17. Black Samurai (1977)
Jim Kelly plays a secret agent sent to rescue an ambassador’s daughter kidnapped by The Warlock, one of those super villains who bring to mind Kelly’s retort from Enter The Dragon: “Man, you come right out of a comic book.”
A voodoo practitioner whose ceremonies involve hookers smearing themselves in blood in front of dancers wearing masks leftover from a Pink Floyd music video, The Warlock favours black capes, camp henchmen and mariachi bands, plus he has his own attack vulture, who’ll gouge out the eyes of anyone that messes with him.
Fortunately, Kelly has a wire-supported jet pack, so he’s able to gain access to the villain’s hideaway, then he goes one on one with cackling dwarf assassins and the usual bare-chested henchmen, during which the soundtrack goes out of synch several times.
16. Raw Force (1982)
A trio of bozos from “the Burbank karate club” meet some bikini-wearing kickboxers and take a boat to Warriors Island, unaware it’s home to machete-wielding zombies, mad monks and a slave trader with a Hitler moustache. When the boat is attacked by Village People-ish pirates (there’s a construction worker, an Indian, plus a biker in a Nazi helmet) our heroes manage to save the day before reaching their destination.
Once ashore, they’re attacked by Hitler who, despite being armed with a bazooka and surrounded by henchmen, simply panics and runs away. Appealing to the island’s monks for help, our heroes are told that they’ll only be granted assistance if they can demonstrate “superior fighting skills” against a zombie army.
Making his directing debut, the brilliantly named Edward D Murphy doesn’t exactly keep a firm hand on the tiller, randomly throwing in comedy, thriller and sexploitation elements, but it’s certainly not your typical kung-fu zombie movie.
15. Cleopatra Wong (1978)
Cleopatra Wong is an Interpol agent on the trail of counterfeit money, which is of course being printed in a monastery full of gangsters disguised as nuns and priests. Captured and forced into combat, our heroine goes one on one with an army of Kung Fu assassins before leaping the wall in a single bound (why not?) and travelling to Hong Kong, where she discovers the money is being transported inside jars of raspberry jam.
That’s all the plot there is in this outrageous mix of martial arts and James Bond, which goes out of its way to entertain and lets nothing – not the low budget, the grainy cinematography or the ham acting – stand in its way.
There’s gun battles, bad disco music and a fight scene every five minutes, but best of all is the climactic assault on the monastery, with Cleopatra’s all-male army disguising themselves as nuns, which leads to the immortal line: “Freeze – or you’re a dead nun!”
14. 2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)
Full of cheesy effects and laughable 80s fashions, this cheaply made Italian rip-off of Mad Max 2/ Escape From New York doesn’t promise very much, but in terms of sheer fun it really delivers.
Michael Sopkiw stands in for Kurt Russell as the laconic loner on a mission, looking for the world’s last fertile woman in post-apocalyptic NYC. This brings him into contact with a claw-handed ex-schoolteacher, an eyepatch-wearing cyborg and a character named Big Ape, who’s either a man-ape hybrid or an ugly sumbitch.
Together, they battle villains from The Warriors, clad in costumes from The New Barbarians on sets you’ve seen in countless other movies. 2019 may wear its influences on its sleeve, but its entertainment value and sheer verve make it a standout in an overcrowded market.
13. The Barbarians (1987)
Picture Charlie Sheen’s head on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoulders, then duplicate the image and you’ve got David and Peter Paul, the “bad boys of bodybuilding” who were touted as action stars in the late 80s but are now best remembered for being cut out of Natural Born Killers.
Next, picture these bozos slathered in olive oil and tearing limbs off rubber creatures in a cheaply made swords and sandals movie and you’ve got The Barbarians, to which the words ‘shoddy’ and ‘inept’ do not do justice. The seams begin to show early on when our heroes, introduced as children, suddenly transform into the Paul Brothers. “They grew,” says the helpful narrator, “until they were men. But not ordinary men – barbarians!”
The only cast members who’ve aged, the brothers display their charm as performers by grunting at each other in every scene. Whether facing the gallows or a 15 hooker gang bang, these two mesmerizingly awful screen presences dazzle us not with zingers but by impersonating seals. So much for comic relief.
12. Deadly Prey (1988)
A cheap 80s rip-off of The Most Dangerous Game, Deadly Prey tells the story of a crazy mercenary who kidnaps strangers for his soldiers to hunt until he makes the mistake of abducting his former protégé, who starts killing his boys one after the other. When the merc realizes his mistake, it leads to the obligatory scene where he says, “Know him? I trained him!”
Fortunately, the protégé is played by bad movie veteran Ted Prior (Surf Nazis Must Die, Aerobicide), whose thesping makes Dolph Lundgren look like Laurence Olivier. He probably got the job because the writer/director is David Prior – his brother.
Come the finale, Ted scalps one bad guy and clubs another to death with his own severed arm before the movie ends with a freeze-frame shot of him howling in rage. They really don’t make them like this anymore, which is probably just as well.
11. Lightblast (1985)
Following Inglorious Bast**ds and the Bronx Warriors trilogy, Enzo G Castellari made this odd Dirty Harry rehash which replaces Fred Williamson, his usual leading man, with the actor you’ve always associated with Harry Callahan – Erik Estrada.
After resolving a hostage situation by stripping down to his underwear and taking out the bad guys with a cooked chicken (don’t ask), Estrada is called in to stop a mad scientist who’s holding San Francisco to ransom with his new invention – a giant laser that makes buildings glow red, melting the skin off anyone trapped inside.
This necessitates giving Estrada a comic relief partner, an overweight moron who gets shot and tells him to “get those sons of bitches.” Stealing a car, Estrada causes every vehicle that meanders across his path to crash into stacked boxes and explode. That’s right – it’s one of THOSE movies.
10. Robo Vampire (1988)
Picture a cheaply made Robocop knock-off where the lead actor wears a tinfoil suit, shin pads, goggles and silver crash helmet. Next, imagine him interacting with footage ripped from two other movies, including a Thai cop thriller and a Hong Kong supernatural comedy. That’s Robo Vampire – three movies for the price of one. And you’ll still demand your money back.
Hilariously, the Hong Kong footage features Chinese hopping vampires, so when Robo isn’t fighting gangsters whose machine guns don’t produce muzzle flares, he’s ‘seamlessly’ reacting to vampires that can hop, fly and disappear at will.
These creatures also possess the ability to make our hero fly through the air (on clearly visible wires) and the actor’s attempts to move robotically while being ‘thrown’ are hilarious. For bad measure, the filmmakers also decided to throw in a kung-fu kicking female ghost, who turns into an obvious double in every other shot.
9. The Champions Of Justice (1971)
Second only to El Santo in terms of popularity, masked wrestler Blue Demon takes centre stage in The Champions Of Justice, a movie that compensates for its ultra-low budget by including lots of scenes where luchadors kick the crap out of dwarves.
You see, there’s a mad scientist who wants to destroy Blue Demon as well as his colleagues Mil Mascaras and The Killer Doctor, and he’s hit upon the perfect method – a machine that transforms ordinary midgets into super-strong assassins. So every 5 minutes there’s a scene where a dwarf is being brutalized by a luchador, but don’t worry – the dwarves turn into stuffed dummies before they fly into exploding lab equipment.
If you have ever wanted to see midgets fight wrestlers in mid-air or terrorize beauty pageant contestants, say hello to your new favourite movie.