Directors: M. Cardinal, Joseph Kong
Code Red DVD

Code Red’s latest grindhouse DVD double feature promises “Mafia Martial Arts Mayhem”, and certainly delivers the hokey goods with this chop socky duo. If you enjoy old school kung fu movies and are not so demanding in that everything has to be a Shaw Bros spectacular, I can think of worse ways to spend a free Saturday or Sunday afternoon, especially if you already have a few drinks in you.

Interpol agents putting a stop to drug trafficking are being killed off in different parts of Europe, this being the handy work of the Carrol crime family. In Hong Kong, one agent is nearly done in by a vicious German Shepherd with an explosive tied around his neck, but he's saved by good Samaritan Wang Liu (Bruce Leung, aka Siu-Lung Leung, THE TATTOO CONNECTION), who happens to be walking down the street during the would-be attack. Wang is actually a Kung Fu movie star, and now the Mafioso Carrol clan wants him squashed for this upright intervention. What do they do? Set up a martial arts production in their homeland of Rome so Wang can be flown over to star in it, and then they can put the hit on him.

Wang brings along his annoying kid nephew, as they greet the press and stay at his brother’s house. The brother is murdered that same night, and various attempts are made on Wang’s life, including a mad scientist attempting to electrocute him as he unwisely volunteers for an experiment, an exploding camera detonated by a couple posing as tourists, and his co-star replacing a prop gun with a fully loaded pistol. When all else fails, aging mob boss Carrol (Consalvo Dell'Arti, VIOLENT CITY) sends each of his three sons (two of which are adapted, one of which is played by 51-year-old Gordon Mitchell, FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS) to do the trick. At one point, Carrol even tricks Wang into pulling a job for him to safe the life of his kidnapped nephew.

Shot almost entirely on location in Rome (it’s fun to spot spectators ogling before the cameras throughout), THE GODFATHER SQUAD (also known as LITTLE GODFATHER, the character of Wang’s nickname in the film) is a solid action film, if not entirely a great kung fu movie, with an international cast playing an array of cartoonish characters. None of the fight scenes are spectacular, but it’s amusing to see Hong Kong martial arts star Bruce Leung exchanging fists of fury with former muscleman movie hero turned Euro trash villain Mitchell. Mitchell plays the son of a Nazi, who still wears a German uniform for some unexplained reason (other than the character is a nut, seeing Mitchell’s usual hammy facial expressions). Leung also is pitted against Japanese karate legend Yasuaki Kurata (BRUCE LEE AND I), as they move from the streets to a bank of snow during their showdown, in one of the more memorable sequences.

THE GODFATHER SQUAD also offers a number of violent death scenes (including Wang shoving one of his attackers in a burning fireplace), frequent gun play from the get go, what looks to be an appearance by the real Pope (from his window) during an assassination attempt on our hero in the crowded streets of the Vatican, and some delightful honeys in the form of Maria D'Incoronato as a sexy Italian starlet and blonde beauty Shirley Corrigan as an insurance agent (and apparent kung fu dabbler) brought in to look after Wang during his Rome visit. Corrigan is an unheralded star of a number of international 1970s horror and exploitation films, and the only crime here is that she has no nude scenes: if you’ve seen DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN, SCHOOLGIRL REPORT VOLUME #6 or AROUND THE WORLD WITH FANNY HILL, you’ll know how amazing the actress looks with nothing on. Though made in 1974 (shortly after Bruce Lee’s death and at the height of the kung fu craze), THE GODFATHER SQUAD wasn’t released here until ’77 when it was picked up by Cannon Films.

Bruce Wong (Bruce Le, the infamous “Bruce Lee” clone and star of countless martial arts films such as CHALLENGE OF THE DRAGON) is told by his master that his kung fu training is complete, and that he’s now to find the other half of a small coin which will lead to the discovery of some treasure. Bruce’s journey begins with him defending a fat guy from the two bullies who swiped his vanilla ice cream, rescuing tie-up damsels in distress, defending himself from a 300-pound female masseuse, and basically using Nunchucks and his one-man army skills to fend off endless hordes of fearless fighters, and one very luscious brunette.

According to the DVD’s back cover, BRUCE’S LAST BATTLE (the actual inserted onscreen title card reads, “Bruce’s Ninja Secret”) is a lost film making its home video debut here, as it was shelved for years by the head of 21st Century Distribution. So it’s basically scenes from different Bruce Le movies thrown together to make one giant mess, a cheezingly entertaining mess at that and the action is non stop (with the plot being nonexistent). Le, who is mostly seen strutting around in oversized sunglasses and sleeveless muscle-hugging t-shirts, competes with various bad guys who usually come on screen by the dozen, and the inserting from different movies causes his Bruce Lee-esque haircut to change length, as well as the film stock to constantly fluctuate.

Le also fights Lo Lieh (the star of FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH and other Shaw classics) who is briefly seen as some kind of evil crime boss in scenes which don’t resemble anything else, as what’s left was shot in the Philippines with mostly Pilipino actors. The gonzo factor is really high, especially with two midget baddies with terrible hairdos and an accompanying scene where a string of little people (wearing white loin clothes and pretending to be field workers) ambush Bruce with sickles. As Arthur Spooner on the “King of Queens” says, “I understand there are midgets in it, which just spells funny.” There’s also a morbidly obese guy (who gets his eyes poked out by Bruce) a stereotypical homosexual character and ridiculous over-scoring (most likely culled from other movies) which features a lot of “wah-wah” 1970s disco sounds, only adding to the surrealness of the viewing experience.

Both THE GODFATHER SQUAD and BRUCE’S LAST BATTLE are presented here in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (though the back cover mistakenly lists LAST BATTLE as 1.78:1) with anamorphic enhancement. Both print sources have some blemishes, but both are all around sharp transfers with stable colors, and the mono dubbed audio tracks are clear enough throughout. The only extras are the four Code Red trailers on the disc – DETECTIVE BELLI (Franco Nero), HORROR HIGH, THE BLACK GESTAPO and CUT-THROATS NINE – which can be watched separately or with both features for an entire “42nd Street Experience” program. (George R. Reis)