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Panther Night

10th Feb 10

Here we find ourselves back once again at Zombie Club, a home for weird and wonderful movies everywhere and tonight we attempt Day of the Panther and Strike of the Panther, two mid-80s Australian kung-fu movies directed by friend-of-the-site Brian Trenchard-Smith. Yes, he of The Man From Hong Kong fame.

When I got hold of these films, I got quite excited about bringing them to Zombie Club, so emailed Brian my intention. He replied back thus...

Expect nothing from the Panther pics. They are pretty bad. I took over after the writer/director was fired on day 4, and started shooting a day later. 16 mm, zero budget, star was not an actor, had to revoice him and the girl, etc. I think your group will be disappointed.

But then again, I don't think Brian appreciates the depths we've been to in the past. So sod it, let's crack on with some cheesy kung-fu Australian style.

These films are bought to you by Jim in Association with action heroes who get their voices dubbed everywhere.

Day of the Panther Strike of the Panther 


Day of the Panther (1988)

Plot
A martial-arts expert goes after a criminal gang and its boss, who were responsible for the death of his partner.

Jim
The film opens with our rubbery faced hero Jason Blade ("He's got really high jeans!" - Zomblee) joining this ninja clan with his cop partner Linda, who happens to be his teacher's daughter. Then before you know it she's off on assignment fighting loads of guys in a warehouse wearing various animal masks (such as a pig for example) before she comes up against this brute called Baxter (Ozzie kung-fu hardman Jim Richards) who brutally kills her. Soon Jason's on his way to avenge her death, first infiltrating the organisation Baxter works for by turning up at the boss's boat yard and beating everyone up. One thing leads to another, eventually his cover's blown, Blade and Baxter have a fight finally and the film ends a bit inconclusively.

So that's the plot, but what about the action? Well, I had watched this a while ago and I admit must have watched it through late night drunken we-love-Trenchard-Smith glasses as this time around it doesn't hold up as well as I thought it was. A few scenes - the fight that ends in Linda's death and the boatyard mainly - stand out as pretty good punch ups, but for a film like this there just aren't enough fights. Sure, there's a good chase sequence over an apartment block roof at one point, and fanatic The Man From Hong Kong fans might just spot Wilton's mansion from that movie getting reused, but that's about it.

Similarly it's not bad enough to really have that much good-bad fun with, like you can with bad kung-fu classics like Undefeatable, so it all comes across as just below average. That's it actually, it appears BTS dragged a really bad film up in to the realms of below average, which I guess is what he was paid to do. And considering the last minute conditions he described, he did okay.

"Blade!!!"

Zomblee
Stonewash denim and Australian kung fu. What could possibly go wrong? Evidently, quite a lot, which is a real shame because we've got a real soft spot for Brian Trenchard-Smith, who, lets face it, made a film so utterly amazing in every way with The Man from Hong Kong, that you're pretty much inclined to forgive his other less satisfying contributions to the weird and wonderful world of Ozploitation.

The fact that Day of the Panther is from 1988 doesn't do it any favours, but at least people like us can get kicks from the sheer depths of fashion sense, as well as the lack of insight into adhering to the Chuck Norris school of macho, manly stances ("It's the one leg on stool talk" - Rawshark).

In terms of comedy value, this one is probably worth a look, in fact it's almost a redeeming factor. I seem to recall some crazy masked guys, and more prominently someone called Gemma who just keeps dancing everywhere. My notes say, "ultra-bizarre dance sequence in gym", so there must have been, you know, an ultra-bizarre dance sequence in a gym at some point. The a few scenes later and she's randomly dancing again...bizarre. Anyway, as you may have noticed, I haven't even touched on the plot, because life is too short. This experience can pretty much be summed up with this. Crap film, good kung fu.

Rawshark
There’s no denying our love of Brian Trenchard-Smith here at Zombie Club as he’s brought us so many guilty pleasures over the last few years, not least in the form of such films as The Man From Hong Kong and Turkey Shoot. He has also, however, plonked a couple of turkeys on our Zombie Club DVD player, such as the wasted opportunity that was Stunt Rock, so it’s a shame that whilst Day of the Panther does have one or two moments, as a whole the film resides towards the back of Trenchard-Smith’s cupboard of cinematic creations.

The premise promised so much. A Kung Fu action-thriller from the 80s set in Australia (indeed the film was billed as ‘The Best Martial Arts Epic made in Perth, Western Australia’), featuring a hero named Jason Blade on a revenge mission to find the killers of his undercover partner – oh yes, this movie seemed destined to be at the very least Zombie Club Silver. However, the basic Kung-Fu action on show (let’s just say that aside from the lead, the Martial Artists employed for the film probably wouldn’t trouble a regional competition, let alone the mighty heights of a legend like Bruce Lee), not to mention Trenchard-Smith’s overuse of slow-motion, soon derails the film’s pace, leaving us to ponder the ridiculous 80s fashion and haircuts rather than any stunning fight sequence.

A large part of the blame must lie with Edward John Stazak who plays Jason Blade, a hero who looks a little bit like snooker player Stephen Hendry and is mostly devoid of charisma. Whilst his Kung-Fu skills really aren’t that bad, it’s just a shame Trenchard-Smith seems to settle for far too many shots of Blade just walking around rather kicking ass. Stazak ended up playing a few Western baddies in Hong Kong movies where his acting (non)abilities were destined to be less obvious. Not great then, but there are one or two good moments should you care to look for them, namely the pig face man with a machete, an ok fight scene in a boat show room and a bumbling cop scene, described by Jim as ”a comedy cop gym scene”, towards the end.

”How does it feel to be in the pits?”

Day of the Panther

Director
Brian Trenchard-Smith

Cast
Edward John Stazak
John Stanton
Jim Richards
Michael Carman
Zale Daniel

Rating
Jim
Zomblee
Rawshark

Runtime
84 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Strike of the Panther (1988)

Plot
When Jason Blade's love is kidnapped by his arch-enemy the race is on to get into the power station where she is being held and battle an army of ninjas.

Rawshark
Filmed back-to-back with Day…, Strike of the Panther edges it’s predecessor in terms of entertainment with a looser, more humorous approach which suggest the crew behind the film had given up on any serious filmmaking intentions they may have had when working on the first film. Ok, so it’s not exactly on the same level as Mad Max / Mad Max 2 in terms of quality, but if you’re going to watch one Jason Blade movie, then this is the one. Indeed, a large portion of the film’s opening scenes are flashbacks to the first movie, leading Zombie Club guest Mario to announce that ”we could have just watched this one and saved ourselves 90 minutes!”. Quite.

After a few happy weeks of living contentedly with his girlfriend Gemma, Jason Blade’s happy retirement days are interrupted when criminal martial arts master Jim Baxter escapes from prison and kidnaps Blade’s girlfriend. This leads Jason to call upon the graduates of the Panther School of Martial Arts to form a task force to both recapture Baxter and get his girlfriend back.

Sure, it’s not the greatest or most original set up in the world, but there is a lot more fun and bizarreness injected into this film that the first one seemed to lack. The standout sequence is the first fight sequence, which takes place in a brothel, featuring a truly jaw-dropping moment as Jason kicks down doors, at one point encountering a naked woman in bed with a man in a chicken suit! Even the terrible dance sequence and the workout montage with no music (”It’s all quite boring when there’s no music” - Zomblee) are fun and deserving of much piss-taking.

The final sequence is the best though, as Jason, along with a small SWAT team (”Rubbish SWAT Team” commented Jim, only for Zomblee to retort ”Maybe they’re the WAT team”) have a big old scrap in a factory with a small army of ninjas wearing hockey masks. Look, I’m not saying it’s the best film ever made by Brian Trenchard-Smith, but it is more enjoyable than Day of the Panther, so for that it’s getting at least one thumb up from me.

”You’re sick!”

Zomblee
How long does this recap of Day of the Panther go on for anyway? Is this an experiment? With us as the victims? Has the film actually started yet? "No", says Rawshark, "...and we're already ten minutes in". Unbelievable. And unless I'm mistaken, this prequel is padded out with additional footage from the first movie throughout - how cheap is that? But should we care? We don't turn up to Zombie Club to watch Avatar - we come to watch really cheap movies that ideally have a healthy mix of boobs, blood and kung fu.

My memory is patchy on this one, I'll be honest. I do know that it features a madcap fight in a brothel that may or may not involve rubber sex dolls and chickens...or is it a man in a chicken suit, like Rawshark mentioned? Can it be? Another vague recollection is that the 'strikes' of the panther all sound exactly the same, which I guess is pretty commonplace in kung fu movies, so we can't really hold that against Mr Trenchard Smith.

Is this any better or worse than Day of the Panther? I'm not really in a position to say, but given the fact that so much footage is re-used, this is a pretty shameless celluloid venture that won't change your life in any way. Not that it promises to. Go watch Enter the Dragon again, even if you have seen it 30 times already.

"It's the dough, Roper, or we gotta break somethin'!"

Jim
Yep, Jason Blade is back, he gets it on with Gemma, they live happily ever after for a few days. Baxter escpaes from prison, kidnaps her and holds up in a massive abandoned warehouse power plant type of place where a load of hocket masked ninjas happen to live. Jason cleverly attacks through the front door and kicks everyone's ass in strict order competency with Baxter being last, while Gemma spends most of the film tied up, which is nice.

Okay, so I get the picture that we're not giving up much love for Jason Blade, that's fine. The first wasn't as good as I'd remembered it - fine - but to be far the second has a bit more of what we're looking for from a kung-fu movie. I love the cheesy idea that Baxter's got Blade's bird in a big factory filled with hockey mask ninjas, because as soon as that concept is introduced you just know it's going to be pading until Blade piles in and fights his way through them to Baxter. That's exactly what happens, but you know that in real life they only had about 4 ninjas (that's the total I counted onscreen at any time) who each must have died a dozen times at least. But is that particularly bad? I don't think so, in fact I think it's pretty good.

Take that, add a brilliant iron-pumping interpretive dance sequence and a brothel fight, and you've got the whole film. Edward John Stazak, who played Blade, never really had a starring role again and it's obvious why, but at least he can use a nunchuka, even if it's only with one hand. Read from that what you will.

"Oooh Sir, hit me! Hit me!!"

Strike of the Panther

Director
Brian Trenchard-Smith

Cast
Edward John Stazak
John Stanton
Rowena Wallace
Jim Richards
Paris Jefferson
Zale Daniel

Rating
Rawshark
Zomblee
Jim

Runtime
84 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Conclusion
Alright, so maybe we should have taken BTS's advice and skipped the Panther movies, but sometimes you just have to watch this kind of stuff for nostalgic reasons. It's screams 80s fashions and screams direct-to-video, and is a throw back to the days when you could put a low-grade fight movie together for a few bucks and sell it, with a decent VHS cover, all over the place.

On imdb, our man Trenchard-Smith actually talks a bit about the shooting of these films, giving some incite into the joys of low budget film making...

These were extremely low budget movies shot back to back for 500K each. giving drama production experience to a Perth crew, who worked very hard, and did the best they could with the resources they had. After 4 days of shooting, I was asked to fly in and replace the director. Shooting resumed on the sixth day and contued till both pictures were shot. I inherited 2 scripts and a series of casting and location choices fraught with problems...

Read the rest of that report here.

Anywho, tune in next time for more bonkers film watching shenanigans from the man who bought us Supersonic Man.


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