Inferno Thunderbolt (1985)

Written & directed by: Godfrey Ho
Producers: Joseph Lai & Betty Chan
Starring: Richard Harrison, Fonda Lynn, Lam Joi-Pau, Claire Angela & Pierre Tremblay


Continuing the examination of IFD Films & Arts catalogue that included horror, action, thrillers and fantasy of the late 70s/early 80s coming out of Taiwan, for a breakdown of the basic history of IFD, please visit the series debut review of Wolfen Ninja in addition to visiting the other highlighted movies Deadly Darling, Fury In Red, Commando Fury, Breakout From Oppression and Deadly Silver Angels. This time, I am taking a look at an aspect of the IFD catalogue that is highly known and judging by the Western mug on the cover above.... yes, Richard Harrison IS involved! Inferno Thunderbolt is indeed one of their "cut & paste products" (sans ninjas but this time it's akin to modern thrillers and horror movies such as Majestic Thunderbolt, Scorpion Thunderbolt etc) BUT it uses a Taiwanese produced movie as the source at hand tampered with here: Richard Chen's The Anger from 1982. Some would say the original is victimized or molested by Joseph Lai and Godfrey Ho but remember, this is a company that respected their Taiwanese acquired product to the point of presenting them as they were (only with an added dub). Perhaps unbeknownst to me The Anger got the same untampered treatment earlier or subsequently as it's also known IFD re-visited the same acquired movies in their catalogue multiples times for various editing treatments (even Fury In Red had Western actors inserted into it later so a new, cheap catalogue addition was completed for little money). Regardless, we'll be looking at how the main movie and the mini-movie baked into one entity known as Inferno Thunderbolt seem to fare on their own and as merged.

Allison's (Fonda Lynn aka Luk Siu-Fan) sister Mable is found dead and she connects this to the wealthy, powerful Rockford family. Allison goes undercover to get closer to the core of the family, mainly the son (Lam Joi-Pau) but the one truly running it is the mother from her wheelchair. Meanwhile IFD's contribution kicks in and we see journalist Claire (Claire Angela) writing a story on the Rockford's. Making enemies in the process and eventually ending up murdered, husband and cop Richard (Richard Harrison) swears to take revenge not on the family but the particular assassin (Pierre Tremblay) who killed his wife...

Director Richard Chen and Luk Siu-Fan (as always credited as Fonda Lynn) were both veterans of the IFD catalogue, the actress even more so. Richard directed the Ms. 45 remake Fury In Red (original title Girl With A Gun), Luk Siu-Fan graced such movies as Deadly Darling, Breakout From Oppression and Richard Harrison was one of IFD's leading men for multiple movies. Even though the stories differ about his knowledge regarding IFD using his footage for way too many movies than agreed upon, there's no denying, actor exploitation or not, that Richard is a fan favourite for good, valid reasons. Part of a cannon of films tapping into a trend of the time (mainly the ninja movies), he's equally a part of the perfectly cheesy energy present in movies such as Diamond Ninja Force and Ninja Terminator. Sans eyeliner and in brightly colored ninja suits, this that represented a dip into the modern, urban thriller actually (along with Majestic Thunderbolt) contains some of the best Godfrey Ho footage ever directed. Yes, it's barely passable in actuality but also a lot more solid, varied and clearly a larger amount of shooting days were reserved because this isn't a case of point and shoot. Ho's footage remains the best part of Inferno Thunderbolt because underneath Richard's plot, our other Richard's The Anger is a slow burner only good for some freaky, gritty and violent imagery towards the very end.

A word about the editing and how IFD connected their movies, it was usually via phone conversations and oddly staged conversations with characters that were never in the same room together, Inferno Thunderbolt actually could be mistaken as a complete whole shoot and movie if you didn't know anything of IFD's history. We're talking basic techniques but it's a lot more smoother and inspired than usual plus Richard interacts with an Asian cast more than usual for these movies. It's simply put conceivable Richard and Luk Siu-Fan each have a plot path as intended by one filmmaker. For once also, this is a mixed up product that has clear storytelling which should account for something but kind of doesn't when the whole doesn't ignite very often.

It's therefore very possible The Anger was merely seen as potential for the cut and paste treatment by Joseph Lai and IFD. Insert your players to make the slow burner varied and hope it's a snappier product. Admirable thought but The Anger is too strong in its boring ways to even survive being hacked up. Allison's quick undercover journey and into the loving hands of the son + evil glares from mother... it all isn't tense buildup towards the secret within the Rockford family having to do with human experiments on enemies of theirs. While that plot ignites a non-existing flame and there's a fairly good final reel by Richard Chen involving a loud soundtrack, strobe lights and fights where needles in a true exploitation fashion end up injected into breasts, at tops there's 20 minutes of showreel footage here (The Anger and Godfrey Ho's mini-movie combined) and the Inferno Thunderbolt product doesn't have enough energy to make this acceptable.

So Godfrey Ho's footage and only minor parts of Richard Chen's drum up some interest, even when tapping into Ho's brutality which includes the nasty Pierre Tremblay assassination of Claire and a shootout finale that even has Ho and IFD loading up the actors with squibs! This Thunderbolt-tear holds something unique in IFD's catalogue though which is signs of solid filmmaking when everybody was out of costume. Shame it seemed like IFD's efforts couldn't lift The Anger AND their efforts. Check out Majestic Thunderbolt for that instead.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson