I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Blackbelt II: Fatal Force

BLACKBELT II: FATAL FORCE is pretty different from part 1. It has the same producers (Roger Corman and Cirio H. Santiago), and continues the tradition of listing championship titles on the credits, but it doesn’t have the same characters or any story connection or seem like the same type of movie or same level of quality. Also, according to IMDb, it came out three years before part 1. Huh.

This one starts during the Vietnam War, with a very serious narrator telling us stats about the war and MIAs over generic jungle battle scenes. After a bunch of machine gun fire and explosions the American helicopters take off, leaving three soldiers behind.

Now in LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA some beat cops stumble across a night time warehouse arms deal and it turns into a big shootout. It took me almost 10 minutes into the movie to figure which one was gonna be the main character (because nobody seems like an obvious blackbelt) but it’s a cop with the enviable name Brad Spyder (“Blake Bahner – W.K.F. World Kickboxing Champion”) who chases one of the escaping criminals to the top of a building and has a long fight with him, but is horrified when he accidentally kicks him off the roof. He yells “NO!” and catches his hand, but then drops him. The guy’s dad is mad so he shoots Spyder’s partner Lee Stokes (Ronald William Lawrence.

The reviews are in. The news says “The no holds barred crimebuster has caused a diplomatic stir.” Chief Almon O’Donnell says, “You just caused one god damn international incident, hot shot, and you better have a good excuse.”

“I’m a cop, I bust crooks, and I don’t stop and ask for pedigrees. That punk was slime.”

This is one of those real cop movies that seems more like a parody of a cop movie than a real cop movie. The chief says “Listen Spyder. You’re a good cop. You’re a little weird, but you get results, and I like that.” And for some reason he talks with a cartoonish Irish accent. Later Spyder introduces himself as “Brad Spyder – your worst nightmare.”

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the Vietnam War is still going on, with explosions and helicopters and huts and grenades and people on fire. It turns out this is because CIA guy turned drug runner Sid Friedkin (Michael Vlastas) has been hired by the rich father of one of the MIAs to prepare a rescue mission. He explains that the dozens of people we just saw killed as part of the training exercise were “illegal entrants taking a chance on a phony visa,” so not to worry about them.

They already brought back one MIA, Jeff Stokes, brother of Spyder’s partner. But he’s really their prisoner and he’s a junkie so when he makes a run for it their lead badass goes to the local Honolulu drug dealers looking for him. And Jeff goes to Lee, who is recovering in Honolulu with a bullet in his leg. Jeff explains (with flashback) that he was actually a deserter and then just hung around Vietnam shooting up for all those years, until Friedkin’s people offered to bring him home if he pretended to be a rescued P.O.W.

But Stokes gets fatally HARD TO KILLed: a bunch of masked guys show up, machine gun him and plant drugs on him. So Spyder flies in to investigate/avenge/etc., checking out the crime scene while still carrying his luggage. He fights a bunch of guys in Hawaiian shirts at a pool table in a strip club, dangles a drug dealer off a building, teams up with the hot daughter of the rich guy, etc. Eventually he and the henchman guy put their guns down and have a knockdown dragout in some kind of abandoned silo or something.

Elsewhere, the rich guy’s daughter is shot and dies so the dad flies a helicopter and kamikazes it into Friedkin! What the fuck? We don’t ever see Spyder finding out that this happened.

That’s because that’s the kind of ending you don’t script, you come up with it in post-production. Coincidentally when I rented this I was reading this book The Untold In-Depth Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment by Nadia Bruce Rawlings, Stephen A. Roberts and Marco Siedelmann, and there’s an interview with Kevin Tent, an editor who is credited as co-director of BLACKBELT II. He explains that Corman was making so many movies so quickly that many of them came back unreleasable, and Tent was an editor with vast knowledge of their libraries who would be asked to try to salvage them. “So I would recut the movies and sometimes I would add space wars from other movies and then figure out how to work it into the story.”

He discovered that he had footage from many movies shot in the same locations with the same actors and he could mix them together. I’m not surprised to hear that, since many of the Honolulu locations and actors here seemed familiar from Santiago’s SILK. And this explains why there’s so much generic Vietnam War combat in the movie. The interview also mentions Tent “directing” another movie called SPYDER, and sure enough IMDb says that stars Blak Bahner as Brad Spyder. It has some of the other same characters (Sid Friedkin, Chief O’Donnel) so I bet it comes from the same footage. Leftovers.

I actually missed this while watching the movie, but while going through it again to get some screengrabs I noticed a shot of this woman walking to the police station. I thought hey, wait a minute, isn’t that…

And sure enough in the next scene, in the middle of Spyder talking with some of the Honolulu cops, there is a shot of some of the cops on the other side of the room, and there’s this woman at a desk watching Spyder and I could swear she doesn’t look like the usual cop that hangs around:


BECAUSE THAT’S MOTHERFUCKIN SILK! From the movie SILK. You can even see her nameplate that says Dt. Jennifer Sleighton. So yes, Brad Spyder is visiting the same Honolulu PD that she works for. He’s part of the Silkverse. The Claudine St. James canon. Or it’s like in Soderbergh’s FULL FRONTAL when they show The Limey for a second and these two movies have briefly crossed paths. I wish there was more Silk in this. It could use way more Silk.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 9:18 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Blackbelt II: Fatal Force”

  1. Wow! That’s awesome about Silk! I’ll have to check this out.

  2. Holy shit, that has blown my mind.

  3. Ridiculous Corman post-production stories are some of my favorite things in the world and I am frankly mortified that Vern got to this one before I did.

  4. Silly story: while writing GTD, I stumbled onto Blake Bahner’s film career. I watched it all, but I wasn’t sure about that Corman-infused “black belt champion” whatever quote he gave Bahner on the poster. I couldn’t find any hard evidence to support it, so I tracked Bahner down to ask him straight up if he was a champ or a martial artist at all. He owns a construction business. Called him, he picked up. He simply could not believe anybody cared. He wouldn’t admit to any champion title or martial arts abilities, but he humored me for a few minutes before getting back to work. He ended the conversation by telling me, “Man, you’ve got too much time on your hands.” Click.

  5. Incidentally, I stumbled onto the existence of a post-apocalyptic feature that Corman produced during this era (1988) called THE NEW GLADIATORS. Never been released. I found the director, who told me that the film was too short or too bad to be released, even by Corman’s standards. I was talking to Cornan’s people at New Horizons, and for a second there I thought they were going to transfer the film onto digital for me to watch and review, but they deemed the process too expensive. But they have it in their vaults. Just imagine all the reels of jumbled half-completed movies they’ve got just sitting there.

  6. ‘Just imagine all the reels of jumbled half-completed movies they’ve got just sitting there.’

    And Corman’s still at it. The director of Death Race 2050 apparently made a movie for him a few years earlier with the starting point of, ‘Here’s a bunch of stock footage, write a movie around it.’ Just like the old days (and the in-between days). What a guy.

  7. I have nothing to add except that I want to point out that David J. Moore is a certified American hero.

  8. You’re the best, david.

  9. David – thanks for reminding me that I still need to order your book. I had my eye on it for a while and I just read a review on Cityonfire that convinced me to pull the trigger. I think it was this sentence that sealed it for me:

    “After tackling the introduction, which I cannot stress enough, I still found myself repeatedly surprised to see which films made the cut, but understood the author’s criteria and reason for their inclusion. For example, Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery, a DTV children’s cartoon, is included because it features John Cena, an action star whose background comes from sports and wrestling.”

    Also, I saw a review on Amazon complaining about all the movies that aren’t in there and that made me want to read it even more.

  10. Also, while searching for “Good Tough and Deadly” I found out that this exists and am now dying to see it:

    Tough and Deadly (1995) Review

    Plot: In this actioner, a smart ass bounty hunter teams up with a G-man to take on a drug-smuggling ring. Review: If ever a movie could be described as a com

  11. Thanks, Hallsy. If you dig the book, please write a review on Amazon. That negative rant review (can’t stop them; some people are gonna hate, no matter what) just shows that some folks simply didn’t understand the purpose of the book. It’s about action STARS more than it is about action MOVIES. Some people get it. Some don’t.

  12. OK – I will. I have to get it shipped to Canada and pick it up next month so it will take a while. I wouldn’t sweat the one guy complaining on Amazon as the rest of the reviews are glowing. I know personally I would much rather read interviews with Scott Adkins and John Hyams than recaps of Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. I also admire your rigid adherence to rules.

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