Devil's Express/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Devil's Express
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Now here’s a great idea! In the ancient Orient (2000 B.C. to be exact), five people participate in a bloody ritual in which a sacred medallion is buried. All the participants in the ritual kill themselves. Cut to modern day—(1975)—New York City, where a Kung Fu master is charged with paying a visit to Hong Kong. During his spiritually-minded sojourn his ne’er-do-well friend steals the sacred medallion and returns to America—unwittingly unleashing a mummy creature who is bent on both vengeance (how dare that tacky American steal his ancient medallion?!) and getting his property back.

In the lead as Luke, an African American kung fu master, Warhawk Tanzania is best when he is featured in the elaborately staged (and protracted) fight sequences. His thieving, jive-talking friend, Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan) is Luke’s streetwise, no-nonsense, Brooklyn-accented sidekick.

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Vintage New York City locations—in particular the 135th Street subway station (they actually got a permit to film this!)—supply the film with a useful grittiness as well as a forum for “mayhem,” which includes back-alley ambushes—between the African American Black Spades (!) and Chinese Red Dragons (!), mutilation “I’ve never seen anything like it!”, strangulation, mimicry (our monster is good at pretending to be a human in distress), drug deals, car chases, lovemaking and an underground-bound, Styrofoam-eyed (think Homer Simpson!) mummy/creature.

Not worthy of the film’s exclamatory tagline: “50,000 years of death stalks the subways!!!,” but, still, a makeshift, semi-fun mid-seventies curiosity fashioned to appeal to the entire spectrum of Grindhouse audience expectations. The poster art is a winner!

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Josiah Howard is the author of four books including the seminal Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide. His writing credits include articles for The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Village Voice. A veteran of more than 100 radio broadcasts he is a regular contributor to Grindhouse Cinema Database and in 2014-15 made regular appearances on TV One’s award-winning documentary series Unsung. Visit his Official Website.
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