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All hail Warhawk Tanzania! The star of Barry Rosen’s 1976 grindhouse genre-bender, THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (aka GANG WARS) doesn’t quite cement his place alongside African-American martial arts masters of the era like Ron van Clief and Jim Kelly, but he’s our fearless guide through a world of stilted dialogue, bedazzled denim jackets, and Argento-esque fluorescent blood. He plays Luke, a New York City martial arts master who commands the respect of his neighborhood as well as the local police force. He takes his best and brightest pupil, Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan, not the kaiju pterosaur), on a trip to Hong Kong to get a valuable skills upgrade in both body and spirit. Unfortunately, the feisty student can’t keep out of trouble and snatches an amulet guarding a terrible force. Cut him some slack, that thing was shiny and ornate! Once back in NYC, Rodan leads his gang in a war against a pack of rivals as a series of subway murders strikes fear into the heart of the city. Who is the killer behind the grisly deaths? Why did New York gangs of the 1970s always rumble in broad daylight? And where in the hell did Warhawk get that amazing pair of gold lamé overalls?

The film strikes the wacky but earnest tone that so many faux-grindhouse films of the last half-decade have failed to capture. While Rosen has far more production credits than directorial efforts under his belt (his only other film at the helm was 1976’s THE YUM YUM GIRLS), he playfully melds elements of the urban police procedural with blaxploitation, American chopsocky, and man-in-a-suit monster movies. While not the most cogent of stories — nearly a half-dozen screenwriters were involved — it’s an entertaining romp sure to provide genre film heads with loads of odd narrative choices to ponder. Keep your eyes peeled for cameos by Brother Theodore and notable character actor Aki Aleong as crazy-eyed Monster Victim #1.

THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (1976) Dir. Barry Rosen, 82 minutes
Friday 4/18 & Saturday 4/19, 11:59PM
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard Street
Brookline MA 02446

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