The Movie Waffler DVD Review - <i>FURIOUS</i> (1984) | The Movie Waffler

DVD Review - FURIOUS (1984)

The martial arts cult classic finally arrives on DVD.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Tim Everitt, Tom Sartori

Starring: Simon Rhee, Arlene Montano, Phillip Rhee, Howard Jackson

"Films are defined by action, and, by this classification alone, Furious is an exemplar of the medium; the film just doesn’t rest. Furious is a movie that moves."

Forget the years and decades spanning 1927-1963; if you are a real aficionado of cult movies, then you'll know that the 1980s were film’s true Golden Age. An era in which special effects became more accomplished and cheaper to realise, encouraging genre movies to flourish, while the new technology of video allowed for an unprecedented diversity of product; never in the history of film were there more films available to satisfy the curiosity of the more discerning fanatic; fanatics of genre, of exploitation, of the downright weird. Thus, while the early '80s box office gave us visceral cult fare such as The Terminator and Nightmare on Elm Street, likewise video shelves played their part in the cult renaissance, giving many exploitation titles distribution or a second chance (Blade Runner and The Thing prospered more memorably on VHS than they did in the cinema). Films like The Evil Dead, The Exterminator, and (my beloved) Night of the Comet were accessible for rental in petrol stations and corner shops, alongside the now culturally respected oeuvre of John Waters and the Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey stuff. Demand proved so high that distribution was offered to the cheapest and nastiest of flicks too - the Spanish Cannibal Terror, anyone? What a time to be alive, what a time to be a film fan! (I would imagine, at least)
It was an era in which films like 1984’s Furious (soon to be re-released by Leomark) could be made: a confection of kung-fu, science fiction and pop conspiracy so insane that it almost defies definition, a movie that presses so many of my particular cult triggers and which coordinates a narrative so enjoyably mad and seething with surprises that it is very difficult to write about with a degree of objectivity, or without ruining its many plot bombshells. The story concerns Simon (icon Simon Rhee in an early appearance, along with brother Phillip as his Master), a talented instructor at a prime dojo for kids (amazing). Following the death of Simon’s sister at the hands of evil ninjas [SPOILER - actually inter-terrestrial wizards - again amazing], Simon resolves to revenge her death, and uncovers a conspiracy involving fast food and the takeover of life as we know it; as a statue of Buddha whispers in the wind to Simon, ‘The fate of the world rests in your hands’…
Films are defined by action (they are ‘motion pictures’, after all), and, by this classification alone, Furious is an exemplar of the medium; the film just doesn’t rest, from the opening swooping shots of Kim Lee (Arlene Montano) being chased across wind swept plains, to Simon’s indefatigable mission, Furious is a movie that moves; with henchmen regularly flopping off buildings and bridges, nunchuks and sais spinning like Catherine wheels, and buoyant sequences of beautiful, ballet like marital arts (a discipline so cinematic in its expressive physicality). Like in a musical where the entire cast burst into song at the drop of a hat, Furious is the sort of film where everyone knows kung-fu, and they ain’t afraid to use it. A stand out scene involves a skirmish that begins outside a Cantonese restaurant between Simon’s pals and the staff of the eatery, with chefs throwing knives and chickens flapping into the frame, and waiter after waiter piling into the scrap. This leads to another stand out scene, also at the world’s most amazing Cantonese restaurant, wherein a bare chested hunk performs a nunchuk display for the edification of a lovely old lady, whilst poor Simon sits down for a meal, but is instead served the heads of his friends on a platter; a fight ensues, involving -yes!- food, and more and more of the restaurant’s workforce testing Simon’s mad skills. Although, while the mien of Furious is certainly unique, nothing ever feels random or flip, on the contrary, unusually for this sort of flick, the narrative is plotted with care and consistency, with the world building feeling real and true to itself, and each seemingly disparate element being eventually tied together (you wait until the delightfully bizarre reason for all the chickens flustering about is revealed…)
No film made in the '80s with limited production resources and an amateur crew is ever going to be described as polished, but, even within its remit as a low budget obscurity, Furious is not without flaws; the score, reminiscent of a silent movie’s backing (fittingly for a genre predisposed to exaggerated movement), is slightly annoying at times, and, because it’s a kung-fu flick, there are lots of scenes of Simon softly high kicking or spear finger striking the air, which the casual viewer may find indulgent. However, this is a kung-fu flick, and is probably not for the uninitiated: for the cult aficionado, Furious is fantastic.