Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Enforcer From Death Row

“Have fun and stay sober,” says the boss man to his agent tasked with saving the world from deadly terrorists. There’s no mistaking the author of dialogue that loony. It’s Leo Fong in one of the earliest Fongsploitation classics, and THE ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW finds Leo at his Fongiest.

And right from the opening titles (they play over stock shots of San Francisco, even though the movie is set in Manila) too, which not only includes a funky blaxsploitation theme song for Leo (“He was a helluva birdman/And he’s the leader of the birds”), but also an awkwardly spliced title card in a totally different font crediting “special guest star” Cameron Mitchell, who may or may not appear in the film, depending on which version you’ll lucky enough to experience.

Yes, not see, but experience. One can not merely watch Fongsploitation. One must live it. This Fongian journey finds Fong in the role of T.L. Young, on death row for a murder he didn’t commit.

The World Organization of Peace (the WOP moniker displays prominently in the boardroom) fakes Young's death in the gas chamber and rushes him to Arizona (represented by a hilariously unofficial-looking office set) to lay out his mission. Namely, to prevent an organization calling itself Nomad from killing everyone in the Philippines with a bacteria (“stolen from Baltimore, Maryland”) unless WOP pays it $45 million. Paying T.L. (“How much money, and who do I kill?”) $100,000 to stop the plot is a real bargain.

The movie so fantastic it needed two men to direct it, ENFORCER FROM DEATH ROW came out the same year as director Efren C. Pinon’s hilarious blind-bank-robber flick BLIND RAGE (which features a pointless cameo by Fred Williamson as his Jesse Crowder character). It seems likely that credited co-director Marshall M. Borden came aboard only to shoot Cameron Mitchell’s late-in-the-game cameo.

Judging from Pinon’s other films, blame him for the obvious continuity errors (watch Fong’s mustache come and go), repeating scenes, and cartoonish “Danger Acid” set dressing. Let’s give the rest of the responsibility to the Kentucky-accented Fong for being as incompetent reciting a screenplay as he is writing one.

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