According to William Lustig, CEO of cult-movie distributor Blue Underground, the original negative for the racially charged exploitation flick Fight for Your Life fell victim to Hurricane Sandy while being stored in New Jersey, Seeing as how the movie depicts a vile racist terrorizing a black pastor, it’s tempting to wonder if the destruction of the print wasn’t so much an accident as a deliberate act of God. After all, Fight for Your Life contains so much cruel ignorance and senseless violence that one can imagine a vengeful deity smiting the negative. In any event, the picture survives in digital form, so anyone who wants to spend 80-siomething minutes watching a demented redneck and his accomplices gang-rape the pastor’s daughter, kill various innocent bystanders, and psychologically torture the clergyman can do so at their leisure. Fight for Your Life is relatively well made for a film of its type, and the movie benefits from vigorous performances. The picture is also of mild interest for genre-cinema fans because it contains one of William Sanderson’s few starring roles. Known for his work in movies (Blade Runner), dramatic television (Deadwood), and sitcoms (Newhart), he’s among the industry’s most versatile players, so he’s long since made artistic amends for appearing in this, his first big-screen project. Plus, truth be told, he’s pretty good in Fight for Your Life, in the sense that he’s utterly repugnant in every scene. Rarely will you be more eager for a character to die.
The flick begins with Jessie Lee Kane (Sanderson) and two accomplices escaping from a prison-transport vehicle. Hewing to the familiar Desperate Hours formula, the filmmakers place an unlikely refuge in Jessie Lee’s path, because he stumbles across the home of African-American minister Ted Turner (Robert Judd). Jessie Lee and his thugs kill people who approach the house and torment those inside, beating the minister and committing the aforementioned sexual assault. The Turners grow more defiant as the hours drag on, so at one point Ted’s wheelchair-bound grandmother unloads on the gun-toting Jessie Lee: “I’ll tell you something, Mr. Poor White Trash—you ain’t nothing but what you got in your hand! Your pappy shoulda thought of that before he stuck it in your mammy!” Given the predictable plot, it’s only a matter of time before the Turners get the better of their attackers. Meanwhile, police officers chasing the fugitives piece clues together—will they arrive in time to rescue the Turners, or to prevent the Turners from exacting revenge? In lieu of imaginative plotting, Fight for Your Life has a passable degree of suspense and a nauseating amount of hatred. Not only does Jessie Lee constantly spew the n-word, but he bombards his hostages with every other emotional, physical, and verbal humiliation he can imagine.
Fight for Your Life: FUNKY