shown above which features the tagline "The Ultimate Killing Machine". Yes, there are helicopters, an explosion, handguns and several stick fights, but I have NO IDEA who the guy featured in the center of the poster is nor do I recall Johnny doing a lot of killing. Certainly not enough to be labeled "The Ultimate Killing Machine".

As a bonus, the opening slum basketball sequence – between The Slumboys and Visitors according to the chalkboard scoring system – is up there with the "tennis" scenes from PIECES as some of the most poorly-executed, seemingly-irrelevant "sports" action in exploitation cinema.

Fun and like the trailer (below) says, you have to see it to believe it!

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