Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bloodfist Redux

A recent slide-show on Salon.com, entitled “The Best Remakes of All-Time,” chronicles movies that got better when their plots were re-imagined by later filmmakers. Like David Cronenberg’s chilling 1986 update of the old Vincent Price shocker, The Fly. Or the poignant Judy Garland musical version of A Star is Born. Or Howard Hawks’ transformation of that boys-will-be-boys newspaperman story, The Front Page, into a sparkling battle of the sexes, His Girl Friday.

I’m here to tell you: when it comes to remakes, Roger Corman has no shame. He views a remake as a cheap way to get extra value out of an existing script. Even his own best work as a director is fair game. In 1989, he gave upcoming director Larry Brand carte blanche to re-think The Masque of the Red Death, the Corman-directed Poe adaptation from 1964 that most critics consider his finest artistic achievement. And he was all set to green-light a television series based on his classic black comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, until the bureaucracy of TV production did him in.

I myself got involved with remakes, Corman-style, in late 1992. As the winter holidays approached, Roger realized there was no production booked into his Venice studio. Keeping the studio staff idling was anathema to someone of Roger’s frugal temperament. So he needed a quickie production to allow them to earn their keep. That’s when I was approached by veteran Corman production chief Mike Elliott, and told to grind out a fast adaptation of the 1989 Concorde martial arts hit, Bloodfist. The original script by Robert King (with heavy borrowings from Jean-Claude Van Damme’s KickBoxer) had featured Don “The Dragon” Wilson as an earnest young man who enters a Manila tournament in order to flush out his brother’s killer. My job was to transform the exotic overseas competition into the down-and-dirty L.A. under-the-freeway games, and to change the inscrutable Chinese mentor who turns out to be the villain of the piece into a mysterious African-American street bum. (Oops – did I just give away the twist ending?)

To metamorphose Bloodfist into Full Contact, I was allotted about a week. When it was shot (with kickboxer Jerry Trimble in the Don “The Dragon” role), I scored a cameo as a nurse who supplies some key plot information. Full Contact was released through Twentieth Century-Fox, and Roger was clearly pleased with the results, because four months later I was helping move the same story into outer space. This time we called it Dragon Fire. And soon there was a female version, Angel Fist. Briefly we also considered a sword-and-sorcery variation, but that seems a little much.

The kicker (so to speak) came in 2005, when I opened an American Film Market issue of the Hollywood Reporter and found a Concorde ad for Bloodfist 2050. Here’s the ad copy: “To avenge his brother’s death, Alex Danko must enter the erotic and deadly criminal underground of the near future, where he finds the fight of his life!” Yup, same movie. It’s heartening to know that some things never change.


  1. I do remember the MASQUE remake. Wasn't Adrian Paul in this? I do remember seeing ANGEL FIST years ago on tape. Corman having no shame on remakes is very much true. I'm still surprised his CARNOSAUR 2 saw release considering how incredibly similar it was to Cameron's ALIENS. The Corman produced picture was an exact copy in several places and was so plagiaristic, it brought to mind the cesspool of trashy Italian movies that mercilessly cloned vastly superior American movies in the 1980s. Good stuff as always, Beverly!

  2. Yes, Adrian Paul was in the remake, but I remember the film best for the world's saddest (and thematically appropriate) strip scene.

  3. That's one of the many reasons I all but worship Mr. Corman - I love when the same film turns up time and again. He not only does it with plots and scripts, he does it with big chunks of film footage too! Have you seen Raptor? It is about 40 minutes of new footage with Eric Roberts and Corbin Bernsen married to about 40 minutes of Carnosaur - they even brought Harrison Page back as Sheriff Roberts' deputy so they could use his entire death scene again! Brilliant!

    I did not see Full Contact - but I thoroughly enjoyed the other two versions - and now I think I'll track Full Contact down to complete the set!

  4. Actually I'm not sure I myself ever saw Full Contact in its finished form, and I'd certainly be curious. Let me know, Craig, if you track it down.