Fight For Your Life!

The movie that will make you stand up and cheer “I’m proud to be a Black man!”

FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977)

When a flick opens with a clas-sick line like “Where you goin’ bitch? I want my smack back!” you know you’re in for a treat. A freak car accident allows a trio of convicted killers on their way to prison to escape. They kill their guards, steal a pimp’s car and head for the sticks. Along the way they commit a pair of bloody armed robberies that both end in murder. During the last holdup the gang takes a young Black female hostage and goes back to her family’s house to lay low until night falls. Racism by the truckload quickly ensues as the redneck leader of the trio, Jesse Lee Kane (played to perfection by William Sanderson of “Blade Runner” fame), constantly insults both the Black family members and his Latin & Asian partners in crime.

The Turner family suffers constant humiliation and degradation at the hands of the sadistic bigot and his equally evil pals Chino & Ling. Mom is forced to piss herself, wheelchair bound Grandma is repeatedly threatened at gunpoint, the feisty son is referred to as “King Coon Junior”, his teenage sister is viciously raped, and the Father of the family, a Reverend no less, (the hilariously named Ted Turner!) is savagely beaten with his own bible! The brutality is then ramped up even further by the attempted rape and eventual murder of a white female friend of the family, and worst of all the BRUTAL backyard slaying of the cute little best friend and “blood brother” of the young son!

The well meaning but slow moving cops finally manage to catch up to the killers, and a tense and drawn out hostage situation seems inevitable. The cops, lead by the no-nonense Lt. “Rulebook” Riley silently surround the Turner house and wait for an opportunity to strike. But in order to stay alive, justice will have to be dealt out by the Turner family, not the police or the courts. Malfunctioning surveillance equipment and a sudden change of heart by the formerly by-the-book police officer in charge allows the Turner family to dish out the type of brutal and exacting punishment that the bastards truly deserve. There is no higher law than an eye for an eye…and there is no greater violence than a father’s revenge for the rape of his daughter.

There is only one word for this one: MASTERPIECE. This flick really works because of how fucking extreme it is. If it pulled any of its punches it wouldn’t be nearly as effective and entertaining. This notorious gut-cruncher is infamous for the scene where a little boy has his head bashed in with a rock. This scene was almost always edited out of the early video releases, and was enough to have the film branded a “Video Nasty” and banned in the UK back in the day. It’s very nasty and bloody stuff that rivals the more well known“Vanilla Twist” child murder scene in John Carpenter’s “Assault On Precinct 13.” There’s also rape and a handful of other bloody murders on display. But even the ample amounts of mean spirited violence that are featured throughout take a backseat to the primary exploitive element – RACISM! This is perhaps the most incendiary film ever made!

I counted no less than 70 racial remarks! William Sanderson used 28 different anti-Black epithets. That is incredible. I give a lot of credit to writer Straw Weisman for coming up with so many different horrible racist terms for the script. A lazy writer would have simply tossed the N-bomb around a few dozen times and called it a day. Not Straw. In FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE the word “nigger” is only used 8 times. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t for an exploitation flick, and it pales in comparison to the much more nasty and unusual insults frequently used here including “monkey face,” “deputy dawg,” “jive ass spade,” and “black ass booger.” There were seven different variations of the word “coon” alone, including the incredible “a real bend over backwards and shine your shoes master coon!” But the Blacks aren’t the only ones who suffer this kind of verbal abuse, as racial terms like “spic,” “slant eyes,” “white trash,” “pink pig,” and “faggot” are liberally used as well. This flick takes no prisoners and is truly an equal opportunity offender.

This clas-sick genre flick was released multiple times under different titles (including “Staying Alive“) and had a short but very memorable theatrical run throughout the late Seventies that included near riots on 42nd Street and in Baltimore MD. Blacks in the audience reportedly went CRAZY while watching this movie and actually started tearing seats out of the floor and throwing them at the screen and at each other! By the final reel where the family finally gets revenge on the white racist, the audience (or what was left of them) would start loudly cheering and applauding! Legendary director and pervert John Waters saw the film in Baltimore and later wrote about this wild experience, calling it “fabulous!” John also mentioned wanting an “I Hate Your Guts” (one of the film’s many alternate titles) poster for Christmas. This flick has earned a well deserved reputation for being one of the coolest exploitation flicks of all time, but it’s also a damn fine drama with great performances, and it’s too bad that the film’s star William Sanderson has disowned the flick and refuses to talk about it. I think Sanderson is brilliant, and he certainly has nothing to be ashamed of, except for possibly the bizarre poster art where he inexplicably appears shirtless and handcuffed.

The one and only Maniac himself Bill Lustig and Blue Underground released a beautiful dvd of FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE which is completely uncut and features a hilarious commentary track with writer Straw Weisman, director of photography Lloyd Freidus, and none other than Bill Lustig. This is one of my favorite commentary tracks, I highly recommend listening to this one. The extras also include a pair of theatrical trailers, one designed for white audiences and a “jivey” trailer created just for those wacky Blacks, TV spots, and an extensive poster and still gallery. This is is essential exploitation and a mandatory purchase. Take it until you can’t take any more!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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