Thursday, April 01, 2021

Gratuitous Fury

Somewhere in the Philippines, where blonde mafiosos run a death match martial arts tournament, a pretty blonde black belt seeks her missing sister in 1981's Firecracker. Released through Roger Corman's New World Pictures, it's about as schlocky as it gets, but maybe with a higher level of competence than you might expect.

Jillian Kesner stars as Susanne, an undefeated karate champion from the U.S. who has surprising difficulty beating up random thugs on the streets of the Philippines. Two guys manage to tear off almost all her clothes before she finally finishes them off.

According to the trivia page on imdb: "The fight scene where Jillian Kesner's bra was sliced off was a legitimate accident while filming. Director Cirio Santiago decided to leave it in the movie while editing."

This so clearly not true it's pretty hilarious. Yeah, he accidentally had the camera zoomed right in on her chest when the sickle passed right over it. The information is even more suspicious when you consider that on the same trivia page is a paragraph describing how Roger Corman mandated this and another scene specifically to work more nudity into the film.

The other scene is a sex scene between Susanne and the mob's top cage fighter, Chuck (Darby Hinton), a man whose tidy 'stache already marked out "gratuitous sex scene" in his destiny.

But that's not all, oh, no. When Chuck gently places the distraught Susanne in his bed, he turns off the lights and turns on a special pink light he has for such occasions.

All while dreamy piano music sweeps over the soundtrack. This is maximum cheese.

Actually most of the score is pretty interesting, a genuinely exciting, funky electronic beat. Though I later learned it was recycled from New World's Shogun Assassin, a heavily modified version of two of the Kozure Okami movies.

The locations in Firecracker are pretty decent and apparently authentic and there's some real creativity in the action scenes. There's an ambush in a river where some mobsters get their cars stuck before being shot at from both river banks.

The thugs chase Susanne through a pretty interesting factory with many bladed farming and carpentry implements put to gratuitously bloody use. Some poor security guard gets it right through the sternum with a scythe.

Kesner's stunt double is pretty easy to identify because the long blonde hair is suddenly swapped out for a wig that looks like a glittery white pom pom. But that means it's clear to see when Kesner is doing her own fighting and that's actually for a good 95% of the time. She's not bad--she clearly did some real training. Even better are a number of the supporting characters, including a Bruce Lee wannabe in the climax.

Firecracker is available on Amazon Prime.

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