Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bamboo Gods and Iron Men (1974)

One of several mid-’70s flicks meshing the blaxploitation and martial-arts genres, Bamboo Gods and Iron Men is either mediocre and substandard, depending on your tolerance level. The film has a simplistic storyline that only occasionally lapses into incoherence, so it’s not an outright train wreck, and the sleaze factor isn’t too extreme, so the movie doesn’t represent an assault on good taste. But, man, is Bamboo Gods and Iron Men dull, particularly since it’s purported to be a comedy/action hybrid—the comedy isn’t mostly absent, and the action is underwhelming. Impressively built James Iglehart stars as Cal Jefferson, an American prizefighter honeymooning in the Philippines with his new bride (Shirley Washington). The Jeffersons stumble into two fraught situations. First, Cal saves a local man (played by Filipino comedy star Chiquito) from drowning, thus triggering the man’s unwanted servitude, in accordance with local custom. Second, Cal buys an artifact as a gift for his missus, unaware that gangsters want the item. Chases and fights ensue. The bull-in-a-china-shop possibilities of a towering black boxer brawling his way through the Philippines are largely underused, since the direction and script are unimaginative, so the only novel scene involves Chiquito’s character sparring with his “master”; after Cal tries to teach some sweet-science techniques, the tiny Asian whips off his gloves to display martial-arts acumen. Iglehart’s acting is neither embarrassing nor memorable, and Washington is merely attractive, but Bamboo Gods and Iron Men is filled with anonymous supporting actors of dubious credentials. Playing the main villain, for instance, is a bland white dude named Ken Metcalfe, who also co-wrote the movie; his stilted acting wouldn’t pass muster in a high-school theater production. About the kindest thing one can say about Bamboo Gods and Iron Man is that it might satisfy some undiscriminating viewers with its abundance of brawls, funky music, and lurid nude scenes.

Bamboo Gods and Iron Men: LAME

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