Trash filmmaker Don Edmonds has passed away. Although most film fans who fondly remember Edmonds will first consider his sleazy ILSA pictures, I'm more partial to BARE KNUCKLES, his 1977 crime drama with a memorable Vic Caesar funk score.
Robert Viharo plays Zachary Kane, a monosyllabic bounty hunter with a mustache who's chasing a wealthy psycho (Michael Heit) who likes to wear a leather hood while stabbing beautiful women. Of course, it's all because of Heit's incestuous relationship with his promiscuous mother.
That's really all there is to BARE KNUCKLES as far as plot is concerned, but director Edmonds throws in so many chases, stunts, stalkings, and bloody punchouts that you certainly won't be bored. And then there's the scrumptious Sherry Jackson.
Formerly a child actress who appeared in Danny Thomas's MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY series and contributed a memorable guest turn on STAR TREK as a sexy android in blue-and-brown suspenders and jumpsuit, Jackson is sexy in a nothing role as a woman who inexplicably falls in love with Viharo's boorish, macho character at first sight. Edmonds, who also wrote and produced BARE KNUCKLES, scripted some of the stupidest dialogue--almost every conversation consists of terse non sequiturs passed back and forth between two characters--and most clichéd characters you've ever seen, which actually adds to the appeal of this action-packed picture.
Caesar's silly faux-funky score will probably make you laugh out loud, and if you love to see cars smash into empty cardboard boxes, unrelated scenes taking place in the same obviously and ineptly redressed locations, boom-mike reflections, and kung-fu battles between actors who obviously don't know the first thing about martial-arts, BARE KNUCKLES is definitely for you.
Appealing to urban audiences are co-stars Gloria Hendry (BLACK BELT JONES), who appears to have retired from features after this, and John Daniels (BLACK SHAMPOO), whose small bit as a black action hero seems to have been added in order to get playdates in inner cities. Production designer J. Michael Riva and cinematographer Dean Cundey went on to major studio fare like APOLLO 13, JURASSIC PARK, LETHAL WEAPON and CONGO.
In addition to the grimy ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS and ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS, which aren't really my bag, Edmonds worked for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. 1974's TENDER LOVING CARE is sort of a sequel to THE STUDENT NURSES and PRIVATE DUTY NURSES. It even has the same plot. Three sexy nurses move in together and experience unusual romantic entanglements. An orderly (Buck Flower) catches Leah Simon stealing morphine for her junkie doctor boyfriend and blackmails her for sex. Marilyn Joi gets involved with a washed-up boxer (John Daniels again), who considers becoming a pimp. Donna Desmond has a thing for a cute blond doctor, but takes up instead with a cocky dune-buggy driver named Reno (future DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE HOGAN FAMILY star Josh Taylor, billed as “Tim Taylor”) who invites her to participate in a foursome.
Next to BARE KNUCKLES, TENDER LOVING CARE may be Edmonds' best directed film, as he demonstrates on a very tiny budget a fluid camera sense and a tight storytelling style that makes it one of the best of producer Corman’s “3 Girls” pictures.