Round 2, Bout 1
Team Bolo vs. The Women
ANGELFIST is kind of a rehash of FIRECRACKER, an earlier Cirio H. Santiago joint I tried to use for the Super-Kumite, but this one has an actual tournament in it, so I didn’t have to disqualify it. It’s also kind of the same plot as BLOODFIST, but with ladies. A competitive martial artist in Manila (Cat Sassoon) gets murdered. Her sister Kat in L.A. (also Cat Sassoon) gets the news, flies in and joins the Kubate International Women’s World Karate Championship tournament in order to get closer to everybody and figure out who did it. The guy who vouches for her, stickfight-spars with her and acts as her cornerman (Roland Dantes) is not as intimately involved in her training as Xian in BLOODFIST, but ends up having the same purpose in the story if you know what I mean, spoiler spoiler.
But there are plenty of changes and embellishments from BLOODFIST. The sister got killed because she’s also a journalist who happened to take incriminating photos of the assassination of an American general. The living one’s a cop instead of a washed-up ex-boxer, so she has a big shootout with an uzi at the beginning. The bad guys are only peripherally associated with the fighting tournament, they’re actually a militant group that has been assassinating American ambassadors and military officers to try to scare the West out of the Phillipines. The tournament itself is not at all underground, it seems legit and non-sketchy, other than the huge amount of gambling that goes on. When a meeting takes place at a cockfight with an audience almost identical to the one at the tournament I don’t get the feeling the filmatists are making a commentary on combat sports.
It’s also different because it’s ladies, so there’s alot of showering. There are multiple scenes where all the women fighters are lined up in the showers, and two of them are also in the background in a hot tub. In one of the scenes they can be seen splashing each other. You know how athletes are in the locker room. Also Kat has at least one home showering scene, leaning her head back and really enjoying it. I could be cynical and assume that Santiago wants to show the audiences a bunch of naked ladies but you know what, I think these are just characters that like to feel fresh and smell nice. Hygiene is important.
I was pretty confused because I’d seen this box on the shelf for years:
And I always assumed that blond lady on the right was Cat Sassoon. But actually I’m not even sure who that is. The one on the left looks like Melissa Moore (SAMURAI COP), who is shown at the fights at the beginning, and then showering without us ever seeing her fight. She disappears for alot of the movie but turns out to be an FBI agent posing as a fighter to go after these terrorists, so she does in fact get to fight a bunch at the end (see right).
I would’ve never guessed that Sassoon is the bad girl in the middle with the switchblade. She’s a permed, big-lipped lady with gravity-defying breasts. She was a model and daughter of Vidal Sassoon, and I suspect the “World Karate Association North American Champion” on the cover is a total lie (her movie credit is more specific, adding “Forms and Weapons” to her championship). Here is an article from before the movie came out claiming she’d studied martial arts for several years and was about to try to capture that title, but people on Wikipedia tried and failed to confirm it, so martial arts aren’t even mentioned in her bio there.
Anyway, I like how she fakes it, good scowls and exaggerated poses. And this being a Santiago movie of course she has a fight where she’s wet, just out of the shower, wearing only panties and she has to beat up a couple guys, jumping around on a bed and stuff. Or other times she just ties her shirt up to show off her bellybutton. This includes both tournament and non tournament combat:
Her local guide and eventual love interest is a doofus gambler nicknamed Alcatraz who sort of sexually harasses her and then lets her stay at his place and eventually endears himself to her by helping her investigate what happened to her sister. She says the only reason she’s willing to go to his place is that she knows she could kick his ass. He agrees. Either she secretly digs him or she just doesn’t give a fuck because she’s immediately comfortable in his place wearing only a towel. I mean, she can do what she wants, I’m not criticizing, I just find the choice kind of odd. Anyway, he behaves like a gentleman so she doesn’t get to kick his ass.
Alcatraz kind of fills two BLOODFIST roles, the friend Baby and the love interest Nancy. And in fact he’s played by Michael Shaner, same guy who played Baby. In this one he kinda looks like a young, handsome Robert Davi. Also, he apparently enjoys Tang:
One time I bought Tang at Safeway and the cashier made fun of me. She said she didn’t know they even made Tang anymore. Come on lady, the astronauts drink it. Alcatraz drinks it. It’s legit. You’re just not ready to handle a Tang Man.
The climax is the attempted assassination of an ambassador (Ken Metcalfe, the bad guy in FIRECRACKER who I said looked like the Chief from Steven Seagal: Lawman, and who also wrote the very similar FIRECRACKER and TNT JACKSON), which is planned to take place while he’s watching the final match of the tournament. The assassin will have access because he’s there as Kat’s cornerman (although it seems like it would be easier to just buy a ticket like a thousand other people there). So the outcome of the match really isn’t important, but they do set up her opponent as a grouchy asshole so that you’ll feel a little invested in it. She even has a skull and crossbones headband to show that she’s a little evil, or at least piratey.
The real finale is after she wins the tournament, the good guys fight the bad guys, stuff gets broken, etc. I like that the women get to fight men. It’s not one of these movies where they have a villainess for the sake of gender symmetry or whatever. They fight the men and they take their shots and they win anyway.
I would’ve been happy to watch other Cat Sassoon action vehicles, and in fact ANGELFIST was supposed to be the star of a 5 picture deal with Roger Corman, but for some reason her only role after that was in BLOODFIST VI (she’d also been in part IV as a different character). Unfortunately in 2002 she died of a drug-induced heart attack at the tragically young age of 33.
stunt coordinator: Ronald Asinas (BLOODFIST II)
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.