Also Known As
The Dark Angel: Psycho Kickboxer
Directed by Mardy South
1997 – 84 Minutes/Fullscreen
CANVAS OF BLOOD
Just when you thought it was safe to watch double features again, Shock-O-Rama Cinema decides to release an unsatisfactory double bill guaranteed to ruin your viewing experience. Both films are crippled productions, being rife with fillers scenes and nonsensical stories that only someone tweaking on PCP might enjoy. So why bother even releasing these two clunkers? I don’t know. Maybe it’s their titles…
For example, PSYCHO KICKBOXER is certainly a cool title. The cover art makes it look as if it’s an over-the-top gore-fest masquerading as a martial arts vengeance flick. And you know what? It isn’t. Well, it kind of is, except the copious splattering of blood ends up being too uninspired in its presentation to be crazy fun. As for the martial arts, it’s not all that bad. Five time martial arts champion Curtis Bush stars as Alex Hunter (aka “The Dark Angel”), a man seeking retribution for the murder of his father and fiancée. I remember Bush from years back and I can tell you the guy can fight in real life. Unfortunately, the fight scenes in this film are mediocre. Not that Bush’s techniques are inadequate, because he definitely knows what he’s doing, but because Bush’s fight choreography appears amateurish and although the camera work adds some atmospheric moments here and there, it’s mostly inconsistent throughout the picture. Add to that a ridiculously contrived plot, cloddish dialogue and limp direction, and you have 84 minutes of tedium that probably never should have been made.
Actually, this film is clearly the better of the two entries contained in this DVD package. Still, its low quality is a real letdown, since Bush actually possesses a degree of charisma. He’s not the greatest actor but had the movie been written, directed, and produced with some creativity at its center, instead of a production basically playing a result (“Hey, let’s make a martial arts film with some splatter! It won’t matter if it’s any good or not, right?”), then who knows? Maybe something meaningful would have come out of this. As it is, the only reason at all for watching Mardy South’s film is if you’d like to see Curtis Bush whip through some spinning kicks and quick hand combinations, even if the rest of the footage is clumsily shot and directed. There are liner notes from Bush encouraging everyone, including indie filmmakers, to pursue their dreams. These notes are a good read and far more passionate than anything presented in the movie.
CANVAS OF BLOOD sounds cool as well, almost like a blood-splattering giallo film. It’s anything but that. The story, what there is of it, focuses on Paul Hanover, an art professor who is also a Vietnam Vet that has war flashbacks. When a druggie surgeon botches an operation and destroys Paul’s daughter’s chance to be a renowned classic violinist, the angry father seeks a payback. He goes after the surgeon, the bogus attorney that mishandles her malpractice case, and the crooked judge that presides over the farcical trial. Not only that, he does a messy number on his daughter’s boyfriend who sexually abused her, and Paul carries out the murders by attaching weird mechanical devises to his arm. This sounds as if it could be an offbeat action-packed revenge flick, but it’s a mess. Along with a remarkably lame script, the acting is atrocious, and the direction and photography are both ham-handedly executed. There are also corny attempts at parody that don’t work, plus some dumb strip club footage stapled onto the ending for whatever reason.
Neither film has great picture or sound quality. Keep in mind they were shot on 16mm and are extremely low budget productions. The extras include interesting news clips about Curtis Bush and some fun previews of other Shock-O-Rama releases, but as a double feature, this DVD release is a disappointment. While arguably one could watch PSYCHO KICKBOXER simply because Bush knows his stuff as a fighter, it’s nevertheless far from being a good film. As for CANVAS OF BLOOD, maybe people into “So-Bad-It’s-Good” movies might get a kick out of it, but personally, I think they’ll end up being bored before the first act has completed. That said, I can’t recommend this DVD release to genre fans.