Fight for Your Life (1977)
By: David Michael Brown on September 20, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Stomp Visual (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 86 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Robert. A. Endelson
Starring: Straw Weisman
Screenplay: William Sanderson, Robert Judd, Yvonne Ross
Country: USA
AKA: Held Hostage; I Hate Your Guts; Staying Alive
Fight For Your Life is a one of a kind, a seething mass of racial hatred, exploitation and good old-fashioned violence that caused a furore when it hit the screens of 42nd Street and went on to become a video nasty in the UK.

The storyline is nothing new. Anyone familiar with grindhouse classics like Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave and House at the Edge of the Park will have seen its criminals on the loose, kidnapping, rape revenge drama style of storytelling before but none of those films, with the possible exception of David Hess as Krug in Wes Craven's Last House on the left, has produced a character as hateful as Jessie Lee Kane played by William Sanderson. Its amazing to see Sanderson playing such a despicable character after first seeing the actor play J. F. Sebastien in Blade Runner, who was one of the most sad and gentle characters ever committed to celluloid.

Every word he spits at the captive black family, he is holding hostage, is full of raging venomous scorn. It's a despicable barrage that doesn't stop at his foes, he is awful to his fellow Asian and Hispanic prison escapee's too, and no one escapes from his racial rhetoric. He abuses, fights, hangs and rapes his prisoners pushing them to breaking point before the head of the family Floyd Turner, a stoic turn by Reginald Blythewood, fights back.

Fight for Your Life, also known as I Hate Your Guts, Staying Alive, Getting Even and Hostage's Bloody Revenge will definitely offend many, despite the fact that Kane gets his comeuppance, it's a long and brutal journey before the family pet pees on his head. The film was Robert . A. Endelson's second and last ever film after 1973s The Filthiest Show in Town. I guess it's not surprising as Fight For Your Life is not a film you could follow easily.
Video
The image is pretty good, the film is simply shot and doesn't use much in the way of innovative lighting so it looks a bit flat, much like many of the blaxploitation films of the era. The disc reproduces the film well.
Audio
The soundtrack featuring some nice funky guitar is ok; the mono reproduction is totally listenable without being spectacular in any way.
Extra Features
Again Stomp has licensed Blue Undergrounds excellent US disc; my favourite part of the extras has to be the trailers. The film was marketed differently for black and white audiences. In the Seventies in the height of the blaxploitation era the black audiences loved seeing old "whitey" getting his ass kicked by the Blackman whilst the white audiences were sold the film on its exploitation credentials.

You also get some TV spots, an extensive poster and stills gallery covering every aspect of the films promotion. Finally the films writer Straw Weisman and the director of photography Lloyd Freidus provide a running commentary that tries to explain some of the nastiness going down on screen.
The Verdict
As unpleasant as Fight For Your Life is you cannot help but be pulled into the film. Maybe its just waiting to see the racist scumbag Kane get what he deserves, maybe its to see how far the poor persecuted family will be persecuted before they fight back, more than likely it's the sheer audacity of the filmmakers that they even contemplated making such a controversial film in the first place. The packaging calls it an "Incendiary grindhouse classic" and much has been said that it may well be the most un PC film every made; for once I think the publicity may well be true.
Movie Score
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