Bamboo Gods and Iron Men (1974)
Looking every inch the boxer he’s portraying on camera, James Iglehart, finds himself in a race to find a centuries old secret against a madman looking to yield enough power to conquer the world in this made in the Philippines blaxploitation effort.
And made in the Philippines can only mean one thing to genre fans. Yes, that’s the appearance of Vic Diaz though this time out it’s a minor role meaning he won’t be up to his usual nefarious deeds against our hero and the ladies in our story.
With a funky “Shaft” like instrumental over the opening credits we’re treated to a foggy night setting where grave diggers unearth an ancient coffin. Inside the frail coffin are skeletal remains and a leather pouch which proves to be the prize. The man leading the dig kills his workers and makes off with the object that is to become the focal point of this genre special from the prolific Cirio H. Santiago (Vampire Hookers) acting as producer while Cesar Gallardo takes on the directorial duties.
The man behind the dig pulling the strings is the bald pated Ken Metcalfe. He’s a low budget Bond villain looking to yield the power contained in the ancient pouch. According to an ancient 10th Century text the possessor of the pouch’s contents will indeed have the power to control the globe.
Which brings us to our honeymooning couple, Iglehart and Shirley Washington. The couple are sightseeing and shopping. This includes buying a large coffee table sized buddha that unbeknownst to them will become a carrying case for Metcalfe’s prize. It’s during their sightseeing that Iglehart will save a drowning man played by Chiquito. Not being familiar with the actor I can only refer to him as a Philippines version of Jackie Chan.
Chiquito is playing his role as a mute but now that Iglehart has saved him from death, he’s sworn to give his life to the boxing champ. For the balance of the film he’ll never be far from his benefactor’s side. Even when Iglehart and his new bride Washington don’t want him around. Yes he’s been enlisted for some comedy relief throughout the picture.
By the way, in case you were wondering, Vic Diaz is playing the concierge at the hotel the newlyweds are briefly staying at.
Also appearing is an actor I am familiar with due to some Filipino horror titles, Eddie Garcia. Here he’s playing a cold assassin in the employ of Metcalfe eliminating any and all loose strings with deadly hands and guns when needed. Garcia has an amazing 662 acting gigs to his name over at the IMDB surely making him one of the busiest actors in film history.
Iglehart, his wife and his Man Friday are going to find themselves burglarized, mugged and questioned by police as to just why they seem to be targeted. Iglehart is at a loss for words as to the reasons which isn’t very satisfying to an inept, rather tubby detective assigned to the case played by Subas Herrero.
When Metcalfe’s minions successfully steal the buddha he’ll not find the pouch within which prompts escalating the pressure on Igelhart who he now believes has possession of the magical pouch in an attempt to claim the power within as his own. This leads to a meeting between Garcia, Iglehart and Chiquito that begins innocently enough. Garcia befriends the pair while jogging and invites them to a get a massage following the workout in what amounts to a “massage parlor.” I’ll let you decide for yourself what the quotations are meant for.
It’s a bit comical with Chiquito not wanting to give himself over to an attractive lady in his curtained stall but will end with Garcia’s real motives coming to the forefront. It’s boxing versus Kung Fu when Garcia and Iglehart square off. This serves as a sparring match as opposed to the main event that will come in the final reel. Looks like the only way that Metcalfe is going to have Iglehart hand over the prize is to take his new bride as a hostage.
And off we go to at times a comically action packed showdown with all our leading players converging at the ready. And the pouch’s secret contents? I can only say I loved the outcome.
Low budget? I suppose but I did find this minor Blaxploitation/Kung Fu entry with the cool title to be an entertaining 96 minutes.
Having no knowledge of James Iglehart’s story off screen, I was left to ponder why his film career didn’t fare better than a handful of action titles made in the Philippines. He seemed to have a likable laid back approach on screen with a 1970’s George Foreman look about him. I do have one other title on the shelf here in the vault at Mike’s Take I’ll have to give a try. 1978’s Death Force which proved to be his final film out of just seven movie credits.
If one is familiar with the low budget genre films that came out of the Philippines during the country’s heyday of movie making then one should know to not only expect Vic Diaz’s smiling mug but topless women, guerilla like filmmaking and plenty of action or horror. In this case it’s action though that opening scene is a well lit chiller I suppose.
Appealing to my love of both the low budget action flick and the Blaxploitation theme I can’t help but recommend it to like minded fans of 70’s cinema. All I can ask myself is just why it sat on my shelf for nearly five plus years before I finally checked it out. Yes I know. Five years! What can I say, I buy more movies then I watch and titles get shifted to the bottom of the pile or buried on the shelves that I can’t reach with out a stool.
So if you’re looking for a copy of this memorably titled effort it was released to DVD a number of years ago by Shout Factory in a four pack of action titles that make for a rollicking low budget film fest on a rainy night.