The original exploitation shocker that was banned in many countries all around the world has been revived all thanks to William Lustig and the legends at Blue Underground. “Fight for Your Life” follows along similar lines of “Last House on the Left” only ten times better in this reviewer’s opinion and is deserving of more notoriety.
The story concerns three escaped convicts of different race led by a psychopathic hick Jesse Lee Kane (William Sanderson). With the law hot on their tail, the convicts take refuge in the home inhabited by a middle-class Black family, holding them all hostage. During this harrowing ordeal, the extremely racist Kane forces members of the family into humiliation such as making Ted Turner (Robert Judd) act like a slave along with forcing him to sing and dance a jig. The mortification continues only as time goes on the nature of the convicts’ crimes against humanity grows more and more vicious, entering the realm of rape and even murder.
“Fight for Your Life” is a great example of standard exploitation fare done very well. The screenplay by Straw Weisman is packed full of great dialogue which seemed a little ahead of its time. This film is stylishly repulsive which is where films like “Last House on the Left” and “I Spit on Your Grave” went terribly wrong. I think this could have the most malicious use of racial slurs I have ever seen, where every insult entails such a hostile degradation which will make this film notorious for ever and ever.
An amazing piece of fashionably trashy seventies cinema that is a true classic of the genre and under its proud exploitation banner, “Fight for Your Life” is unblemished and does not pull any punches. The dehumanisation of the African-American Turner family is brutal to say the least and it is that racial cruelty along with violence that makes this film so much more shocking and thought provoking than other films of its type.
One part of the film that shows total originality is when the three convicts escape and are driving away and one by one, they are all introduced by the police radio that is sounding off in Lt. Reilly’s (David Cargill) police car which gives profile information on all of our bad guys. Very well done and highly spirited for a scene in an exploitation flick.
I also uncovered that this film and “I Spit on Your Grave” both had the same makeup artist Joan Puma, which is plenty ironic in my book. This exploitation film is more than a cut above the rest as it follows the trends of more recent films that take a stock standard idea and tackle it like it has never been tackled before. One of the rare elements in this film is the depth within each of the characters. At different points in the film we see many of the characters get thrown into a spin, turning the tables on each other which is a great method for an entertaining exploitation yarn. “Fight for Your Life” works the stereotypical angle of race, good and evil and uses this method to put these characters through unthinkable situations. A talented cast and proficient direction take this film to bigger heights than could ever be expected. This is a movie that takes all of societies ills and plays them out in chronological order of severity in one moment in time and it stings.
The DVD contains an amazing commentary featuring writer Straw Weisman, director of photography Lloyd Freidus and legendary B-filmmaker and President of Blue Underground, William Lustig. To me, Blue Underground produces the best audio commentaries and this one doesn’t fail to satisfy a loving exploitation fan such as myself. Straw Weisman is a legend on the B-movie circuit and delivers a great commentary on the film which includes plenty of behind-the-scenes tid bits that more than wet the appetite of any connoisseur of grindhouse cinema. Also on the DVD are TV spots, theatrical trailers and a still gallery.
It is when I watch classic exploitation such as this that I begin to feel a little disenchanted this genre has all but faded, however I take comfort in the fact that seemingly lost films such as this one are slowly being revived on DVD. Plus you gotta love lines like “y’all just fakers in a whorehouse” and “some big Black boogie man stick it to you boy?” A must see and a must own!