Fight For Your Life | Varied Celluloid

Fight For Your Life

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Jessie Lee Cane, Chino and Ling are three homocidal lunatics recently escaped from prison after a car nearly ran their transportation-truck off the road. After escaping they go on a binge of crime. Killing and robbing anyone who unfortunately crosses their path. After a liquor store robbery up the road, Cain takes a hostage. A young black girl who walked in at the wrong time, Cain forces her to take he and his men back to her home to meet the family. Here, he and his crew torture, humiliate and force this family to suffer until they simply can’t take it any more. Will they fight for their lives, or simply accept the fate that these men have planned for them?



The Review: I have been meaning to sit down and watch Fight For Your Life for over a year now, but it seems that every time I do I somehow become so distracted that I simply move onto something else. Many likeminded films fans have constantly recommended it to me but I just never found time until just recently. Essentially the word around the campfire is that Fight For Your Life is one of the most offensive and utterly disturbing flicks made in all of the seventies – and if you know cinema from that decade; that’s a pretty bold statement. How disturbing the film is will likely depend on the viewer, but there’s no getting past just how hard the film is to sit through. Personally I took a few breaks the first time watching it through, not neccesarily because of how “disturbing” the film was, although I won’t say that the breaks didn’t help me. The blatant racism in the film is a bit tough to sit through, whenever Cain and his crew are simply berating the family throughout the course of the film – things get rough.The film works so well due mainly to the fact that you never hear people being spoken to in such harsh ways, especially children and the elderly. This makes for an incredibly uncomfortable situation, but a gutsy move on behalf of the filmmakers that creates a tension that we often can’t understand but completely fear. Fight For Your Life is absolutely an exploitation film however, and although I do believe it had higher goals than being just that, it definitely provides all the grit and sleaze you might expect from a flick like this. Children have their heads bashed in, there’s graphic rape and nudity and of course there’s the “N Word” dropped about a million times along with every other derogatory racial slur you can think of. Including honkey!

Is it a fun movie? I don’t know, it most ways you would have to say no since it covers such disturbing material and the home invasion sequences are so harrowing – but within the movie there’s also the heart of your average exploitation flick; with plenty of oddball dialogue and over the top performances. William Sanderson who played Jessie Lee Cain is particularly exciting from his over the top portrayal of the sick, degenerate, racist convict. His is actually one of the best performances of the film and is what kept me hooked throughout the course of the movie. His thick country twang along with all of the insane things he says makes for one heck of a loose cannon on-screen. The entire production kind of rests on his shoulders, because if his character wasn’t equal to something like David Hess in Last House on the Left or better; who would want to continue with watching all of this unnecesary hatred? At time vulnerable, most of the time a raving lunatic – William Sanderson put in a fantastic performance and really made the film. The rest of the performers were all excellent as well, like Robert Judd who played the father Ted Turner and made an excellent transition in the latter part of the film. His character and his arch seemed a lot more believable than even that of Cain; but you simply have to see the film to better understand where I am coming from. The actual violence of the film tends to be pretty brutal, there’s a stabbing, a coulpe of shootings and the darkest moment when a child is killed onscreen. There’s not much as far as gore goes, since the blood is mostly of the 70’s variety – meaning everything is as red as paint and not much is shown – but what is shown might surprise you. Still, I really think this film should be viewed more as a time capsule for a time and era and race relations in the US. The film showed me that even this close to the civil rights movement, this kind of dialogue would still have been considered offensive and entolerable material – and that both sides of the situation still held a lot of their own bigotry to a degree. The introduction to the family center with the mother showing anger at her daughter for inviting a white girl over to their house is an incredibly interesting point that I can’t quite seem to fit into the moral of the story – but it just shows another flipside to the whole situation.

Although far from being an enlightened and mature discussion on race relations; Fight For Your Life is a fantastic exploitation flick that tries its best to at least provide an interesting look at the subject. It also features many character arches that are completely fulfilled and turns out to actually be a good script; even if loaded with violence, racism and sexism. It’s a hard flick to recommend since audiences out there are instinctively going to be turned off by the subject matter – but you can color me impressed because I expected far less from the film and it delivered. Check it out if you can stomach it!





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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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