Fight for Your Life (1977)
By: Mr Intolerance on July 18, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 86 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Robert A. Endelson Starring: William Sanderson, Robert Judd, Yvonne Ross
Screenplay: Straw Weisman Music: Jeff Slevin
Tagline: They took it until they couldn't take any more!
Country: USA
This is definitely one of the most sordid and reprehensible exploitation films I have ever seen. You cannot watch some white-toast cracker fire a gun at a black man's feet, after having made the blunt assertion that "you people" like to dance, screaming "Dance, Goddammit!" without squirming. Or at least being shocked by the sheer bald-faced awfulness of it. Well, if you can, you're no friend of mine.

The plot is quite simple: Jesse Lee Kane and his buddies have just busted out of lawful confinement and holed up in the home of a peaceable black family, and proceed to terrorise them. So, it's a home-invasion rape-revenge flick. And a particularly nasty one at that, without even needing to be especially graphic in terms of the violence. What's especially weird for me is that the lead villain is played by William Sanderson, who plays sad, pathetic, sympathetic JP Sebastian in Bladerunner – he's a whole different kettle of fish here, the diametric opposite of that role: a vicious, evil, racist redneck.

Just like in Last House on the Left or Night Train Murders, the family are a civilised and peaceful bunch, in this instance ruled over by a pastor who advocates Martin Luther King-style non-violence, which helps to generate the film's tension – how much can they take before snapping? - and the audience's desire to see vengeance take place. Kane keeps up a non-stop barrage of racist abuse, goading the family with dialogue like: "Any of you black-ass coons want to tie the feed bag on?" Or simply berating them with other racial epithets like "coon", "nigger" or "jigaboo" almost literally every time he addresses them. Makes it very difficult for an early 21st century audience to listen to, even one jaded to 70s grindhouse fare and un-PC, like myself. And when the pastor gets his arse kicked to the curb with a bible…oh, brother.

The camerawork is good, the acting better – Robert Judd and William Sanderson are especially excellent – noble and dignified in the first instance, sadistic, depraved and thoroughly unlikeable in the second. If you like your exploitation nasty and in-your-face – this is the film for you. A closing note of both recommendation and warning: on the commentary track, even Bill Lustig (who moderates said track) sounds shocked by the racist dialogue – his reactions to the family being referred to as "the coon family singers", or the father as "Martin Luther Coon" being cases in point. And he really likes the film. And made Maniac.
Video
Totally fuckin' crystal. A really fine anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. Yet again, Blue Underground prove that they are champions in this field.
Audio
What you'd expect from a low budget 70s exploitation flick. It's a mono track, but a remastered one at least. Like I said, Blue Underground know what they're doing.
Extra Features
The commentary track (with the writer, the DP and Bill Lustig as Moderator) is really cool (interesting to hear about the folks who didn't want to be involved in the commentary…), definitely listen to this if you're a fan of exploitation, doubly if you're a fan of Bill Lustig – you get to hear a knowledgeable fan of the genre enthusing about a film he loves, but not in a gushing Tarantino-style way. There are also theatrical trailers (one for white audiences, one for black – the difference is quite marked), TV spots (also with the racial demarcation line firmly in place…), the teaser and a poster and still gallery.
The Verdict
Fuckin' watch it. If you consider yourself to be a fan of exploitation films and haven't seen this, I call "poseur" on you. This film totally fucking smokes.
Movie Score
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