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  Savage! Bullets are his business
Year: 1973
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Stars: James Iglehart, Lada Edmund Jr, Carol Speed, Sally Jordan, Vic Diaz, Aura Aurea, Eddie Gutierrez, Ken Metcalfe, Donna Lee Miller, Rosanna Ortiz
Genre: Sex, Action, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: American military advisor Jim Haygood (James Iglehart) aids a CIA-backed South American dictatorship in apprehending Moncada, noble leader of a rebel army, whom he hopes will receive a fair trial. Whilst relaxing at a local nightclub, where Haygood meets visiting circus performers Amanda (Carol Speed) the acrobat and Vicky (Lada Edmund Jr.) the knife-thrower, he discovers Moncada was unjustly executed. Fuelled with righteous anger, Haygood attacks his employers, including CIA handler Melton (Ken Metcalfe) then goes on the run with Amanda while Vicky is imprisoned. Caught by freedom fighters, Haygood and Amanda throw in their lot with rebel leader China (Aura Aurea). After springing Vicky from her jail cell, Haygood leads his band in a string of daring raids, earning the nickname of Savage!

Producer-distributor Roger Corman hedged his bets combining blaxploitation, women-in-prison clichés and jungle action in Savage!, one of many films he produced in the Philippines during the Seventies, directed by Corman wannabe Cirio H. Santiago. Despite its deliberately nebulous setting, there is a politically conscious thread running through Ed Medard’s sprightly screenplay that proves undeniably compelling. The film is fuelled by the politics of its time, drawing parallels between the civil rights movement in the United States with the struggle for democracy throughout Latin America that are provocative if somewhat simplistic.

As the man who inflicted Vampire Hookers (1979), Firecracker (1981) and T.N.T. Jackson (1974) upon a defenceless world, Santiago’s name was never one to set the pulses of exploitation fans racing. His typically slack direction squanders some of the more promisingly subversive elements of the script, but he orchestrates some impressive action sequences and Corman’s usual post-production tinkering keeps things lively and, above all else, fun. Santiago also had the good sense to include all the staple exploitation ingredients Corman insisted on at New World: violence, sex, self-aware humour and an unrelenting pace.

James Inglehart, a regular presence in Filipino-American exploitation efforts, notably Bamboo Gods & Iron Men (1974) but best known for his role as boxer Randy Black in Russ Meyer’s immortal Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), is a commanding, athletic presence as the titular action man, haunted by the screams of innocents raped and tortured while he stood idly by. He is supported by a stalwart cast of expoitation regulars including Carol Speed, star of Abby (1974), Black Samson (1974) and The Disco Godfather (1979) and celebrated go-go dancer-turned B-film star Lada Edmund Jr. She is great fun as vivacious circus gal who stoically endures electro-shock torture till her escape, whereupon her knife-throwing skills are put to good use. “I used to practice this on my little brother”, says Vicky whilst slinging another dagger at a captive fascist captain. “That’s probably why I’m an only child.”

Fans of Filipino exploitation cinema will recognise Rosanna Ortiz as a rebel agent posing as a government spokeswoman as well as Vic Diaz, the Filipino Sid Haig. On typically greasy form as the odious Minister of Defence, Diaz offers his hospitality (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) to female tourists and in a rather confusing scene, seemingly expires as result of a lethal blow-job. The surprisingly downbeat finale exterminates almost the entire cast save our hero though he sadly never returned for a sequel.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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